The editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association was fired Friday because he published a research article about college students' sexual attitudes to coincide with President Clinton's impeachment trial.
Dr. George D. Lundberg, editor of JAMA for 17 years, was fired for "inappropriately and inexcusably interjecting JAMA into the middle of a debate that has nothing to do with science or medicine," AMA Executive Vice President E. Ratcliffe Anderson Jr. said at a news conference Friday.
The firing had nothing to do with the scientific merits of the article, only the timing of its publication, Anderson said. He said there appeared to be an accelerated publication schedule for the article to coincide with the events in Washington.
Two deputy editors will fill in while a worldwide search is conducted for a new editor, he said.
Lundberg, 65, confirmed Anderson called him at home this morning and fired him. He declined to discuss the reason or release any other details on the advice of his attorney.
Until recently, Lundberg had said he hoped to break the 25-year record for editorship of JAMA held by the late Dr. Morris Fishbein.
The article, to be published in the Jan. 20 JAMA, explored what Americans mean by the phrase "had sex."
The study of 599 college students, who were interviewed in 1991 on various sex-related questions, found that 59 percent of them did not consider oral-genital contact as having "had sex."
Clinton said during his grand jury testimony that oral sex was not one of the acts covered in his definition of sexual relations. He is accused of lying about his relationship with former White House volunteer Monica Lewinsky and trying to cover it up.
June M. Reinisch, author of the article, said if Lundberg had held up the article, he would have been accused of hiding relevant data.
"I'm absolutely shocked," said Reinisch, retired director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana, which conducted the research.
"This may have to do with issues of academic freedom," she added in a telephone interview. "There was nothing unusual about this paper."
She said various colleagues had urged her to prepare a paper after the issue of whether oral sex was sex was raised during the Clinton scandal. The article itself briefly refers to the current public debate on the question.
The 1991 data were part of a survey containing 102 items on various aspects of behavior associated with transmission of sex-related diseases. Other studies have been published giving details on various sections of the survey.
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