Arts & Entertainment

‘Stars & Stripes’ Figure Skating Non-Profit Replies to New York Post Allegations

In a major public statement since two articles published in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post earlier this month containing what she charges to be “malicious conjecture, innuendo and conclusory allegations” against her non-profit figure skating promotional entity, the Stars, Stripes and Skates Foundation, former U.S. figure skater Tara Modlin said that “I have no recourse but to fight the baseless, nasty untruths hurled against me.”

Modlin issued her statement as a letter to friends, family and colleagues because, she said, the New York Post, unlike CBS which also reported the matter, refused to present her side of the story. In an earlier letter, Modlin said the Post story was “nothing short of libel.” She flatly denied any wrongdoing, except a clerical failure to file paperwork for the IRS that resulted in an auto-generated license revocation, something done routinely by the IRS to over 275,000 non-profits in the U.S., including 19,000 in her home state of New York. She said that no one has been “prejudiced” by the oversight, and her foundation “is in no way under investigation by the IRS or any other agency. There is no story here.” The clerical oversight has been corrected, she said.

Modlin’s non-profit has involved the voluntary participation of many in the figure skating world, including competitors from Northern Virginia. The following is Modlin’s statement:

Statement of Tara Modlin

“Dear Friends, Family and Colleagues,

“Thank you for bearing with me over the past two weeks. Please do not confuse my silence during this time with weakness or guilt. On the advice of counsel, I had to use this time to determine how this hand would play out.

“To fight the New York Post articles publicly, in essence, republishes them, and in a back-handed way, gives credence to their malicious conjecture, innuendo and conclusory allegations. Only time would tell which direction I should take.

I have patiently waited out this time, and have decided that I have no recourse but to fight the baseless, nasty untruths hurled against me as well as The Heritage Foundation of 9/11 on every level.

“In the days that have ensued since the articles’ publication, their “trickle down” effect has been enormous and has adversely affected both myself and the Foundation in ways that at the outset could never be imagined. Rather than die a natural death, the untruths have had a snowball effect. Now that I am clear of their consequences, I am happy to take on the fight and vindicate my name and the Foundation.

“Simply stated, the untruths contained in the two articles can no longer be ignored. Though it may be deemed good business to generate startling headlines to sell newspapers, I will not permit the destruction of the Foundation, my relationships with all of you, or my personal and business reputation, to be by-products of their smear campaign.

“I have retained counsel, who has opened a channel of communication with the New York Post. Not unexpectedly, the New York Post refuses to alter its derogatory, one-sided, and negative reporting. For those of you closely following this, I will publish shortly a bullet-point overview of all my objections to their articles.

“My approach is to wage my battle in the court of public opinion as well as in a court of law, if need be. I have contacted both print and broadcast media to get out my side of the story. As you may know, CBS News ran pieces on this story during both their 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM broadcasts on Monday, July 11, 2011.

“Unlike the New York Post, CBS saw fit to balance the reporting and present both positives and negatives. The CBS broadcast prominently presented my side, quoting from my July 4, 2011 letter to you posted here, and did not dismiss my opinion or position as irrelevant. This is something the New York Post refuses to do, and speaks volumes about their credibility and motivation.

“In addition to the heartache this has caused me, my only regret is the aggravation this has caused many of you. In a way, I am relieved that time has, indeed, made clear the steps I must take and what I must do. The agony of the wait is over!

“Literally, stay tuned and keep on the look-out for my rebuttals. I will keep you posted when my next print or broadcast statement will take place. Do not be alarmed if the New York Post strikes again. I do not plan to play dead or fade away quietly. I have done nothing to betray your trust, personally, professionally, or on behalf of the Foundation. Literally, keep those cards and e-mails coming! Your support means the world to me, especially at this time.

“What matters to me most is my relationship with each and every one of you. If the paperwork can be processed at the IRS quickly, I will see you at the 2011 Stars, Stripes and Skates ICEstravaganza, for which plans are still in the works. Nothing would make me prouder or happier!

“Lastly, I want to make this very clear: More than forty national, world and Olympic athletes devoted their time, energy and support to Stars, Stripes and Skates over the years. They did so out of the goodness of their hearts, without ever receiving compensation. These remarkable people volunteered their valuable time and amazing talent to inspire young skaters and to help create something wonderful from something tragic. To suggest otherwise in any way is appalling, shameful, and utterly baseless.

“Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I know the truth will prevail. I love you all.

“Tara Eve Modlin, Executive Producer, Stars, Stripes and Skates, New York.”

In addition, in her earlier statement, Modlin made the following points:

“(1) I never “latched onto” anyone’s credibility, nor enlisted help from Lee Ielpi. If anything, Lee enlisted my help, which I was more than happy to give. I wanted to produce a benefit that would memorialize those we lost on 9/11 so they might never be forgotten. He reached out to create a foundation that would let the families of 9/11 give back to the community-not the other way around. But while the families’ resources were substantial in many cases, their contributions were limited and their interest in remembering 9/11 faded, so after several years I restructured our mission statement to reflect the change in our focus.

“(2) I only wish we had raised the $600,000 claimed in the article. We hired the greatest people ever put on planet Earth to run this foundation and the shows-including Nancy Lourentz, Caroline Bickerton, Jirina Ribbens, and so many others-and they were not paid nearly enough for their time and talents. I wish that the $200,000 that we took in over the last 10 years-every penny of which we plowed right back into producing the shows-was double.

“(3) The reporter is correct on one point: No beneficiary got a dime. And neither did I. There was no dime to give, because every dime that came in simply went toward producing our annual 9/11 commemorative event, which is reflected in each and every one of our yearly tax filings.

“The story published in the Post is solely about creating drama through digging around in the IRS-released files looking for dirt that isn’t there. The only way to make this newsworthy was to spin it ugly, and that’s what this reporter did.”