- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

NEW YORK Carl Friedan is fighting back against charges of abuse made by his former wife, Betty, one of the giants of the feminist movement, claiming that it was she who brought violence into their marriage.

Mrs. Friedan, in her new autobiography "Life So Far," painted a stark portrait of spousal abuse and thuggery.

Her husband has responded, after 30 years of stubborn silence, by claiming that the woman he now calls "an absolute horror story" attacked him with knives and scratched him until he bled.

Now 80 and living in Florida, Mr. Friedan started the counter-offensive after the June publication of "Life So Far," which chronicles in detail the shortcomings of their marriage.

The allegations of abuse, made for the first time in print, include claims that he regularly beat her after she became famous. "It seemed as if I never went on a television show in those days without a black eye," she wrote, adding that her husband was "desperate with rage and envy" at her success.

She also claimed that he was a heavy drinker who once tried to throw her out of a moving car. Mrs. Friedan added that his jealousy made him attack other men who tried to talk to her and that it led to obscene phone calls in the middle of the night when she went away on lecture tours.

Mr. Friedan says, "I call this book 'Lies So Far.' It was completely unexpected. Everything is askew. But she has this terrible tendency for self-denial, which leads her to really believe these things."

Mr. Friedan, a retired advertising executive, claimed that his ex-wife was really looking for an explanation for the failure of their marriage. Although he admitted to having numerous affairs, the reality, he said, was that she was the violent partner.

"She operates by terror," he said. "Anyone who knows her well will tell you all about what she is really like."

Mrs. Friedan became one of the leaders of the feminist movement following the publication of the groundbreaking "The Feminine Mystique," which largely started the women's liberation movement in 1963. Shortly afterward she founded the National Organization for Women with other feminist luminaries like Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug.

Her marriage, which started in 1947, did not survive the strain. The couple, who have three children, lived increasingly separate lives until their divorce in the early '70s but remained on good terms until the publication of her memoirs.

Mr. Friedan said he was no longer speaking to his ex-wife. The war of words between feminism's first couple continues, however, on the Internet. He has set up a Web site to offer an alternative portrait of their marriage, describing her as "the most violent person I have ever known." He wrote: "Betty … tottered on a thin line just this side of insanity." He also claimed that her violent temper was made worse by the use of amphetamines.

Mr. Friedan, who has twice remarried, gives details of one incident in which he was forced to pin her against the wall of their New York apartment "like a lion tamer" after she attacked him with kitchen knives. In another explosion of rage, he told the New York Post recently, she used shards of a broken mirror as weapons.

Although saying that he supported his former wife financially for most of their marriage, Mr. Friedan admits that her passion for women's liberation "changed the course of human history almost single-handedly."

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