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Post Questions Times’ Reports on Gross; Times Stands By Series

February 1, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Post said today that The New York Times used uncorroborated statements of possibly biased doctors in its series this week on alleged abuses by the city’s chief medical examiner.

A front-page Post story did not say it had found errors in the Times’ series, but said that background about some of the sources had not been included.

In one case, the Post said, a Times source told the Post later that he had been misrepresented in the series.

The Post said that its findings, including that a major source quoted by the Times once said Walter Mondale was a Soviet agent, cast doubt on the credibility and fairness of the series about Dr. Elliot Gross.

The Times issued a statement today that said it ″stands solidly behind the series it has carried about the New York City medical examiner and the activities of his department.″

″Seven months of research and more than 250 interviews went into these reports, and the allegations they contained have prompted five federal, state and city investigations of Dr. Gross,″ said Len Harris, a Times spokesman.

″We have no comment on the New York Post’s article,″ he said.

In four long articles this week, the Times pictured Gross as issuing misleading or distorted autopsies that favored police in cases of people who died in police custody.

The Post said Gross, who has taken leave to defend himself in multiple probes of his official conduct that resulted from the series, declined to be interviewed on the advice of his lawyers. Gross’ lawyers also represent the Post, the paper said.

In the Times’ account of the autopsy of Michael Stewart, a graffiti artist who died after being arrested by Transit police in 1983, the ″chief accusers were two doctors hired by the Stewart family - New Jersey forensic pathologist Dr. John Grauerholz and Dr. Robert Wolf, a professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center,″ the Post said.

It said the Times ″did not discuss the credibility of Grauerholz as a witness″ and did not report ″that Grauerholz is the personal doctor of right-wing extremist Lyndon LaRouche″ and ran for Congress as a candidate of LaRouche’s party last year.

It said Grauerholz, testifying for LaRouche at a libel trial in Alexandria, Va., last year said he believed Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president, was ″a KGB agent″ and that Mondale and The New York Times belong to ″an international narcotics lobby.″

The Times did not say that Wolf was censured in 1982 after his ″conviction and imprisonment on eight counts of evading $65,000 in taxes by failing to report more than $130,000 in fees between 1966 and 1969,″ the Post said.

The Post said former Assistant District Attorney James Ryan was cited by the Times as supporting a contention that Gross’ refusal to call the patient’s death a homicide caused prosecutors not to act.

But it said Ryan told the paper he was shocked when he read the account, saying, ″I don’t feel (reporter Phil) Shenon accurately represented our conversation.″

″I had no problem with Dr. Gross,″ Ryan told the Post. ″I didn’t see that he did anything that calls for criticism.″

The Post also said two other doctors quoted in the Times’ series were close personal and professional friends of Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner who was fired by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1979 and replaced by Gross.

One was Dr. Geetha Natarajan, who told the Times that Gross refused to let her label as homicide the death of a psychiatric patient who may have been choked.She was a friend of Baden’s who ″had been distressed by his dismissal and organized a protest to Mayor Koch,″ the Post said. It said she later was fired by Gross after she ″openly criticized″ his administration.

Dr. Sidney Weinberg, the chief medical examiner of Suffolk County who also was cited as believing the patient’s death had been misclassified, ″is a close friend of Baden and gave Baden a job as his deputy,″ the Post said.

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