THE AMBASSADOR to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, says that she was misquoted last month in this newspaper, and she is correct. We publish a letter today be her spokesman, Steven C. Munson.
How did the misquotation come about? This is what happened. In early August, Mrs. Kirkpatrick visited several South American countries, and held a press conerence in Chile on Aug. 8 at which she talked about relations between the country and Chile's military government. A reporter for this newspaper was not present, but subsequently The Post got the Associated Press' account of it, with quotations, in Spanish. But Mrs. Kirkpatrick had been speaking English, through an interpreter. Neither the State Department nor her office in New York was able to provide an English text. Post editiors re-translated the quotations from the Spanish and printed them in a story appearing Aug. 13. Her office protested that she was being misrepresented.
Reporters at the press conference has misheard a key line in the interpreter's version, apparently, but they all made the same mistake. A tape recording makes it clear that Mrs. Kirkpatrick frequently began speaking in English before the translator had finished the previous passage in Spanish, and, in the confusions, some of her listeners though the interpreter had said, "The Letelier case is solved. . . ." Orlando Letelier was an opponent of the military regime; his assassination here in 1976, and the subsequent refusal of the Chilean government to cooperate with the American investigation, led to a sharp deterioration in relations under the Carter administration.
Not only the AP but several Chilean newspapers carried the erroneous quotation. There was no protest to the AP or, as far as we know, to anyone else, until the quotation appeared in this newspaper.
As for the substance of the issue, Mrs. Kirkpatrick clearly did not say that the Letelier case was resolved. What she said was the she didn't know the legal status of the case but that "outstanding questions" would no longer necessarily prevent normal relations between the United States and Chile. Our original story reported the anxieties of Chilean politicians in the opposition that Mrs. Kirkpatrick's words had strengthened the military government. We leave it to our readers' judgement whether those anxieties are not justified.