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Fact Checks

Was the letter in the New York Times sent by Paula Broadwell’s husband?

28 Jan, 2013


Commentators noted that a letter written to the New York Times “Ethecist”, Chuck Klosterman, on July 13, 2012, had uncanny parallels to the breaking story of the resignation of David Petraeus due to his affair with Paula Broadwell and suggested the letter may have been written by Broadwell’s husband, Scott.


The story of Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell broke on November 7, 2012. For more details see Newsline’s David Petraeus Scandal.

New York Times article comes to light

Herb Greenberg of CNBC recalled in a twitter post a letter written to the New York Times “Ethecist”, Chuck Klosterman, on July 13, 2012, had uncanny parallels to the breaking story of the resignation of David Petraeus due to his affair with Paula Broadwell.

The letter reads:

My Wife’s Lover
My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Klosterman’s response was:

Don’t expose the affair in any high-profile way. It would be different if this man’s project was promoting some (contextually hypocritical) family-values platform, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The only motive for exposing the relationship would be to humiliate him and your wife, and that’s never a good reason for doing anything. This is between you and your spouse. You should tell her you want to separate, just as you would if she were sleeping with the mailman. The idea of “suffering in silence” for the good of the project is illogical. How would the quiet divorce of this man’s mistress hurt an international leadership initiative? He’d probably be relieved.

The fact that you’re willing to accept your wife’s infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it’s so over-the-top honorable that I’m not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you’re even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times.

Your dilemma is intriguing, but I don’t see how it’s ambiguous. Your wife is having an affair with a person you happen to respect. Why would that last detail change the way you respond to her cheating? Do you admire this man so much that you haven’t asked your wife why she keeps having sex with him? I halfway suspect you’re writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what’s really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person). That’s not ethical, either.

The story rapidly grew on Twitter and by other media.

Response from New York Times

In a twitter response on November 10, Hugo Lindgren, Editor of The New York Times Magazine said:

ConclusionThe New York Times said that they had fact checked the original article and that it was not from Scott Broadwell.