Reed Irvine - Editor
|October A, 1995|
THE MIKE WALLACE BOOBY PRIZE
Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" professes to be concerned about the decline in public confidence in the media, citing a 1994 Wall Street Journal poll that showed only 21 percent of the respondents believed the media to be honest. To remedy this, he has proposed that journalists who engage in practices that diminish public trust in the media be given "booby prizes." Wallace has confessed that he himself had committed journalistic "malpractice."
That's true. In 1982, he narrated a documentary that accused General William C. Westmoreland of masterminding a conspiracy to deceive the President, Congress and the public by understating the number of Viet Cong guerrillas we faced in 1967 when he was commanding our forces in Vietnam. AIM, and later TV Guide, exposed the dirty tricks this documentary used to smear Westmoreland. An internal CBS News investigation confirmed that it violated CBS News operating standards, and after Westmoreland sued for libel Wallace suffered a nervous break- down.
On October 8, at age 77, Wallace showed that he can still turn out a mean hatchet job to earn his $2 million salary from "60 Minutes." He narrated a "60 Minutes" segment titled "What About Vince Foster?" that was so dishonest and unfair that AIM has decided to act on Mike Wallace's booby-prize suggestion. We are giving our first "Journalistic Malpractice Award" to Mike Wallace and his producer, Robert G. Anderson. This case was particularly egregious because Wallace aimed his hatchet at a courageous young investigative reporter whose work deserves praise, not meretricious denigration. The reporter is Christopher Ruddy, whose stories for the New York Post in January 1994 forced former independent counsel Robert Fiske to reopen the investigation of the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster. Fiske's investigation turned out to be a whitewash, and no one has done more to expose its flaws than Chris Ruddy. When the New York Post got cold feet and ordered him to halt his investigation of Foster's death, Ruddy was hired by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His stories, reprinted by the Western Journalism Center as paid ads in other papers, have played an important role in keeping the investigation of Foster's death alive.
In explaining his attack, Wallace tacitly acknowledged the impact of Ruddy's work. He said, "Foster's body was found in Fort Marcy Park outside Washington more than two years ago, but still we read stories about his death almost every day, and just as often viewers write or call asking us to investigate. And so we have taken a look at what really happened to him...." The statement that we read stories about Foster's death "almost every day" was Wallace's first lie. The truth is that the establishment media have refused to run news stories about the findings of Ruddy and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Sunday Telegraph, the only other newspaper reporter in America who has seriously investigated Foster's death. With rare exceptions, the few stories that have been published have attacked Ruddy, the Pittsburgh Tribune- Review and its courageous publisher, Richard Scaife, and those in the alternative media who have dared challenge the official version of Foster's death.
The "60 Minutes" attack on Ruddy was aired as FBI agents under the direction of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr were heading into the fifth week of their exhaustive hunt for the bullet that killed Foster, ignoring the fact that Starr's agents were literally making a shambles of Fort Marcy Park in their inch-by- inch search, Mike Wallace tried to prove that all the questions about Foster's death can be answered easily. Claiming that some sloppy police work had enabled Ruddy "to raise all sorts of questions about Foster's death," Wallace said, "We've dealt with the most important ones. We've examined the others." The program ended with James Hamilton, Mrs. Foster's attorney, saying that the evidence supported only one conclusion: "He committed suicide in Fort Marcy Park."
Wallace's claim that he had dealt with the most important questions raised about Foster's death was false. AIM sent a brief memo to Wallace, before his program aired, in which we outlined four important questions that we said his program should address if he didn't want to be embarrassed. He called us to say he received the memo, but his program ignored every one of our questions. The three questions addressed were selected not for their importance, but for the seeming ease with which they could be answered or dismissed.
The question "60 Minutes" featured at the opening of the show concerned a gun being found in Foster's right hand although he was thought to be left-handed. Many thought it strange that a "lefty" would shoot himself with his right hand, but AIM did not regard this as an important flaw in the suicide theory. At first, we could not confirm that he was left-handed. By the time The Boston Globe reported that he was, it was known that he had supposedly used his right thumb to pull the trigger, and it was plausible to assume that he had held the handle of the gun with his left hand. The question ceased to have any relevance at all when a family member finally disclosed last spring that The Boston Globe was wrong. Ruddy was the first journalist to report that, and Wallace knew that this was a straw man he could attack with impunity.
Wallace also brought up the carpet fibers found on most of Foster's clothes, including his jacket and tie. He did so not because anyone considered them to be strong evidence that Foster did not kill himself, but because Rep. Bill Clinger (R- Pa.) provided him with a plausible but inaccurate reason to sweep them under the rug. Clinger said that new carpets had recently been installed in Foster's home and that all his clothes had been put in one bag after his death permitting carpet fibers from some items of clothing to be transfered to others. Foster's jacket and tie were found in his car and were bagged separately from the clothing bagged at the hospital where the autopsy was performed, weakening Clinger's explanation. But it doesn't really matter. Wallace treated the question of how the carpet fibers got on Foster's clothing as important because the narrator of a videotape had asked if Foster's body could have been rolled up in a carpet. That is most unlikely, and it is not the reason some importance has been attached to the fibers. It is another straw man.
The FBI lab found four possibly valuable clues on Foster's clothing: (1) varied colored carpet fibers on his jacket, tie, shirt, pants, belt, shorts, shoes and socks; (2) red/dark pink wool fibers on his T-shirt, socks and shoes; (3) blond/light brown hair on his T-shirt, pants, belt, socks and shoes; (4) semen on his shorts. These should have been treated as clues that might reveal where Foster spent his last hours. An FBI agent testified that no effort was made to do this because "the source could have been boundless." The FBI did not take that position in 1980-81, when its analysis of carpet fibers played a key role in convicting the murderer in the Atlanta child murders case. The semen in Foster's shorts challenges the claim made by "60 Minutes" that he was suffering from clinical depression. By focusing only on the carpet fibers, Wallace knocked down another straw man and diverted attention from what these four clues might have revealed.
The belief that Foster's body was transported to the park is based on evidence that Wallace knew he couldn't explain away. He was well aware of that evidence. We called two of the most important questions to his attention in our memo of October 5, beginning with this: "Why did Kenneth Starr launch a new search for the bullet that supposedly killed Foster, a search that is still going on [and which was continuing on October 15]?...The reason is obvious. if they can find the bullet, they will have one piece of physical evidence to support the theory that Foster shot himself in the park. Without it, they have nothing to offset the evidence that the body was moved there."
This was discussed in a phone conversation between Wallace and Reed Irvine on October 10 after Wallace said, "I would just love to be able to say, 'Hey, Ruddy's right and the others are wrong.' We've made our reputation doing that." RI: If that's the case, why didn't you address the real questions in this case--the ones I pointed out to you.
A discussion of the insignificance of the left or right handed- ness and the carpet fiber questions followed and then this dialogue took place. RI: There is more evidence that the body was moved than there is evidence that he died in the park, because there is no forensic evidence that he died in the park, contrary to what you said. [Wallace had said: "The forensic evidence showed that the fatal bullet had been fired in Foster's mouth from the gun found in Foster's hand and that Foster's thumb had pulled the trigger."] Name me one piece of forensic evidence that proves he died-
MW: Reed, all I want--
Irvine reminded Wallace the next day of his promise to send a written description of the evidence that proved Foster shot himself in the park. Here is part of that conversation.
MW: What kind of evidence is it that you want?
Apparently Wallace hadn't even tried to find a piece of evidence to prove that the shot that killed Foster was fired in the park. If he did, he had come up empty handed. After a little more sparring, Irvine brought up the second question that we listed in our memo: "How did Foster's glasses, with a speck of gunpowder on them, end up 19 feet below the spot where his head rested?"
RI: How do you explain the eyeglasses?
Perhaps at 77, Wallace's memory is failing. Ruddy had told him about the gunpowder on the glasses, and it was in our memo, but it apparently slipped his mind. But forgetfulness is not why this important question wasn't discussed in the program. Obviously it was because it undermines the suicide- in-the-park theory.
The same is true of the FBI lab finding that there was no dirt on Foster's shoes even though he had supposedly walked 250 yards through the dusty park. Wallace brushed aside his own experience and ignored the careful test made by Sealice Associates for the Western Journalism Center that showed that leather-soled shoes picked up both dirt and grass stains.
Perhaps even more indicative of Wallace's decision to avoid all the hard questions was the absence of any discussion of the evidence that Foster's body may have been moved that was pointed out in the FBI lab report to independent counsel Robert Fiske. The FBI lab noted that bloodstains on Foster's face showed that at some time after his death the right side of his head had rested on his bloodied shoulder and had later been moved into the upright position shown in the crime scene photos. Fiske and his pathologists, without checking, brushed this aside with the assumption that someone among those who found the body had moved the head. The FBI reports that were made public last January show that all those who first discovered the body said the head was face up. None saw anyone move the head, and the blood drainage tracks from the nose and mouth showed that the head had been in the face-up position for some time. There was no reason for any observer on the scene to adjust Foster's head, and there is no evidence that anyone did so. This lends powerful support to the theory that the body was moved, and that explains why it was not discussed by Mike Wallace.
Fiske's four pathologists argued that the body was not moved because there would have been more blood on Foster's skin and clothing if it had been. One of them, Dr. Donald Reay, acknowledged in a phone conversation with Reed Irvine that the spillage of blood could have been minimized by bandaging, but, he said, there would have been some. And there was some, some that could not be explained by those who say the body was not moved--most notably the blood on the right shoulder and the transfer stain on the right cheek and jaw. But in addition, officer Pete Simonello was puzzled by a spot of blood he noted on Foster's shirt below the rib cage. He couldn't figure out how that got there without the expected amount of blood between that spot and his mouth. Neither can anyone else.
It has been said that if Foster's body was not moved, there should have been more blood--at the spot where the body was found. The closest Mike Wallace came to discussing an important question about Foster's death was in his effort to impugn Chris Ruddy's honesty and competence as a reporter by giving the impression that he had misrepresented what Dr. Donald Haut, the part-time Fairfax County medical examiner, had said about the amount of blood he observed at the scene. Sgt. George Gonzalez. one of the first emergency medical technicians (EMT) on the scene, told the FBI that "there was not much blood at the scene for the manner in which the victim died." Corey Ashford, the EMT who lifted the body by the shoulders, cradling the head, to put it into a body bag, said he "did not recall seeing any blood and did not recall getting any on his uniform or his disposable gloves."
"60 Minutes" ignored them, focusing on Dr. Donald Haut, the part-time county medical examiner who approved the removal of the body. Wallace showed a portion of a video in which Ruddy had said, "The indications of so little blood at the scene indicate that there may possibly have been another cause of death." Wallace then suggested a scenario that might explain why there was so little blood. The scenario was that he puts a bullet in his brain and the heart stops pumping immediately. At that point Ruddy interjected, "Which is unusual," a reminder that he had already explained to Wallace that a shot to the brain rarely immediately stops the heart, which is controlled by electrical impulses separate from the brain.
Wallace continued, saying that if the heart had stopped and if he were lying on a steep slope, there would not be a lot of blood gushing out of the head, because gravity would pull the blood down to the lower extremities. Ruddy agreed that would happen, given Wallace's premise that the heart stopped instantly, but the interview was edited to make it appear that Ruddy was agreeing that this is what happened in Foster's case. A high velocity .38 shot through Foster's mouth into the brain not only should have caused a lot of bleeding, but it should also have splattered blood. bone and brain tissue on the ground and the surrounding vegetation.
Having edited the interview to make Ruddy look as ignorant as Wallace was about the relationship between the brain and the heart, Wallace then used sound bites from his interviews with Ruddy and Haut to make Ruddy appear to be a careless or dishonest reporter.
RUDDY: Well, Dr. Haut in his FBI report and his interview with me said there was not a lot of blood.
Ruddy taped the interview in which Dr. Haut told him, "There was not a hell of a lot of blood on the ground," and Wallace knew that. He also knew that Haut told the FBI that the amount of blood was small and that he didn't recall seeing any blood on the vegetation around the body. Seeing little evidence of damage, Dr. Haut said that the bullet must have been low velocity, because he had seen more damage done by a .25 caliber. The bullets in the gun in Foster's hand were high velocity .38 caliber.
Wallace knows that all this makes the case for the suicide-in- the-park theory very shaky. Therefore, he wins the Mike Wallace Award for Journalistic Malpractice hands down for deliberately deceiving his viewers and maligning a fine investigative reporter, Chris Ruddy.
Send the enclosed cards, or your own cards or letters, to Mike Wallace, Kenneth Starr and Dr. Henry C. Lee.
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WE HAD INTENDED TO DEVOTE THIS ISSUE OF THE AIM REPORT TO AN UPDATE ON the Foster case, because there have been some discoveries that we have not discussed adequately, if at all. We had to delay going to press and change our plans when we learned on October 4 that "60 Minutes" was going to air a segment on Foster's death on Sunday, Oct. 8. When we saw the hatchet job that Mike Wallace did on Chris Ruddy, we knew that we had to get out our response. Fortunately, Wallace unwittingly provided us with some excellent material. He will may complain that I didn't warn him I was recording our phone conversations, but I doubt if he will do so very loudly. George Crile, the producer of Wallace's 1982 smear job on Gen. Westmoreland, got into trouble for having taped phone conversations with some very important people without telling them. But the trouble was that he had not checked with the CBS lawyers first as CBS News rules required. That's because in some states the law requires notification. It is not required in the District of Columbia, and I regard it as simply a substitute for taking notes for those of us who aren't expert at shorthand. In fact, it is better than depending on notes because it is so accurate. Those who are quoted can't get away with claiming they were misquoted if their statements are on tape. That is why they complain about being taped.
I AM NOT BEING AN INGRATE IN REPAYING MIKE FOR HIS COOPERATION BY SKEWERING him with his own words. He told me he would love to be skewered. He backed out of a semi- commitment to appear on our TV show to discuss Foster's death, saying that he had to watch O.J. Simpson's interview on NBC, which was scheduled for the same time. When Simpson canceled, I called Mike to see if he would be free to do our show. Here's the conversation: RI: Hey, I understand you're freed up this evening. MW: Huuuh! Actually, I am not, only for the reason that I am still going to have dinner with my son and we're going to stay home and watch ball game, number one, and Bob Dole and the rest of the people, because he's involved with that--the debate that's taking place. RI: Oh, that's right--in New Hampshire. Do you really think you'd enjoy that more than coming over and getting skewered on our TV show? MW: I would love to get skewered. I would just love to get skewered by you assholes. Like Gary Hart, he asked for it.
ONE NEW DEVELOPMENT IN THE FOSTER CASE THAT I WANTED TO DISCUSS IS THAT two important conservative publications--Human Events and The American Spectator--have each published articles in October on the questions raised about Foster's death. Human Events commissioned me to write the article and the Spectator commissioned Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Washington correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph of London, who is the only newspaper reporter besides Chris Ruddy to do any investigative reporting on this case. I am hoping this will encourage some of our respected conservative nationally syndicated columnists and TV commentators to take these questions seriously. Their silence has been one reason why nearly all the conservative politicians have shied away from commenting on Foster's death and pressing for a Congressional investigation. Newt Gingrich broke ranks, but no one rushed to follow him, and the investigation he promised is under study. The study is being done by Cong. Steven Schiff of New Mexico, a former prosecutor. However, Schiff won't admit that he has been given this assignment, and he has not sought assistance from those responsible for raising the questions that impressed Gingrich. I hope he will at least read the Human Events and Spectator articles.
SEN. ALFONSE D'AMATO ALSO MADE STATEMENTS INDICATING THAT HE INTENDS TO investigate some of the questions raised about Foster's death, a subject he avoided like a third rail in his first round of Whitewater hearings. D'Amato is interested in trying to find out what time Helen Dickey, Mrs. Clinton's social secretary, called Little Rock from the White House to tell Gov. Tucker that Foster's body had been found. But the time of that call is only one of the questions about the time line in this case that cries out for investigation. Foster's body was found in Fort Marcy Park at 6:14 p.m. by a U.S. Park Police officer responding to a 911 call. By 6:30 p.m., the police had obtained Foster's name and Arkansas address by running his license plates, and when the emergency medical personnel left the scene at 6:37 p.m. some of them knew Foster's name and that he worked at the White House. There is evidence that soon after that, perhaps by 6:45 p.m., the police called Lt. Danny Walter of the Secret Service Presidential Protection Division at the White House and obtained Foster's Washington address and phone number. But the senior police officer at the scene claims that he left at around 7:00 p.m. without learning Foster's identity and that it was not until 8:30 p.m. that he learned whose body it was. He notified the Secret Service and they then notified two senior White House officials. But for some strange reason, no one told President Clinton until well after 9:00 p.m., when he was appearing on "Larry King Live."
THE HELEN DICKEY CALL TO LITTLE ROCK HAS AROUSED INTEREST BECAUSE THE state trooper through whom it passed said it came between 5:30 p.m and 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. If Dickey made the call before 6:30 p.m., she knew of Foster's death before the police had identified his body. The absurdity of that could be proven simply by releasing the records showing when the call was placed. The refusal of the White House to do so has fueled suspicion that it is hiding some unsavory secret. It didn't help matters when former White House personnel chief David Watkins told the Senate Whitewater Committee last July that he saw nothing wrong with sending his assistant, Patsy Thomasson, into Foster's office at 10:30 p.m. the night Foster died because he knew the Secret Service had been in touch with the Park Police about Foster's death for "some 5 hours," i.e., as early as 5:30 p.m. It is probable that what the White House is hiding is the fact that it learned of Foster's death when Sgt. Rolla called Lt. Danny Walter of the Secret Service more than 90 minutes before the official notification by Lt. Gavin at 8:30 p.m. Sen. D'Amato should demand to see the records of that and other calls between the Park Police and the Secret Service that evening. If they show that the White House lied about when it first got the word of Foster's death, the committee should find out why.
I WANT TO NOTE THE PASSING OF TWO GOOD FRIENDS OF AIM, BOTH BRILLIANT MEN who lived long and good lives. Bruce Rogers of Tempe, Arizona passed away two months short of his hundredth birthday. He was a World War I veteran, who earned an MS in aeronautical engineering from MIT and a doctorate in physics and metallurgy from Harvard. He had a long and distinguished career as a researcher and teacher in those fields before retiring in 1960. I knew Bruce as a foe of communism and a champion of a strong national defense. He edited the newsletter of Arizonans for National Security into his 90s and contributed reviews and articles right up to his death. We recently learned that AIM has been designated as one of three organizations which are equal beneficiaries of a trust Bruce created that has a current value of $385,000. Dean Henry S. Johnson of New Haven, Conn., passed away at age 96 last August. He graduated from Yale in 1919 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. He had a brilliant career as an educator in chemistry and pharmacology, retiring in 1955. He lived an active life in retirement with membership in some 20 organizations, including AIM. I never had the pleasure of meeting Henry Johnson, but his close friend, John Dana, mentioned him to me often. John tells me he greatly admired our tenacity. He bequeathed 55 percent of his estate to a number of tax-exempt organizations, one of which was AIM. Our share will be around $25,000. I wish we could have thanked both Bruce Rogers and Henry Johnson for their thoughtfulness, but we learned of their bequests too late for that. If any of you have included AIM in your wills, let us know and we will thank you now. If you haven't done so, please give it some thought. I suggest that you consider setting up a charitable remainder trust because it can benefit you while you are alive and help groups you now support like Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia and The Washington Inquirer after you pass away.
IF YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED IN HEARING AIM'S THREE-MINUTE "MEDIA MONITOR" radio commentaries, let us know and we will be glad to send you a sample tape which you could take to a favorite local station and ask them to run them regularly. If the station is interested in running them five days a week, AIM will furnish them free of charge to the station. Just tell them to contact Deborah Lambert at (202) 364-4401.