Charges Against Overseer Candidate Were Unfair and Unsubstantiated

TO THE EDITORS

I thought I had finally grown hardened to the litany of cheap shots and low blows which occasionally plague the pages The Crimson, but your recent article by Emily Carrier was a particularly egregious hatchet job on an individual who deserves much better ("Overseer Candidate's Homes Blow in Wind, news story, May 5, 1994).

As a lifelong resident of south Florida and friend of Leonard Miller '55, I was appalled to see Ms. Carrier attack both Miller and his candidacy for the Harvard University Board of Overseers. In what was amusingly labeled a "news" profile, Ms. Carrier seemed to pick and choose her facts at will--ignoring the positives and accentuating the negatives--in an effort to invent a story where none existed.

As a result, what appeared in your newspaper was a patently unfair and woefully misleading mix of halftruths and unsubstantiated opinions about an individual long recognized as one of Florida's most successful employers and leading philanthropists. Pravda couldn't have been more slanted. For example:

1.) In suggesting that Miller's home building company, Lennar Corp., builds substandard housing, Ms. Carrier mentions the damage suffered by some Lennar homes in the wake of Hurricane Andrew's destruction in 1992. But although Ms. Carrier mentions lawsuits filed against the company as an indicator of some new-found public distrust of Lennar, she conveniently leaves out the fact that prosecutors who investigated Lennar exonerated the company of all criminal wrongdoing. In fact, investigators concluded that Lennar's homes were all built up to code, and that most of the weaknesses exposed by Andrew were the result of practices sanctioned by the South Florida Building Code and Dade County.

2.) Yes, as Florida's largest home builder, Lennar would seem to be the perfect scapegoat for someone looking for a good story like Ms. Carrier. But as the prosecutors concluded, "while it would be convenient and perhaps publicly soothing to blame Lennar for the destruction wrought by Hurricane Andrew at the properties investigated, it would not be fair or accurate." Not even Homestead Air Force Base could withstand the record 120-mile-an-hour winds of the unprecedented hurricane, and Florida Power and Light's concrete utility poles, built to resist 165-mile-an-hour winds, snapped like toothpicks.

Admittedly, Ms. Carrier would have looked foolish had she included in her article the fact the Miami Herald recently made Lennar one of its five finalists for the prestigious "Florida Company of the Year" award, largely because of Lennar's remarkable success in winning back customers after the hurricane. Oh well, that little piece of information wouldn't be conducive to a negative article, so it had to be left out!

2.) Of all the unwarranted conclusions made by Ms. Carrier, one in particular stands above (or, more accurately, below) the rest. After quoting one person whose home was damaged after the hurricane, Ms. Carrier feels confident enough to conclude that "southern Florida residents might advise Harvard's graduates not to make Miller an overseer for his construction expertise." What? How many "southern Florida residents" did Ms. Carrier talk to? Apparently not many, or else she would have learned that Lennar is currently selling more homes than ever--an alltime record for the fiscal year ending Nov. 30. (And she also would have learned that the correct terminology is "south" Florida residents--save the "southern" appellation for references to California!)

How does Ms. Carrier explain the fact that all those "southern Florida" residents who want so badly to "advise" us Harvard graduates have made the conscious choice to purchase Lennar homes in droves? Perhaps they know something that Ms. Carrier doesn't.

3.) I will not blame Ms. Carrier for the outrageous hyperbole The Crimson used to headline her article. But whoever came up with the headline "Overseer Candidate's Homes Blow in Wind" not only make a baseless, childish accusation against one of Florida's most respected companies, but also mocks the ferocity of the hurricane which devastated south Florida. Was it a little "wind" that caused damage to Lennar's homes? Did any of Lennar's homes "blow" away as insinuated by your headline? While I am not a lawyer (yet), I can definitely see how such a blatant lie could open The Crimson up to a libel lawsuit.

I am just one vote, but I can assure you that I will not be the only south Floridian casting his ballot for Leonard Miller's Overseer elections. In fact, I'll bet Ms. Carrier would vote for Leonard Miller too--if she had just researched her story a little better. David A. Aronberg '93, J.D. '96