Accuracy in Media

The release of transcripts of closed-door hearings conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy gave the media another opportunity to charge that the Wisconsin Senator made reckless charges about communists that destroyed the lives of innocent people. But many of the stories about the hearings and McCarthy were far more reckless, inaccurate and misleading than anything he ever said or did.

The media have had 50 years to get the story straight but still can’t present the basic facts to the American people about the communist threat that McCarthy tried to expose-and which still exists today in a different but equally deadly form.

Consider that the government has indicted Katrina Leung, a suspected Chinese-American double agent, and her FBI case officer, who also was her lover. The full story of this spectacular case is yet to be told, but Leung through her FBI handlers may have provided disinformation about Chinese Communist aims and ambitions to U.S. presidents and Congress for over a decade.

Brian P. Regan, a retired Air Force sergeant, was recently convicted of espionage and barely escaped the death penalty. He was selling U.S. secrets to China and Iraq. And more details about convicted Cuban spy Ana Montes, a former senior analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, are coming to light. Insiders are comparing her role as an agent of influence on behalf of Cuba to the service Alger Hiss gave to the Soviet Union. We already know that she peddled the line in an official report that the Castro regime was not a significant security threat to the U.S.

All of these recent cases involve the deep and long-term penetration of our intelligence agencies.

Meantime, in a troubling comment that largely escaped critical media scrutiny or even notice, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared on Black Entertainment Television that U.S. policy toward Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende in the 1970s was “not a part of American history that we’re proud of.” Powell appears not to know that in toppling Allende the Chilean military saved Chile from suffering the same fate as South Vietnam with very little loss of life.

The Bush administration is, of course, preoccupied with the Middle East, and this drives media coverage of foreign affairs. But voices are struggling to be heard in the media about the communist danger and potential terrorist threat we face just south of the border.

Al Santoli, Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, told the Free Congress Foundation’s radio news service that Venezuela, an oil exporting nation ruled by a friend of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, is more of a national security problem than Iran. Santoli, who served as a top congressional aide, says Chavez and Castro are helping run guns to the Colombian terrorists. There are currently more than 350 U.S. military advisers in Colombia and the number is growing. He says Chinese special forces are now training Chavez’s military, and that there are reports of al Qaeda members being brought into Venezuela as Chavez’s guests. He is Venezuela’s Allende.

In a new report, the American Defense Council notes that not only does China control ports at each end of the Panama Canal, it dominates seven of the 10 major global shipping chokepoints.

Shane Connor, a Texas businessman who has traveled several times to Venezuela and interviewed military officials who have quit the Chavez regime, tells AIM that Air Force Major Juan Diaz Castillo, a former pilot for Chavez, has revealed his own role in the payment of $1 million from the regime to al Qaeda after 9/11. Connor said this disclosure made headlines in Venezuela but not in any major American newspapers. Connor also said there is evidence that a controversial bioweapons lab reported to be in Cuba has been secretly transferred to Venezuela. The location has been posted at www.MilitaresDemocraticos.com, a Web site in English for opponents of the Chavez regime.

Writing in Human Events, the conservative weekly, intelligence expert Herbert Romerstein says Cuba should be considered a member of the Axis of Evil for its long-time support of international terrorism.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal is one of the few national media voices expressing alarm about the deteriorating situation in Latin America and the seeming inability of the CIA to recognize the dangers we face. She said in a March 14 column that the U.S. intelligence officer for Latin America, Fulton T. Armstrong, backed out of a scheduled February 27 public appearance before the House International Relations Committee because he feared being questioned about the CIA’s nonchalance toward adverse political trends in Latin America and the threat to U.S. security posed by the Chavez regime.

Senator Joseph McCarthy would never have tolerated such behavior from U.S. officials. He was accused of bullying or browbeating witnesses before his committee, but there can be no doubt that he was motivated by concern about the failure of the U.S. government at the time to recognize the communist danger we faced.

McCarthy was quite specific in his charges, having cited 59 suspected communists in the State Department. He produced that list, plus 22 others. McCarthy helped uncover a communist spy ring involving Foreign Service officer John Stewart Service and Philip Jaffe, the editor of Amerasia, a pro-communist magazine. He targeted Owen Lattimore, a key State Department adviser and a Communist. McCarthy’s charge against Mary Jane Keeney, a Soviet agent who served as a State Department employee at the U.N., was proven correct. McCarthy was right about Annie Lee Moss, an army code clerk who was proven to be a member of the Communist Party.

In addition to Service, other State Department China hands who gave aid and comfort to the Communists were John Paton Davies, Edmund Clubb and John Carter Vincent. Soviet agents in high positions included Harry Hopkins, who was so close to FDR that he lived in the White House, Laughlin Currie, an economist who was a top Roosevelt aide, and Alger Hiss, a high State Department official who was at FDR’s elbow at Yalta and a key figure in getting the U.N. started.

On May 5, NBC News correspondent Pete Williams aired a report about the transcripts of the closed-door McCarthy hearings. He focused on another alleged innocent victim of the senator. Williams claimed that McCarthy had unfairly singled out composer Aaron Copland for scrutiny. Williams said that Copland, when asked about Soviet policies replied, “I spend my days writing symphonies, concertos, ballads, and I am not a political thinker.” Williams said Copland “was never called to testify in public,” suggesting he was completely innocent of charges that he had Communist connections.

Red Tunes

But writing in National Review, historian Ronald Radosh noted that Copland had “a record of a vast amount of cooperation with Communist front groups.” Radosh said that Copland was “thoroughly dishonest” in claiming he didn’t have Communist connections and that his attendance at a Communist “peace” conference was for the purpose of investigating the Communists.

Radosh said that Copland, who swore under oath in 1934 that he never knew a Communist, was in fact a member of the Composers Collective, an affiliate of the Workers’ Music League of the Communist Party. Copland even wrote a May Day song for the Communists, “Into the Streets May First,” whose music and text were featured on the cover of a Communist Party cultural magazine, New Masses.

An AP story of May 10, 2003, said that FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI “wanted to prosecute Copland for perjury and fraud for denying he was a Communist.” No such prosecution ever took place. It said Copland’s music was pulled from President Eisenhower’s inaugural concert in 1953 because of concern about his Communist ties. AP quoted Terry Teachout, a New York-based music critic and commentator, as saying, “He was involved with the Communist Party up to his ears. Whether or not he was an actual card-carrying member of the party, nobody knows.”

Professor David Schiff of Reed College says that the Depression transformed Copland “from an alienated aesthete into a politically engaged populist. Most of his friends turned to communism for solutions to the economic crisis. Howard Pollack reveals that on two occasions in 1934 Copland actually got on the stump to support Communist Party candidates…”

The news stories about the five volumes of McCarthy hearings released by the Senate were all alike, reporting that McCarthy accused people of being Communists who were not, and saying that he bullied them. Lacking time to peruse 5 thick volumes, reporters wrote what Donald Ritchie, the Senate historian who edited the published hearings, told them.

M. Stanton Evans, author of a forthcoming book about McCarthy, contacted reporters for Roll Call newspaper, the Washington Post and Reuters in a fruitless attempt to get the name of one innocent victim of McCarthy. They all told him to contact Ritchie. Ritchie asked Evans to send him a letter.

Ritchie appeared on a Fox News show hosted by John Gibson, who said McCarthy was a drunk who “went around the bend” and who had a list of 1000 alleged Communists that was “bogus, completely bogus, right?” Ritchie said that while McCarthy did find Communists and security risks “from time to time,” he uncovered no espionage agents or subversion.

Wes Vernon of Newsmax.com wrote a series of stories noting that Ritchie’s criticism of McCarthy was just wrong.

But Ken Ringle, in a Washington Post story about the release of the hearings, still insisted that Annie Lee Moss was “a frail file clerk in the State Department [sic] who had no idea who Karl Marx was?” He and John W. Dean, in a column posted by CNN.com, made the claim that the derogatory term “McCarthyism” was coined by Washington Post cartoonist Herblock, when, in fact, Romerstein points out that the term was actually introduced by the Communists to discredit their opposition.

Joel Brinkley in the New York Times said McCarthy did not hesitate “to destroy reputations and lives.” In fact, some in the media wanted to destroy McCarthy. The Washington Post was preparing to publish major allegations of illegal conduct against McCarthy until it learned at the last minute that its source was a con man.

Defending A Cover-Up

Media blindness to the continued activities of Communists was on display at the Washington Post annual meeting on May 8. Cliff Kincaid praised the paper for its editorial support of the liberation of Iraq and expressed regret over the death in Iraq of Post columnist Michael Kelly. But he also said:

“There needs to be a time when you evaluate your coverage of the war at home. By that I mean your coverage of the so-called anti-war protests, a number of which were held in Washington, D.C., your area of coverage?And it seems obvious to me that your coverage of these demonstrations was overall deficient because of the failure to emphasize the central role played in the Washington protests by an openly communist group, the Workers World Party. Ironically, Michael Kelly, your columnist, had done the best reporting in the form of a column in the Washington Post on this very subject. He had the story that your reporters who were covering these protests failed to uncover.”

Kincaid had sent Post chairman Donald Graham and Post publisher Bo Jones a copy of one of his columns noting that Michael Powell, New York bureau chief of the Washington Post, had written an April 17 story about anti-war organizer Leslie Cagan, without saying that she is a co-chair of a group called the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), an offshoot of the old Soviet-controlled Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

When Kincaid called Powell to ask about this omission, Powell said, “I call her a leftist,” as if this were a complete and accurate description of Cagan’s ideology.

Protecting A Red

Powell, a reporter for the paper that broke open the Watergate scandal, apparently could not find it within his power or ability to reveal that Cagan is a co-chair of a group dominated by former veteran CPUSA members such as Angela Davis.

Powell’s article did acknowledge that International ANSWER, the Workers World Party (WWP) front group behind several Washington, D.C. protests, was a “Marxist-Leninist grouping that glorifies North Korea?” But he then ignored the hard evidence of Cagan’s Communist connections and travels to Cuba. It’s clear that Powell was trying to present Cagan, the head of a rival anti-war group called United For Peace and Justice, as a more responsible activist without the WWP baggage.

Powell said that, “She came of age as a radical protesting the Vietnam War, before doing graduate agitating on issues including the nuclear freeze, gay rights, El Salvador and the trade embargo on Cuba.” The closest he came to acknowledging her red roots was when he noted allegations that Insight Magazine had called Cagan a Marxist agitator who has “roots in old Soviet . . . agitprop” and that she had been denounced for “letting various flavors of Trotskyites and Maoists join the antiwar marches.”

Former congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein said the CCDS has “a close working relationship with the Stalinist remnants in the former East Germany, called the Party of Democratic Socialism?” Romerstein said these were the people who ran the concentration camps and the Communist Party apparatus in East Germany. Powell said he was unaware of this.

What’s more, Romerstein cited evidence that Cagan organized the first meetings after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America to plan demonstrations to stop the United States from launching a military action against those responsible. Powell said he was unaware of this, too.

Powell’s article alluded to her work on Cuba, but carefully avoided mentioning that Cagan is an apologist for Castro’s Communist system who was identified as a member of the revolutionary Venceremos Brigades to the Communist island in the early 1970s. Cagan’s bio at the CCDS Web site points with pride to her role as the coordinator of a U.S. delegation to Cuba for the 1997 World Festival of Youth and Students. This was a communist-controlled affair that staged an anti-American tribunal.

As the head of a rival anti-war group that has a more “moderate” image, it’s understandable why Cagan would avoid the communist label. The description of “democratic socialist” is probably something she would accept, although Powell avoided even that. However, he told Kincaid, “There’s nothing wrong with socialism. Much of Europe is socialist…”

Kincaid noted that the paper had run an excellent series on the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group, based on hundreds of interviews, internal documents, “but I have to question why you didn’t have a comparable effort to explain the role of the Workers World Party in organizing these anti-war protests here in Washington, D.C. and the fact that its leaders have been investigated by Congress in the past, back in the 70s, that they traveled to Baghdad, Pyongyang and Havana, Cuba, that they’re openly in support of the enemies of America. I was just astounded that with your first-rate investigative team, all the resources at your disposal, you had to leave it to Michael Kelly, who tragically is no longer with us, to provide your readers with some of these critical facts.”

Don Graham responded that “Mr. Kelly’s column was part of the newspaper,” while Post publisher Bo Jones declared that the paper doesn’t “throw labels-like someone’s a communist-around, unless we have the basis for saying that ourselves. We do attribute things that we think are properly attributed to what other people think.”

Marxists Pressure Post

He said readers were informed that the protest organizers “had left-leanings or were radicals and in fact a number of people were asked about this” at the protests. He added, “The main criticism we’ve actually had of our coverage of the anti-war protests was that we minimized it…was that we didn’t cover the anti-war protests sufficiently, rather than focusing on one aspect like that or another…”

So the Post was more concerned about the criticism of the paper by the Marxists and fellow travelers who wanted even more favorable and extensive publicity for the demonstrations.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or letters of your own choosing to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal, and Condace Pressley of the National Association of Black Journalists.




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