A New Jersey butcher’s son becomes an intrepid foreign correspondent, covering five decades of wars, revolutions, upheavals and famines throughout Asia and the Middle East, winning the Pulitzer Prize for an eighteen-month investigation that led to toppling the corrupt Marcos regime in the Philippines.
Pulitzer Prize winner Lewis M. Simons began his career as a foreign correspondent in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War. He saw the war through to the end, covering the fall in quick succession of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Since then, Simons has reported on war, civil unrest, politics and economics from throughout Southeast Asia; India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh; Iraq and Iran; China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea, as well as the former Soviet Union. He was a staff correspondent for The Associated Press, the Washington Post, Time, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Simons won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, in 1986, for exposing the billions that the Marcos family looted from the Philippines. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism named the series one of 50 Great Stories of the Century. Simons was twice more a Pulitzer finalist and has received numerous other journalism awards, including the George Polk, and was an Edward R. Murrow Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Simons' op-ed and analytical articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Atlantic and Smithsonian magazines. He has contributed frequently to National Geographic and his work is published in USA Today, where he is a member of its Board of Contributors, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and Daily Kos. He has appeared on ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, BBC and CBC.
Lewis is co-author with Senator Christopher S. Bond of The Next Front: Southeast Asia and the Road to Global Peace with Islam. He also is author of Worth Dying For and a contributing author of half a dozen books on war and international affairs.
A former U.S. Marine, he is a graduate of New York University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is married to fellow journalist Carol Simons. They have three adult children and reside in Washington, DC.
Journalists have an important role to educate and inform the public, as an observer and in an objective manner. That is what Lew Simons, whom, I have had the opportunity to meet several times, has been practicing while covering developments in different parts of the world. His revealing book, To Tell the Truth, is a testament to his application of this approach.
Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author of Legacy Of Ashes: The History of The CIA
How many reporters have helped topple a dictator? Lew Simons is one of the very few. A fascinating chronicle by one of America’s best foreign correspondents, To Tell the Truth deftly weaves penetrating coverage of turbulent times with intimate family stories. A great book by a truly talented journalist.
The Pulitzer Prize Archive
Doubtless the investigative stories and exposes of the San Jose Mercury team can be called one of the greatest successes in the history of the internationally oriented Pulitzer Prizes.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and best-selling author of The Big Cheat
Lew Simons' To Tell The Truth is the improbable, true, and captivating story of a New Jersey butcher’s son who became an intrepid foreign correspondent, covering five decades of wars, revolutions, upheavals and famines throughout Asia and the Middle East.
The New York Times, and author of The Perfect Weapon
As a young foreign correspondent in Asia three decades ago, I quickly learned a few things about Lew Simons. First, you didn’t want to compete with him. Second, no one understood Asia — and America’s misadventures there — better than Lew did. And finally, there was no more elegant writer, empathetic reporter or greater investigator. To Tell the Truth is a reminder of what a truly gifted reporter does: Dig, expose and explain in beautiful prose. No one does it better.
The Rag Blog
The NY Sun
Columbia Journalism Review.
To Tell the Truth: A campus conversation in Richmond with Lew & Carol Simons
Lew speaks virtually to Washington, DC's Northwest Neighbor's Village on Valentine's Day | Watch Video
Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 11 a.m. EST.
Discussion with Philippines Journalist Christian Esguerra
Lew and David Sanger of NYT discuss To Tell the Truth on C-SPAN
Discussion with David Sanger at Washington's iconic Politics and Prose bookstore
November 11, 2022
A skillfully written, organized and presented memoir that will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in journalism, "To Tell the Truth: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent" is an impressively informative and persona/professional account of the career and adventures of a war correspondent and a journalist investigating corruption and the tensions between the wealthy and the poor in various hot spots around the world. An informative and fascinating read, "To Tell the Truth: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent" will prove a welcome addition to community, college, and university library American Biography and Journalism Studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of journalism students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "To Tell the Truth: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.00).
Editorial Note: Lewis M. Simons is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent on foreign affairs throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
By Arnold Zeitlin
India can be a challenge, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Lewis M. Simons writes in a memoir that covers significant time in South Asia over a career that spans 60 years and is continuing. In his case, the country was a challenge he lost.
As the correspondent based in New Delhi for The Washington Post, Simons was responsible for covering all of South Asia, including India’s deadliest rival, Pakistan. It was the new Pakistan prime minister after the fallen Yahya Khan regime who contributed to Simons’s downfall.
Firstly, in Simons first visit to Islamabad in 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, obviously aware of who reads The Post in Washington, promptly granted him an interview during which, Simons writes, he was not only “surprisingly candid,” he offered the reporter a tipple of Scotch whisky. In comparison, a year before I had met Bhutto in Lahore, tripping on a rug on my way out. “And he doesn’t even drink,” Bhutto muttered as I almost fell.
At any event, Simons found the American-educated Bhutto “quite charming” and interviewed him on frequent, subsequent reporting trips to Pakistan.
Secondly, eventually, S.K. Singh, India’s official spokesman, summoned Simons to the foreign ministry. His reporting was one-sided, Singh said. “They make Bhutto look good and cast Mrs. Gandhi in a negative light,” he complained, referring to India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
Simons responded that Bhutto granted an interview every time Simons asked and writes, “it was natural his views would make their way into my copy.” Mrs. Gandhi had never given him an interview. Singh “sighed knowingly and rolled his eyes,” Simons wrote and promised to press the prime minister for a Post interview.
None ever occurred.
Instead, thirdly, three days after Gandhi imposed a national emergency in June 1975, three armed police hustled Simons from his office. He was held in a hotel until forced to leave on the next flight from India to Bangkok.
Had Simons lost his challenge with India? Perhaps. In a fit of pique, the Gandhi regime cut ties with an influential U.S. newspaper. The newspaper continued to cover India, but remotely. Like many other regimes which oust reporters, the Gandhi government lost the opportunity, which Bhutto had seized, to expose its views to a significant American readership. Eventually, times change: Simons returned to India in 1984 to cover the funeral of the assassinated Indira Gandhi.
For those readers interested in how an American reporter works from overseas, Simons work in South Asia provides a primer. Covering the story of drought and famine in India, Simons writes: “The most effective way I knew to make it grab readers’ attention was to people it with those living on the parched soil.”
In his first visit to Bangladesh in December 1971, he hunted for and found a victim of Pakistan army rape for his story. For a story about what was then called Calcutta, he had jogged for an hour in 90F-degree heat alongside a barefoot rickshaw puller, a man who ran all day to make a living.
The memoir is unusual for having a persistent sub-story running under the descriptions of Simons’s derring-do. The story is about his marriage.
He and his eventual wife, Carol, met on their first day in New York City as members of the class of 1964 at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, where young people dream of distinguished careers in journalism. They married in 1965. Simons went on to become chief of four bureaus \abroad and to win a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles that helped bring down Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
Carol went on to have three babies and, while doing a series of freelance work and often significant editing jobs, pretty much tended to the domestic side of this marriage. When her husband was ousted within hours from India, she was left suddenly to deal with a hostile government that refused to let her leave and closed the family’s bank account. In tears, she attended the U.S. embassy’s July 4th celebration, where the American ambassador ordered she be given the help she needed. The next day, an embassy car drove her and her children past immigration and customs at the New Delhi airport right onto the tarmac, where she boarded a flight to Bangkok and Simons.
While many of these sorts of journalism marriages have failed, the Simons’s has endured for more than 50 years. Simons has told the stories of his career and marriage often in blunt prose that serves to illuminate the humanity involved in the life of both himself and his wife. He offers a read that rises above the usual gung-ho journalistic memoir.
Guangdong University of Foreign Studies
"Lewis Simons’ new memoir, TO TELL THE TRUTH: My Life as a Foreign Correspondent, gives the reader a first-hand (in the most literal way) account of what was going on in Vietnam and how it affected [the] neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia...
"This is not a 'war journal,' filled with blood, guts, heroics and brotherhood, as is the case with many books written by soldiers. Our hero doesn’t run headfirst into a hail of bullets to take out a platoon of NVA. There are heroics within these pages as well as blood and guts but what you will find here is the story of a man who put himself in harm’s way to get to the truth and make sure that information got to the people of the world.
"Lewis Simons got the truth out and he made a difference in a time before cell phones, internet and 24-hour news. It all seems more fantastic in 2022 where the truth changes depending on which television channel you’re watching."
"It is a privilege to read the stories of a professional journalist present at so many hugely significant events in Asia over the decades. Simons followed the journalistic ethics of observing and reporting but never participating in events. He now presents a memoir that covers war, political corruption, dictatorships, and just about every man-made and natural catastrophe you can think of across the southern and eastern expanse of Asia. Over a long career, Simons reported from Indochina, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Japan, and China, with a few postings in the U.S. as well. Simons has many lessons to teach and wisdom to impart to journalists, including to be objective and leave the commentary to others; the facts will speak for themselves. That said, this supremely well-written and thoroughly captivating narrative is much more than “just the facts” reporting. Simons is a wonderful storyteller and this is an invaluable chronicle of the experiences of a foreign correspondent. It is also a boon for readers interested in the complex relationships between Asia and the U.S. from the 1960s through the 2010s."