Iconic civil rights advocate laid off by Village Voice
Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday December 31, 2008

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Long-time civil rights advocate Nat Hentoff has been laid off by the financially troubled Village Voice.

The 83 year old Hentoff had worked for the paper since 1958, only three years after its founding. He responded to the news, which he received by phone on Tuesday morning, by saying, “I’m 83 and a half. You’d think they’d have let me go silently. Fortunately, I’ve never been more productive.”

Hentoff's greatest prominent came in the 1960's, when he was known as both a jazz critic and a leading exponent of free speech. He testified at the 1964 obscenity trial of comedian Lenny Bruce and helped launch the career of a young Bob Dylan. In 1971, a veiled reference in Hentoff's column to the Pentagon Papers helped convince the New York Times to print the documents that revealed the Nixon administration's lies.

In recent years, Hentoff has appeared to grow more conservative. He supported the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds and became an opponent of abortion to the point where he refused to support the candidacy of Barack Obama.

However, Hentoff remains a fervent supporter of the freedom of the press. He wrote in his column for the Voice in 2007, "In the more than half a century I've been a reporter, there has never been as systematic an operation to intimidate and then silence the press as is now taking place under the Bush-Cheney-Gonzales administration."

Earlier this month, Hentoff raised an alarm over the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, which is about to give give the federal government the power to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for any crime.

“With all due immodesty," Hentoff told the Times, "I think it doesn’t help to lose me because people have told me they read The Voice not only for me, but certainly for me."