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Anatomy Professor James Lash has retracted two letters he circulated in defense of embattled Anatomy Professor Adrian Morrison after animal rights activists charged the letters contained "potentially libelous" statements. The activists took issue with an open letter of support for Morrison and an attached cover letter dated October 9, which Lash circulated to other professors at the University. The letters responded to an article attacking Morrison's research published in the the September issue of AV magazine, the Journal of the American Anti-Vivisection Society. The letters blasted AV's negative critique of Morrison's research and attacked the credentials of the article's author, John McArdle. The cover letter quoted Morrison as saying that McArdle had been "fired from the New York Humane Society for being too much of a fanatic," and called the author a "non-experimentalist anthropologist." The open letter included similar attacks on McArdle's credentials. McArdle said yesterday that he viewed the statements as libelous, and said he would sue Lash, Morrison and possibly the University if he is not satisfied with the retraction. Lash declined to comment on the letters yesterday, referring all questions to Associate University General Counsel Neil Hamburg. In the cover letter, Lash asked University researchers and professors to add their signatures to the open letter. Lash wrote that copies of the the open letter and the signatures would be sent to the University administration, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post and other media outlets. Hamburg said yesterday that the letters are "irrelevant and withdrawn," adding that the letters were never released for publication. He said a new letter is being circulated correcting the first letters' "inaccuracies." McArdle said yesterday that he obtained copies of the original letters and viewed them as "potentially libelous." "They need to get their facts straight and deal with the issues," McArdle said. "They have grossly misrepresented who I am and my qualifications." McArdle dismissed the assertion that he was a "fanatic," and said that he was fired from the Humane Society of the United States because he supported animal rights. McArdle added that there is no organization called the New York Humane Society. McArdle said that he is a "fully qualified experimental scientist" with a Ph.D. in anatomy from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, adding that he had "personally conducted experiments on cats and monkeys" in the past. "Somebody who has never heard of me after reading [the cover letter], already has me labeled as a fanatic, non-experimentalist and a non-biologist," McArdle said. The American Anti-Vivisection Society joined McArdle in asking the University to halt circulation of the letters, stopping just short of threatening a libel suit. "It is distressing for us to learn that you . . . would resort to circulating malevolent gossip which you will find yourself hard-pressed to back up should the matter be pursued further," Society Vice President Bernard Unti wrote in a letter sent to Lash, Morrison and University administrators earlier this month. Hamburg said Lash is "making every attempt" to send a new letter "correcting the factual inaccuracies to everybody who received the old letter." Hamburg said the new letter will contain the following paragraph: "I would like to correct one mistatement contained in my previous letter. In that letter, I mistakenly said that Dr. McArdle was dismissed from the New York Humane Society for being too much of fanatic. In fact, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) fired Dr. McArdle, according to an Associated Press release (August 13, 1986) and a News and Comment article in Science entitled 'Humane society fires animal rights activist' (Science, 1986, Vol. 233, P. 935). The Associated Press reported that Dr. McArdle claimed he was fired for his animal rights views, but the Humane Society of the United States denied this." The new letter will also make no mention of McArdle's credentials, Hamburg said. "I hope that this matter has been resolved with the new letter," Hamburg said. "Having spoken to the lawyer for Dr. McArdle, I think he will be satisfied. As soon as I get a copy of the new letter, I will send it to Dr. McArdle's lawyer." McArdle said he has not seen a copy of the new letter yet, but has not yet ruled out a libel suit. "We decided to give them a chance to correct the damage they've done," McArdle said. "If it is not done to our satisfaction, we will sue. They can count on that."

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