By ROBERT PELAEZ
Niloufar Tabari, a candidate in the Great Neck School District’s recent Board of Education election, demanded that the Great Neck News remove a readers-write letter from its website and offer a retraction prior to the election.
Tabari claimed an opinion piece submitted by a Great Neck resident in the May 5 edition of the Great Neck News that was also posted on the theisland360.com website included “false defamatory statements” about her.
Blank Slate Media Publisher Steven Blank denied Tabari’s request, saying her claims about the letter were factually inaccurate.
The paper has not published a story about the letter until receiving confirmation that Tabari wrote the email. The email was signed by Tabari showed that it had been sent by an “Adam Zadeh.”
Tabari, who was defeated by incumbent Rebecca Sassouni in the May 16 trustee race, referenced an opinion piece written by Great Neck resident Wendy Wisner in an email to Blank Slate Media on May 13.
Wisner’s letter supported Sassouni and newly elected Trustee Joanne Chan in the district’s Tuesday election.
Wisner’s submission included critical comments made by Tabari in 2021 to the Great Neck school board during a public meeting regarding a book entitled “If You Come Softly.”
A passage in the book about an interracial teenage couple depicts an older white couple staring at the couple and prompts them to ask the younger white girl if she was in any danger.
“Why teach children that all white people are racist,” Tabari asked the board. “Instead of teaching children about commonalities, it divides children along racial and religious lines and pits them against one another.”
Wisner, in her submission to Blank Slate Media, said Tabari’s claims about the book had no merit, saying the book “shows kindness from white characters, and an effort on the part of the main white characters to understand the struggles of the characters who are Black.”
She questioned if Tabari had “even read [the book] at all” and said book bannings across the nation are fueled by the “rhetoric Tabari displayed at the school board meeting in 2021.”
Tabari, in her email to Blank Slate Media, said that the “false statements” in Wisner’s submission have caused her “significant harm” and called for a retraction of the letter and an apology from Publisher Steven Blank.
Tabari threatened “to take legal action” and sue Blank Slate Media if the submission was not retracted and an apology was not issued.
“I have never said such things or ever been recorded of such words, and I have never been involved in any illegal activity,” Tabari wrote in her email. “I am a law-abiding citizen who has always conducted myself with honesty, integrity and passion for all humanity.”
Tabari, in her email, claimed Wisner described her as “a white racist and a Jew book banner.”
Blank, in an email response to Tabari on May 13, said Wisner’s submission did not describe the school board candidate as a “white racist and a Jew book banner” as she claimed in her email nor did she accuse her of being involved in any illegal activity.
“I will not remove the letter from our website, run a retraction or apologize for publishing the letter,” Blank said in the email. “The letter presented Ms. Wisner’s fair comment about a school board race. If you take legal action, we will respond vigorously and seek damages for an unfounded claim.”
A readers-write letter sent to Blank Slate Media from Tabari on May 4, published online and in the May 12 edition of the Great Neck News, said she is against book banning “in any form” and addressed the divisiveness she feels is prevalent in the community.
“I personally believe that the diversity of this community needs to be celebrated and not used to divide and hurt,” Tabari said in the letter. “No matter how diverse this community is, we share one singular goal: best-in-class education for our children.”