Friday, May 14, 2004

Brazil: Times reporter apologized

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Friday it received -- and accepted -- an apology from a New York Times correspondent who reported the president has a drinking problem.

The apology came in a letter from lawyers representing journalist Larry Rohter, said Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos.

The newspaper, however, said it had not apologized and that it continued to stand by Rohter's story.

Published last Sunday in The New York Times, Rohter's story said Silva's drinking habits had become a "national concern in Brazil."

Outraged, Silva's administration on Tuesday canceled Rohter's journalist visa and said it would expel him. With Rohter's letter, it reversed that decision.

The minister said that in the letter, lawyers indicated that Rohter had "no intention of offending the president" and that Rohter expressed "great respect for Brazil's institutions and lamented the polemic created by his article."

In a statement, The New York Times said it had not apologized.

"We continue to maintain that our story was accurate and fair, as we have throughout the week. While we expressed our regrets at the political controversy that the story generated, our petition to the government contained neither an apology nor a retraction," Toby Usnik, the Times' Director of Public Relations, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

The newspaper said it was pleased that Brazil had decided to let Rohter continue to work there.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.