PEN America in the time COVID-19 moves Lit Festival from May to September; decries Trumps attack on journalist

American Museum of Natural History (NYC) courtesy of IngfbrunoCC BY-SA 3.0

Momentous Event at the American Museum of Natural History Brings Together the PEN America Community of Writers, Activists, and Cultural Luminaries to Support the Organization’s Increasingly Essential Advocacy of Truth-Telling and Free Expression

As a global public health crisis underscores the importance of credible, vital information, PEN America has confirmed a new date for the 2020 PEN America Literary Gala, its annual celebration of free expression and open discourse. The organization has rescheduled the event for September 15 (from May 19) and looks forward to convening its diverse, international community of writers, activists, and cultural luminaries in person to advance PEN America’s fundamental principles and honor the individuals who embody and uphold them.

“Denial, repression of facts, and disinformation have accelerated the spread of COVID-19 and impaired an effective response to it. Reliable truth—a prerequisite for assessing and ameliorating the crisis—is yet another casualty of this pandemic,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “We stand in solidarity with all truth-tellers at home in the U.S. and abroad and are mobilizing to shore up a literary community hard-hit by this unfolding crisis. The 2020 PEN America Literary Gala is an opportunity for the literary and free expression communities to stand up for their values and raise support to defend them. We regret having to postpone but are determined to mount a forceful stand together in the fall.”

Note: Trump also bragged about not distributing The New York Times or the Washington Post in the White House. For my own reasons, I’m not crazy about either paper, but the Times is traditionally consider the newspaper of record in the U.S. / J.D.

Trump Attacks NBC Reporter, Peter Alexander, When Asked To Assuage Fear

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel issued the following statement after President Trump chided a reporter for asking about what he would say to frightened Americans in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak:

NBC’s Peter Alexander interviewing Senator Chris Coons / public domain photograph courtesy of Senator Coons office

“President Trump’s shoot the messenger strategy of combating the coronavirus by attacking a reporter who did nothing more than point out the terror it is wreaking across America is shameful. Trustworthy, fact-based media has never been more essential to Americans than it is right now. The president’s effort to deflect the shortcomings of his administration’s response to the pandemic by attacking the reporters who question him has become an appalling daily spectacle and an international embarrassment to the United States. “

At the Gala, PEN America presents Patti Smith with the 2020 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, for her prolific, multifaceted career and her unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth; and recognizes Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Executive Vice Chairman and Former CEO of Hearst, the event’s Corporate Honoree, for his dexterous, determined leadership of the company, an extraordinary source of philanthropy and a nimble force for quality journalism. As the event approaches, PEN America will announce the recipients of the PEN/Benenson Courage Award, for dauntless exercises of free expression, and the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, which goes to writers imprisoned for their work and spearheads advocacy campaigns on their behalf.

The PEN America Literary Gala is an annual highlight of New York’s literary, cultural, and social calendars and a vibrant cross-pollination of distinguished writers, human rights activists, publishers, editors, journalists, creative visionaries, and philanthropists. The event leaves guests moved and inspired to redouble their efforts in defense of truth, facts, the role of the media, and open dialogue as foundations of democracy. Proceeds of the dinner are crucial to PEN America’s cultural programming and advocacy work.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Jamie Dedes:

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