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VF's Carter Batters, Eats the Press

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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SKLAR BOMB Carter, Rachel (inset)

Who says Graydon Carter has lost his killer instinct? Sure, Vanity Fair's double-breasted editor in chief makes nice to the moguls and movie stars he used to skewer while running Spy, but put an impertinent blogger in front of him and the claws come back out.

Fielding questions from the audience at an American Society of Magazine Editors luncheon to promote Spy: The Funny Years on Thursday, Carter called on Rachel Sklar, a fellow Canadian and editor of the Huffington Post's Eat the Press blog. Clearly piqued by Christopher Hitchens's essay in the January issue of Vanity Fair, "Why Women Aren't Funny", Sklar inveighed against Hitchens's thesis, wrapping criticism in curiosity about Carter's "process" of "greenlighting" such an article. "I don't have an answer for you," Carter replied, brusquely.

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Sklar pressed on, accusing Hitchens himself of unfunniness, prompting Carter to demand, "And who are you?" She identified herself. "And you write something funny for the Huffington Post?" Sklar offered to send him links to her stories, but he dismissed her. "I thought the piece was very funny. And you've proved my point." (Surely he meant to say Hitchens's point?)

The exchange, in its confrontational tone, differed markedly from the others of the afternoon—notably those initiated by a table of Vanity Fair staffers, who floated several softballs across their boss's plate and those of his co-authors, Kurt Andersen and George Kalogerakis (whose mic was mysteriously dead for part of the Q&A). At one point, Carter even answered a question from his own publicist about Spy's brilliant skewering of the New York Times.

Afterward, a somewhat nonplussed Sklar came perilously close to apologizing for setting Carter off. "You do sort of throw down the gauntlet when you publish a piece called 'Why Women Aren't Funny,'" she explains. "I'm looking forward to disabusing Graydon of that when I'm published in Vanity Fair, which should no doubt be very soon." She adds, "I was genuinely interested in what he might have had to say about the behind-the-scenes of publishing that essay. I didn't mean for it to come out as rude. Canadians are very polite, as you know." Well, some of them, anyway.

For more on the Sklar wars, visit The New York Observer's Media Mob.

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