The Times has received 221 letters commenting on its decision not to print all of Garry Trudeau's Doon e sbury strips on Frank Sinatra; 206 criticized The Times' decision and/or praised Trudeau; 15 criticized Trudeau and/or praised Sinatra.
I think it is unfortunate that The Times has refrained from printing the Doonesbury panels depicting Frank Sinatra's alleged ties to organized crime. Trudeau correctly sees Sinatra as an appropriate subject for cartoon commentary.
Ronald Reagan chose to honor Sinatra with this nation's highest civilian award--the Medal of Freedom. Surely many Americans who are aware of Sinatra's longtime association with known criminals, and who find it difficult to enumerate his alleged "contributions to humanity," question Reagan's criteria.
Nonetheless, when Sinatra accepted that award, he incurred on himself a debt to be worthy of the honor. Given Sinatra's past behavior and associations, his is the burden of proof.
I hope that The Times takes a more deliberate position on controversial subjects in the future.
Editor's Note: The Times risks lawsuits again and again because taking the risk is often the only way to get important information to its readers. Most of the Sinatra panels were withheld, not because of fear of litigation but because the newspaper was strongly advised by its lawyers that they would have substantial problems defending in court any libel suit that might have been filed.