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Anti-war Pulitzer winner will accept award named after war propagandist

Robby Soave Reporter
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The Pulitzer Prize committee gave the 2013 poetry award to Sharon Olds, a New York University creative writing professor who has vocally opposed the Iraq War.

Olds won for her recent book of poetry, “Stag’s Leap,” about her divorce from her husband.

In 2005, she was invited by then-First Lady Laura Bush to speak at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Olds declined the invitation, saying that to do otherwise would be to condone the Bush administration and the war that it had “forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths.”

“What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation,” she wrote in an open letter published by The Nation. “I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.”

Olds has given no indication that she would turn down the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, however, even though the award is named for Joseph Pulitzer, a famed publisher and war propagandist whose so-called “yellow journalism” is often credited with swaying public opinion in support of the Spanish-American War of 1898. His newspaper, the New York World, ran stories that utilized sensationalism and gossip to boost sales and drum up public support for the war.

Pulitzer and his newspaper rival, William Randolph Hearst, published headlines blaming the sinking of the USS Maine on Spain, which led the U.S. government to declare war.

Olds’s Pulitzer comes with a $10,000 prize. She did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s not rare for the Pulitzer Prize committee to bestow its awards upon left-leaning writers. The commentary prize — one of over a dozen different Pulitzers awarded each year in categories ranging from reporting to fiction writing — was given to just five conservatives between 1978 and 2008. Liberal New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman, Nick Kristof and Maureen Dowd each won the prize during that time.

This year’s winner was Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens.

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