Christina Jeffrey will not give up the fight. The former House of Representatives historian who was branded as an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer in January 1995 has threatened to sue House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) for defamation and breach of contract if he does not agree to fully resolve her case.
Gingrich handpicked Jeffrey to serve as House historian last year, but quickly dismissed her after learning that, as a consultant for the Education Department in 1986, she criticized a junior high school Holocaust course for not presenting “the Nazi point of view.”
Disclosure of the review caused an immediate uproar, with the media and some members of Congress portraying Jeffrey as sympathetic to Nazism.
Jeffrey apologized for her comments and said she was misunderstood.
Jeffrey said in an interview this week that she would launch a lawsuit against Gingrich if the speaker did not agree to a settlement.
Jeffrey has been asking for financial restitution, estimating that her family lost more than $30,000 when it had to relocate from Atlanta to Washington, then back to Atlanta.
She also wants the congressional record set straight, preferably through a House resolution exonerating her of all changes of racism and anti-Semitism.
“I don’t think he cares,” Jeffrey said of Gingrich. “I’ve been telling him that” filing a lawsuit “is what he’s forcing me to do.” She added, “I have tried so many avenues.”
A Gingrich spokesman declined to comment on the matter.
An associate professor at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., Jeffrey, 47, has spent the past 16 months trying to clear her name. “These remarks have given rise to great misunderstanding, and I deeply regret this,” Jeffrey said last year of her 1986 Holocaust curriculum review. “Nothing in my personal or professional life has ever grieved me so much as the false characterization of me as racist and anti-Semitic.”
In August, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, came to Jeffrey’s defense, saying that she was unfairly stigmatized and mislabeled anti-Semitic.
In November, after considerable prodding by Jeffrey, Gingrich held a news conference to address Jeffrey’s concerns.
“I think she does deserve some vindication,” Gingrich told reporters at the time. “She has shown tremendous courage, tremendous persistence in working to clear her name.”
While accepting “full responsibility as speaker” for the way Jeffrey was treated, Gingrich lashed out and blamed the media for creating the “feeding frenzy” that surrounded Jeffrey’s dismissal. But he stopped short of acknowledging that he or his office played a role in feeding the frenzy.
Gingrich proposed convening a conference to examine Jeffrey’s case and other examples of the way the media and Washington treat appointees. He also said he would explore the possibility of hiring Jeffrey in some capacity as a consultant within the House of Representatives.
But Gingrich has not made good on his promises, Jeffrey said. There have been no jobs offered or resolutions introduced, nor has Gingrich made an effort to organize any such conference, she said. Instead, Jeffrey put together her own conference this week in Atlanta to address the role of the news media in the political process.
“I think his actions were wrong,” Jeffrey said of Gingrich. “I think his behavior was wrong, and I think his acceptance of the Washington culture which he’s been railing against is almost complete.”