John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics, has unexpectedly found himself the center of civic controversy in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Galbraith was invited early this month to speak at the dedication of the city's new $2.5 million library Oct. 30. Last Tuesday, Salt Lake City's mayor, J. Bracken Lee, a noted ultraconservative, wrote a protest to the Public Library Board and commented, "If you insist on having a man like Mr. Galbraith, you might also consider finding someone else to accept the building on behalf of Salt Lake City instead of myself."
Lee said yesterday, however, that he would attend the Library's dedication. He also indicated that his letter was meant only as a protest against the expenditure of public funds by the Library Board to bring Galbraith to Salt Lake City.
"I have opposed approval of public funds for a man to come out here and speak, when, for all I know, the man is a socialist," he said. Lee revealed that as a result of his letter, he has been assured that Galbraith's expenses will be paid by a private source.
In his letter Lee also said that while at the Library dedication, "I might take advantage of my present right to express opinion in such a manner that it would not only be embarrassing to Mr. Galbraith but to everyone present."
Yesterday, however, Lee declared that "I'm sure I won't personally insult anyone" and that Galbraith "has as much right to his opinion as anyone."
In fact, the former governor of Utah claimed that his own freedom of speech was being impaired by the Federal Communications Commission. "I don't see any Galbraiths or left-wingers fighting for my freedom of speech," he said.
He said that "freedom of speech" might be his topic at the Library Dedication, and that "If anything, I'm going to ask him (Galbraith) to defend my freedom of speech as vigorously as his own." Lee insisted that F.C.C. "harrassment" has caused local television stations to deny him paid T-V air-time.
To all this Galbraith said only that he would be in Salt Lake City Oct. 30., and curtly but politely declined further comment.