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Christine Maggiore Points Out Numerous Errors to ELLE Magazine Which Tries to Avoid Publishing a Rebuttal

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In September of 2006, ELLE magazine published “The Believer”, an article about the death of Christine Maggiore’s daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, that contained a disturbing number of errors and omissions of fact. The following email exchange ensued between Christine, Elle’s Managing Editor Lisa Chase and Ell’s lead legal counsel Katherine Daniels.

Gretchen Reynolds to Christine Maggiore

November 3, 2005

Hi Christine,

The story is meant to be a forum on the issue of HIV, and that’s the primary topic I want to cover. But it is also a story about you and your work, and it’s a chance for you to respond to any criticisms or misconceptions that you might feel have arisen recently.

That said, I would like to be able to talk about the independent report on your daughter’s death. (I am sorry to have to even ask you to discuss such an enormously painful topic. I’m a mother. I am so, so sorry for your loss.) I’d also like to ask about how you felt about the coverage after your daughter’s death and what kind of support or lack of support you felt, and also why you think people responded as they did.

I’d like to ask about your daughter herself –what was she like? I’d like to see pictures. I’d like to hear stories.

I’m not quite sure what might be off-limits, either for legal reasons or just out of respect. Can we talk about how you feel? I know you’re deeply grieving. I’d like to let you talk about that, if you are comfortable doing so.

More generally, and I assume, less painfully, I’d like to hear your story. I read your book. But I’d love to get a little more of the personal background response you got. What response you get now from mainstream medical practitioners. I’d also like to know whether you think there have been any meaningful advances in HIV/AIDS science in the years since your book came out.

I’ll be in my office today until about 6 PM mountain time. I can also be reached by cell phone tomorrow morning. That number is 505-699-4419.

Thanks very much. I look forward to meeting with you tomorrow.

Best regards,
Gretchen Reynolds
Elle magazine

Comments on Following Letter to Elle’s Lisa Chase

This email was sent to Elle’s Managing Editor Lisa Chase in follow up to a phone conversation Christine Maggiore initiated the day before. She had called Chase after noting many errors of fact in an article about me published in the September 2006 edition of their magazine.
After providing Chase with some examples of errors, she asked Christine to summarize them all in an email.

Christine Maggiore to Elle's Lisa Chase

August 25, 2006

Dear Lisa,

Thank you for your response to my concerns regarding Gretchen Reynolds’ article “The Believer” (Elle, September 2006).

As I mentioned during our telephone conversation, I asked Corrie Pikul for permission to tape record the fact check after noting two false claims at the beginning of our review:

  1. That my former boyfriend had died of AIDS years ago, when in fact, he is alive and well.
  2. That I held up my children to cheering crowds on stages and at rallies, when in fact, my children have never joined me on a stage at any public event.

Below is a list of most of the errors in the article, which are divided between points major and minor as per our discussion. Please note that I provided Ms Reynolds with documents and explanations for all points of fact listed here.

I look forward to learning how this matter can be resolved, and in the meantime, am grateful for your interest and involvement.

With appreciation,

Christine Maggiore

 

The list of errors can be found at JusticeForEJ.com/Elle-Errors.html

Elle’s Lisa Chase acknowledges Receipt of List of Errors

August 26, 2006

Dear Christine,

Thanks for sending this. We are reviewing it now and will try to get back to you about by the end of the week. I am away from Weds. through Sunday, so you may not hear from me till a week from today. But I promise we will be in touch promptly.

Thanks again,

Lisa Chase

Christine Maggiore to Lisa Chase of Elle Magazine

September 8, 2006

Hi Lisa,

With regard to our phone conversation scheduled for today, one of the attorneys I work with would like to be included in the call. Assuming you have no objection to this, I will put her on a three way with us after you call me.

In follow up to our conversation of the other day in which I expressed the opinion that Reynolds’ errors, fabrications, and omissions seem malicious, I would like to bring to your attention to the following:

The article states that Dr Philip Incao “practices what he calls ‘anthroposophic medicine’...” as if Incao made up this term when in fact, Anthroposophic Medicine is a form of medicine practiced worldwide.

The definition of Anthroposophic Medicine (readily accessed through a Google search):

”Anthroposophic Medicine (Anthropos = human being : Sophia = wisdom) is a form of complementary medicine developed by Dr. Rudolf Steiner that views the entire human being (mind, body, and spirit) and the human relationship to the universe in treating illness. It includes the use of European homeopathics and plant medicines, assessment by specially trained physicians, and numerous therapies and nursing treatments.”

I think Reynolds’ description of Dr Incao’s practice is derisive rather than honest or informative and consistent with the malicious tone of the article.

Anyway, I hope your doctor appointment goes well and that our talk later today will be productive.

With thanks for your time,

 

Christine

Lisa Chase of ELLE

September 8 2006

Hi Christine,

That’s fine with me, but in that case, I’d like Elle’s attorney, Katharine Daniels, to be on the call too. She and I will call you around 10:30 your time.

Thanks,

Lisa

Christine to her Attorney Ruth Liebesman

September 14, 2006

Hi Ruth,

Here’s my letter to Elle. Thanks for your patience. It’s down to 750 words including the editor’s apology. I put a lot of work into this and think it should run as is. I want to put this ugly experience behind me and get back to my life, work and family. The stress of it all has been a real set back to my struggle for well being.

I assume you will submit this to Elle. With that in mind, the phone number for Elle is 212-767-5500. Actually, it’s the number for the publishing company. Elle has no direct dial number I’m aware of. Please let me know if I’m the one to handle this. I really hope no further discussions are necessary. I’ve lost enough sleep and appetite (and weight) and time already.

For your reference, the email for editor Lisa Chase is <lchase@hfmus.com> and Elle’s lead counsel (the attorney on the phone with us last week) is Katherine Daniels.

My letter is below and attached.

With thanks for your help, support and brilliance,

 

Christine

Letter from Christine Maggiore for publication in ELLE

September 15, 2006

Re: “The Believer” (Elle, September 2006)

Last fall, I met with Gretchen Reynolds, a self-described science writer working on an article about AIDS that would explore unanswered questions about HIV, introduce experts raising those questions, and share some of the real story on the death of my daughter, Eliza Jane.

Instead I am the sole focus of “The Believer,” a mendacious and sensationalistic article that abstains from intelligent examination of AIDS science and portrays me as an immature and negligent mother whose adherence to an ideology resulted in the death of her child.

Below, please find some of the many errors and omissions in “The Believer”. Readers interested in a detailed accounting are encouraged to visit JusticeForEJ.com/elle.html to learn more.

Reynolds claims, “In all probability, Eliza Jane became infected with HIV during gestation, labor or breastfeeding,” when my daughter’s autopsy report does not disclose her HIV status, and the coroner’s office has yet to produce laboratory evidence of a positive or vial load HIV test, despite multiple requests by our attorneys.

Reynolds tells readers that AIDS occurs when CD4 T lymphocyte cells are depleted without revealing that my daughter’s total lymphocyte count at the time of her death was well above normal, healthy levels and five times higher than the baseline used by the World Health Organization to diagnose AIDS in children.

She also fails to reveal that the pronouncement Eliza Jane died of AIDS pneumonia is contradicted by physical evidence found at her autopsy. To skirt this inconsistency, Reynolds changes the medical definition of pneumonia from “inflammation of the lungs caused by disease,” to an incorrect interpretation, “swelling of the lungs,” and falsely attributes this mistake to me. The point Reynolds mangles with her invented quote is crucial: The state of my daughter’s lungs ruled out pneumonia of any kind as the autopsy found “no inflammation of the lungs.”

Reynolds compounds this error by omitting a correct reference to swelling actually found at autopsy: all my daughter’s vital organs were swollen with circulatory fluids, a hallmark of toxic reaction consistent with independent conclusions that an allergic response to an antibiotic caused Eliza Jane’s sudden death.

In perhaps her most malicious departure from reality, Reynolds claims Eliza Jane endured “a day of nausea, vomiting and wheezing” before she died, a description of events not supported by medical records, 911 transcripts, EMT or hospital reports, and corrected during a pre-publication fact check.

Leading readers even further from the facts, Reynolds describes my daughter as having an “inflamed brain” and “sores in her mouth suggestive of herpes” when the autopsy report makes no mention of brain inflammation or sores of any kind in her mouth.

While careless with the facts, Reynolds’ carefully omits that the coroner assigned to resolve my daughter’s case, Dr James K Ribe, has been excoriated by state and federal courts for changing autopsy results to conform to prosecutors’ allegations and for testifying to conclusions inconsistent with physical evidence. Instead, she writes that, “a number of pathologists have examined both the original autopsy and the alternative version. All have publicly concluded that the original was correct.” In fact, the “alternative version” was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal with an editorial board that includes a dozen MDs and 10 PhD scientists.

Reynolds also leaves out the life-altering experience that inspired my examination of AIDS science: I tested HIV positive, indeterminate, and negative at the same lab on different days. Instead, she says I “began looking into HIV deniers·at the suggestion of a friend.”

Undeterred by facts, Reynolds spins us into a family steeped in dysfunction, disease and denial. A two-month pre-coital relationship with my husband is reduced to “they met, dated once or twice, had sex.” My two-day problem with a root canal turns into a 12-month battle with “an excruciating mouth abscess.” My husband’s four-day trip to New York is stretched to “long periods away from home in New York and elsewhere.” My years of research and study become “faith” in “anti-mainstream medicine.”

The only faith involved in my story is the one I held in journalist ethics before reading “The Believer.”

Christine Maggiore

www.JusticeForEJ.com

From the Editors of ELLE

We apologize for any mistakes contained in “The Believer” and regret any pain or other negative impact they may have caused.

Christine Maggiore to Lisa Chase

September 18

The following was sent to Elle editor Lisa Chase after she stated that Elle would not allow my letter to mention LA County coroner Dr James K Ribe unless I could provide evidence that Ribe’s credibility had been challenged in legal settings. Here is the evidence I provided Chase:

Hi Lisa,

In addition to the information on James K Ribe from LA Times and other sources found at the JusticeForEJ.com web site, below please find a timeline summary on Ribe prepared by one of my attorneys.

With regard to the manner in which Ms Reynolds characterized her article, while I wait for my criminal defense attorneys to send over their records of my communication with Reynolds, could you please ask Reynolds to provide records of correspondence in which she outlines the focus and intention of her assignment? I think it would be useful to compare these.

With thanks,

 

Christine

The Ribe timeline can be found at justiceforej.com/ej-ribe.html.

Ruth Liebesman to Katherine Daniels, Elle Magazine

September 27, 2006

Dear Ms. Daniels:

After discussing the matter with Ms. Maggiore, we are of the opinion that her letter to Elle should be published in its entirety as written for the reasons outlined below. We also find Elle’s proposed response to that letter entirely unacceptable and that it, in fact, adds insult to injury.

As evidenced in the audio recording of the fact check, Ms. Maggiore made clear that she is engaging in a scientific analysis of the HIV/AIDS issues affecting her life and clearly specified that it would be mistaken make to use of the terms “belief,” “faith,” and/or “believer” in describing her or her situation. Yet, your writer and her article label and describe Ms. Maggiore with the very terms she clearly stated do not apply.

In your cover letter to the e-mail containing your “corrections,” you write that the autopsy report states that Eliza Jane had “sores in her mouth suggestive of herpes.” This is not true. The anatomical survey summarizing the May 18th autopsy states on the first page in point 8: “The vermillion of the upper and lower lips has a tan geographic eschar (cultured and sectioned).” There is no mention of sores of any kind in the mouth.

With regard to the issue of the “day of vomiting, nausea and wheezing” allegedly endured by Eliza Jane prior to her death, you write: “With respect to the paragraph about nausea, vomiting and wheezing, it is our view that the article is consistent with both the Investigator’s Narrative in the autopsy report and the notes from both the author and the fact checker’s conversations with Ms. Maggiore.”

The tape recording of Ms. Maggiore’s conversation with the fact checker evidences that Maggiore stated Eliza Jane had not spent a day vomiting before medical care was sought, and further shows that Maggiore was not asked at all about nausea or wheezing. Nevertheless, nausea and wheezing were added to the vomiting alleged by Reynolds. Further, the Investigator’s Narrative makes no mention of nausea or wheezing on any particular day. Additionally, at no time where nausea, vomiting or wheezing reported or noted as symptoms at any of Eliza Jane’s four appointments with three pediatricians in the 2.5 weeks prior to her death.

In fact, the narrative specifically mentions that Eliza Jane’s cough had resolved by the doctor visit prior to the last visit on May 14 (that is, her cough had resolved by the May 8 visit Reynolds failed to mention in her article).

As evidenced in the audio recording of the fact check, Ms. Maggiore specifically clarified the notion about vomiting to the fact checker, emphasizing that Eliza Jane had spit up following the administration of the antibiotic rather than vomiting (as in wretching or as a symptom of illness). Without even knowing the article would claim Eliza Jane endured a day of vomiting, the audio recording shows that Maggiore very clearly informed the fact checker that her daughter had only spit up during the day and had not spent the day vomiting.

Please note that the first page of the hospital report mentions nothing about wheezing or nausea, and mentions vomiting in an overview of all symptoms without giving a specific time frame to this or any other symptoms. Thus, this overview cannot be used to support Reynolds’ assignment of date and time to vomiting, especially when her assignment is not supported by the narrative in the autopsy, is contradicted by medical records and was corrected by Ms. Maggiore during the fact check.

Furthermore, while the autopsy report’s anatomical survey dated September 15, four months after her death, states that at the Emergency Room, Eliza Jane was “found to have pneumonia,” the report from the Emergency Room itself, dated May 16th, does not make any such diagnosis. No doctor who examined Eliza Jane prior to her death diagnosed pneumonia. More to the point, page two of the hospital report states: “Impression: Cardiopulmonary arrest, rule out overwhelming sepsis, rule out pneumonia.” On the final page it states: “Assessment: ...I suspect that the patient my have died of sepsis...”

Clearly any “narrative” that states Eliza Jane was diagnosed with pneumonia in the Emergency Room is completely false. This is the sort of discrepancy that your investigative “science writer” should have been examining instead of embellishing her article with false statements.

Given the evidence of documentation and tape recordings, I wonder how Elle can possibly contend that Ms. Maggiore’s letter cannot be published because it allegedly contains untruths. A lack of facts certainly did not stop Elle from publishing “The Believer.”

Ms Maggiore has provided proof for each contested point in her letter. Elle should allow Ms. Maggiore to express an opinion that Reynolds was not honest, especially when she carefully outlines the reasons for that opinion. Elle does not apply similar rules of evidence to Reynolds, and instead allows her to state that the opinions of the autopsy “make more sense” than those of Ms. Maggiore, without offering a critical analysis of any of those opinions. This inconsistency is blinding and proves that Elle is engaged in covering its own back end and protecting its bottom line.

We find the comment you propose to publish after Ms. Maggiore’s letter completely unacceptable. The article may accurately relate some of the conclusions from the autopsy report but it makes no critical analysis of them in relationship to the factual findings about Eliza Jane’s physical condition, especially the fact that the state of her lungs precluded the conclusion that she had pneumonia, and that the Emergency Room report does not state she had pneumonia.

Your proposed response reiterates and stresses the unsupported conclusions of the autopsy, which were never analyzed by Ms. Reynolds in light of the physical findings, by stating that the cause of Eliza Jane’s death was AIDS related pneumonia.

Your claim that you “regret any further pain the article has caused” appears to stand behind the implication that Ms. Maggiore was responsible for her daughter’s death, and implies that you are sorry the article makes her deal again with that guilt.

We therefore would like for Ms. Maggiore’s letter to be published as written and attached. It is reasonable and measured, and is a restrained response to “The Believer.” Moreover, we would like your response to be closer to what we proposed in the attached draft, than the additional smear you propose.

I am forwarding to you various portions of the tape recording of the “fact check” at issue.

Ruth M. Liebesman

Audio Clips of Christine Maggiore being Interviewed by Elle writer Gretchen Reynolds

Three audio clips are provided here (Windows Media Audio format) to support Christine Maggiore’s contention that the the author was clearly informed about certain facts but misrepresented them in the published article in Elle magazine. The clips are:

  • Clip 1. The audio shows that she did not meet her former boyfriend on a buying trip and that she made her objection to talking about ‘beliefs’ clear to the author, indicating that she is more interested in making decisions based on evidence.
  • Clip 2. This clip illustrates the errors in the Elle, most notably that claim in the ELLE article that her former boyfriend died of AIDS. He is actually still alive and healthy.
  • Clip 3. Christine describes that her last call to Dr. Incao was not panicky, Christine was just concerned that her symptoms were not resolving as quickly as they normally did. She also describes how EJ was not wheezing and vomiting, although there was a little spitting up, which they understood was a common side effect of amoxicillin. Panic only occurred when Eliza Jane stopped breathing in the middle of the phone call.

Christine Maggiore to Elle's Katherine Daniels

Sept 30, 2006

To: Katherine Daniels, Elle Re: Corrections to the retort to your version of my letter

  1. Neuropathology. If you want to report on this, you need to do so completely and correctly as per below. You cannot cherry pick whatever suits you need to appear right:

    Elle wishes to emphasize that on September 14, 2005, Dr. Maurice Verity, a pathologist hired by the LA County Coroner’s office, revised his June 23, 2005 neuropathology report which found “no abnormality” of Eliza Jane’s brain. In this September 14 addendum, Verity attests to “the presence of HIV core protein in the brain sections confirming a diagnosis of HIV encephalitis.” Elle stands by Verity’s revised conclusion and by the entirety of the autopsy report signed by Dr James K Ribe and the associate deputy medical director, Chanikarn Changsri, which states the cause of death is “Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia due to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.”

  2. Lesions:

    Elle magazine cannot state that my daughter had “lesions on her lips” when the autopsy report notes a “geographic eschar,” and eschar is defined as “a dry scab formed on skin.”

    If Elle wants to pick relentlessly at my daughter they can say that the autopsy says Eliza Jane had “a dry scab on her lips.”

  3. Please note, I also added a reference to the web site in my letter to an audio file of Elle’s “fact check.” I feel that since you are doing the opposite of apologizing, not admiting to errors, not being forthcoming about the details of the case, and not acting in good faith, this reference to another record is important to include.
  4. Below please find my version of the letter for publication:

    See above for text of this letter

  5. Please add to Elle's retort:

    From the Editors: On September 16, 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that due to “lack of evidence,” the District Attorney closed its criminal investigation into Maggiore with regard to the death of her daughter Eliza Jane Scovill. The Times also noted that Maggiore has filed a claim for damages against the County of Los Angeles.

Christine Maggiore to Elle’s Daniels

30 Sep 2006

Dear Ms Daniels,

I do not understand why, after all the evidence I’ve provided, Elle continues to sift through Reynolds’ article for whatever snippets of fact may be used to prop up Reynolds’ malicious claims.

Elle has held me to a higher standard of proof than its writer throughout these negotiations, and continues to do so even after I have repeatedly provided evidence that contradicts the overwhelming majority of Reynolds’ statements.

Despite the documenation and audio files I have shared, Elle continues to question my integrity, prolong negotiations by adding to and subtracting from my letter, and using the few traces of remaining fact in Reynolds’ piece to avoid any admission of error or regret.

Since my revised version of your letter appears to have been sent by my attorney without explanation, please note that Elle cannot state that my daughter had “lesions on her lips” when the autopsy report notes a “geographic echar,” and eschar is defined as “a dry scab formed on skin.”

If Elle wishes to pick relentlessly at me and my dead daughter, Elle can say that the autopsy says Eliza Jane had “a dry scab on her lips.”

Regarding Elle’s statement about neuropathology, the correct and complete facts should be given rather than a sentence that cherry picks information to make your unapologetic stance appear justified. Please note that the following was added to render Elle’s statement correct and complete:

Elle wishes to emphasize that on September 14, 2005, Dr. Maurice Verity, a pathologist hired by the LA County Coroner’s office, revised his June 23, 2005 neuropathology report which found “no abnormality” of Eliza Jane’s brain. In this September 14 addendum, Verity attests to “the presence of HIV core protein in the brain sections confirming a diagnosis of HIV encephalitis.” Elle stands by Verity’s revised conclusion and by the entirety of the autopsy report signed by Dr James K Ribe and the associate deputy medical director, Chanikarn Changsri, which states the cause of death is “Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia due to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.”

If you or Ruth wish to discuss this further, please call me at 818-780-0753 or my cell at 818-430-7383.

Thank you,

 

Christine

Ruth Liebesman (Attorney for Christine Maggiore) to Katherine Daniels, Elle

October 19, 2006

Dear Ms. Daniels:

Attached is the voicemail that you left me the day that the December issue of Elle went to print. As will hear, the message made clear that the penalty for my failure to respond to your version of the letter before noon, when the edition went to print, was that Ms. Maggiore’s letter would not be published until January. It was never stated that the letter approved by Elle would go to print if you did not hear from me by noon. Rather, no letter would be published if you did not hear from me.

Thus, when I sent you our counter-proposal that night, and heard nothing from you, I had no reason to believe that a letter, and response to which my client reacts with abhorrence, would be published in her name. I was reasonable in believing that either Ms. Maggiore’s letter had gone to print, or that nothing was being published in the December edition, and we would continue to work on a letter acceptable to both parties for the January edition.

If possible, we would like for Elle to pull the letter that it intends to publish and either publish Ms. Maggiore’s actual letter in its place, or publish Ms. Maggiore’s letter in the January edition. Moreover, after you’ve read the actual content of the autopsy, rather than a summary, we would appreciate if you would delete the reference to a “lesion” from your response. Since the eschar was never tested for cause, it is an error to call it a “lesion.” It is a dry scab, which many children have on their bodies, rather than a lesion caused by disease.

Ruth M. Liebesman

Reply to Ruth from Elle’s Katherine Daniels

October 19, 2006

Ruth: As I said in my email on October 12, 2006, it is too late to make changes to the letter. I am sorry your client abhors the letter. However, with the exception of the disparaging statements she wanted to make about the author, it is being published as she wrote it. I think what she really abhors is the fact that the magazine will not be brow beaten into implying that its reporting on the autopsy was inaccurate. To this day, we believe that the story fairly and accurately reported on the contents of the autopsy and that is reflected in the editor’s note following the letter. I have read the autopsy report and I personally saw the references to the lesions.

 

Katherine [Daniels]

Christine to Elle’s Katherine Daniels

October 20, 2006

Dear Ms. Daniels,

Your reply does not address the points raised in my email, specifically that:

  • Elle is running a version of my letter we did not see or approve
  • The letter is followed by new comments that make misleading statements
  • The letter was sent to the printer to make the December issue the same day you left a message stating that it could wait until the January issue.

As can be heard in the audio clip of your September 29 voice mail message to Ms Liebesman, you state if we cannot reply in time to make the December issue deadline, we would have to wait for the January issue. This came after Ms. Liebesman alerted you that she would be in court September 29, making a response highly unlikely.

Regarding your added comments about lesions, as explained in my previous email, you have used the term incorrectly to suggest that these are evidence of disease, an idea that is not substantiated in the autopsy report. Further, your added comments about the neuropathology are selective and misleading.

You say you have read the autopsy report, but reading it is not the same as understanding it, and fairly and accurately commenting on it. I believe your remarks are not fair or accurate and create more misunderstandings.

My only interest is in correcting the numerous errors of fact made in Ms Reynolds’ article. Toward this goal, I have provided evidence for every challenge you have raised and have remained polite and professional throughout these protracted negotions.

Instead of charging that I “abhor” your letter and that my wish is to “brow beat” Elle, we would appreciate a reply that addresses how we may resolve the current situation.

Thank you,

 

Christine

Katherine Daniels to Christine

October 23, 2006

Christine: You need to communicate with me through your counsel. I cannot communicate with you directly without her consent.

Ruth: Could you please explain this to Christine. Thanks.

 

Katherine

Letter in Elle Magazine

November, 2006

Finally, in the November 2006 issue, ELLE magazine published a letter by Christine Maggiore, along with a short defence of the coroner’s report, and another letter attacking Christine Maggiore by Paul Flegg, a British HIV/AIDS doctor.

© Copyright May 18, 2009 by Rethinking AIDS.