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New York Times Responds To NFL's Retraction Demand With Verbal Haymaker

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The New York Times has received the NFL's demand for a retraction.

The New York Times is not playing nice.

The newspaper, represented in a letter by general counsel David McCraw, wrote to the NFL to answer the league's request to retract a story which the league found to be defamatory and full of false information. Suffice it to say, there is no forthcoming retraction.

Politico, which broke the story of the NFL's demand, posted the Times' letter to the NFL on Wednesday afternoon.

"The Times has a policy of correcting factual errors as promptly as possible," McCraw wrote. "I have reviewed your letter with our editors and reporters, and nowhere does your letter identify any factual error that we have made in our reporting on ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry."

McCraw noted that the NFL's main argument -- that the ties between the NFL and the tobacco industry were not "meaningful" -- "is an opinion, not a fact."

"Your letter, in summing up the 'grand total' of reported connections, inexplicably misses an essential one -- the influential role that Preston R. Tisch played in the NFL as co-owner of the Giants and in the tobacco industry as a co-owner of Lorillard," McCraw wrote. "Whatever the reason for that, the letter does not challenge the fact that all of the reported connections existed."

McCraw went so far as to present the NFL's retraction demand (and not-subtle threat of legal action) as an affront to all of America.

"That the NFL would now see fit to try to silence the public debate with legal threats ('we demand that the story immediately be retracted') is a disservice to its fans and, more generally, to the American people," McCraw wrote.

The letter to the times was written by attorney Brad Karp, who works the Paul, Weiss firm. That firm has in the past represented tobacco giant Philip Morris, a fact which Paul, Weiss touts on its own website.

Though the story focused as much on the NFL's flawed reporting of concussions between 1996 and 2001, the NFL's large PR blitz to fight back has focused on removing ties to the tobacco industry. All the while, the NFL has been using a firm that represented Philip Morris.

That fact also made it in to the New York Times' final line of Wednesday's letter.

"While your earlier letter to The Times called the tobacco industry 'perhaps most odious industry in America history,' you somehow fail to mention in either letter that it was your firm that represented Philip Morris in that RICO case," McCraw wrote.

The pot has, officially, met the kettle over at the Paul, Weiss firm.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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