Kristof apologizes to Hatfill over NYT 'Mr. Z' columns

Kathleen Cullinan | Libel | Quicklink | August 28, 2008

Three weeks after the FBI publicly cleared Dr. Steven Hatfill's name in the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof today apologized to the former government scientist over articles he wrote on the case.

Kristof described in 2002 a "Mr. Z" who was possibly linked to the attacks, as he pressed in a collection of columns for investigators to work harder in their probe. Hatfill subsequently identified himself as Mr. Z in the media and said he was innocent.

"In retrospect, I was right to prod the F.B.I and to urge tighter scrutiny of Fort Detrick," where the man authorities have since named as the true suspect, Bruce Ivins, worked. But even though Hatfill's libel suit against Kristof and The Times was dismissed, Kristof said, and "I don't have a legal obligation, I do feel a moral one to express regret for any added distress from my columns."

Hatfill also sued the Department of Justice under the Privacy Act, saying the government violated his rights by leaking his status as a "person of interest" in the attacks. He was to receive more than $5 million after the case was settled in June.