Posted Monday, November 15, 1999

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Associated Press

November 12, 1999

Jewish outrage over poll

TIME gets complaints as Hitler rises in informal tally

By Anick Jesdanun,
Associated Press

TimeNEW YORK (AP) -- Time magazine is taking heat because Adolf Hitler ranks third in an online tally that invites the public to rank the most influential people of the century.

Editors acknowledge the tally is unscientific and allows people to vote multiple times. Plus, the results will be only one factor influencing Time's pick for Person of the Century next month.

But Time has received hundreds of complaints from readers and Web users. Others are spreading e-mail urging friends and relatives to pick an alternative at

Elvis Presley is running first, followed by slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose ranking partly resulted from an anti-Hitler campaign.

Eileen Gleimer, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., understands that Time's definition of influential includes both good and bad contributions. After all, Hitler was Time's Man of the Year in 1938.

But Ms. Gleimer, who is Jewish, fears that hate groups would view votes for Hitler as an honor for a man who oversaw the killing of millions of Jews during World War II.

"It would just stir them up,'' she said. "I don't think any degree of caveats would overcome their feeling of victory having him on the cover of a magazine.''

Editors will make their pick in mid-December. The selection will be featured in the issue that hits newsstands Dec. 27.

Walter Isaacson, Time's managing editor, said the online tally is more of a curiosity, and editors will ultimately consult with historians, scientists and other advisers.

"It surprises me that Hitler remains the focus of the way a lot of people look at this century,'' Isaacson said. "But it's understandable because this has been a century of struggle between democracy and totalitarianism.''

Dick Duncan, editor of Time's Web site, said no evidence exists to suggest ballot stuffing by hate groups.

Other controversial picks for Man of the Year have included Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1939 and 1942 and Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

StarrThe Khomeini pick resulted in a record number of subscription cancellations, Isaacson said. Readers also complained about last year's joint spotlight for President Clinton and independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr [right].

Hitler was not the only source of controversy in the online tally. Jesus ranked high at one point, until editors declared that only people who lived in this century are eligible. Because of a glitch in the software designed to restrict ballot stuffing, Irish soccer player Ronnie O'Brien led briefly.

Time technicians installed software designed to cancel votes sent from the same computer, as determined by a numeric Internet address. But home users often have a different address assigned every time they dial in, giving would-be ballot stuffers a loophole.

Elizabeth Coleman, civil rights director with the Anti-Defamation League, believes Time will ultimately make its pick with responsibility, even if Hitler is chosen.

"We don't think Time is doing something that is calling for praise for Hitler,'' she said. "There is a case that for worse, he altered history significantly.''

© 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Our opinion
 THE word on the street is that TIME's choice for Man of the Century is to be Franklin D Roosevelt -- regardless of what the polls may say. We too think FDR was the greatest president the Americans have had this century: an unpopular view perhaps . . .

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