A Writer Hitched on His Own Petard

Best-selling Brit Christopher Hitchens--who condemns journalists who repeat "a false and malicious and disprovable allegation" on Page 12 of his anti-Clinton screed, "No One Left to Lie To"--has run into a spot of trouble himself for something he printed six pages later. On Page 18, he writes that Democratic operative Michael Copperthite, in an act of abject perfidy in 1996, advised the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indians of Oklahoma to cough up $107,000 for the Democratic Party to resolve a land dispute with the government.

Everyone agrees that the charge is baseless. Hitchens has apologized and offered to retract, but Copperthite has hired prominent British libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck to sue Hitchens and his British publisher, Verso/New Left Books, for up to $250,000 in the U.K., where libel laws are severe indeed. "It's a minor inaccuracy," Colin Robinson, managing director of Verso/New Left, claimed yesterday. Still, the publisher has stopped shipping the book until the offending pages in thousands of copies at the warehouse have been removed and replaced. Robinson said that about 90,000 copies have already been shipped. "Hitchens took me out for a beer . . . but I think he's a nasty guy," Copperthite told us. Hitchens didn't return our phone call.

CAUSE CELEB

* That was Linda Evans of "Dynasty" fame participating in yesterday's protest of Bell Atlantic Mobile's plan to erect two cellular-phone towers in Rock Creek Park, reports The Post's Sewell Chan. D.C. residents "have the right to say they don't want to be radiated 24 hours a day," Evans said at a news conference here. She's been a soldier in the cause since she sued unsuccessfully a few years ago to stop construction of a 315-foot transmission tower near her Rainier, Wash., home. Never mind that the actress keeps a cell phone in her car.

Appraising 26 Seconds of Horror

* Washington tax attorney Henry Zapruder was a young lawyer at the Justice Department on Nov. 22, 1963, when his father, Abraham, called from Dallas. "They've killed the president," sobbed Abe Zapruder, a Dallas sportswear manufacturer. "No, Dad, he's alive, they've taken him to Parkland [Hospital] emergency," Henry said. "He's dead!" the elder Zapruder insisted. "I've seen him through the camera."

Almost 36 years later, the 26-second Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is an astonishing historical relic and a mixed blessing for Abe's heirs. As early as today, a special arbitration panel will announce how much the government will pay for the film--anywhere from $1 million to $30 million. But Henry, 61, who has retained Bob Bennett, says that despite nearly $1 million in payments for use of the film over the years-- including cash from Oliver Stone for the movie "JFK"--his family has spent a bundle on legal and administrative costs while suffering criticism for alleged profiteering. The film has been available gratis to historians. "We decided early in this matter that we would be guided by our own views of right and wrong," Henry Zapruder said.

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Feuding Democratic media consultants Carter Eskew and Bob Squier are talking again, sort of, on orders from Vice President Gore. The two ex-partners hadn't spoken since their bitter falling-out seven years ago, when Eskew fled Squier's firm to start his own venture. But a week ago, Gore recruited Eskew to work with Squier on his troubled presidential campaign, and last Friday the two traded bright ideas. Okay, so they weren't in the same city (Eskew was in Washington, D.C., and Squier was in Washington state). But they were on the same conference call. "It was a businesslike exchange," a participant told us, using language once reserved for Soviet-American summits.

* Days before the U.S. opening of "Eyes Wide Shut," we're hearing grumbles from Hollywood that Warner Bros. has besmirched the final movie--if not the memory--of late director Stanley Kubrick. During a Los Angeles screening attended by The Post's Sharon Waxman, a near-mutiny erupted when the audience was shown two versions of the film: Kubrick's cut, set for European release, and the crudely bowdlerized American version, in which digital cut-out figures were inserted to cover up images of copulating couples in a key orgy scene--to preserve an R rating, executive producer Jan Harlan explained. "Doesn't this demonstrate the hypocrisy of the ratings system?" the Chicago Sun-Times's Roger Ebert demanded, calling the studio's handiwork "this Austin Powers version."

* Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who wrestled under his professional name, "The Body," returns to the ring Aug. 22 for the World Wrestling Federation's "SummerSlam." Not clear whether he's a combatant or a ref.

CAPTION: Hitchens, offering to retract.

CAPTION: Copperthite, mad and suing.

CAPTION: Evans, fighting cell-phone towers.

CAPTION: Henry Zapruder, film's caretaker.

CAPTION: The Kennedy assassination captured on film.

CAPTION: Squier and Eskew, speaking again.