CNN is determined to alienate a lot of people who were prepared to praise it for being the first major television news organization to allow its viewers to hear the truth about what happened to TWA Flight 800 and the outrageous steps the government has taken to cover it up.
On the fifth anniversary of the crash that killed 230 people, CNN scheduled an airing of the controversy over the cause of the crash on “The Point,” a nightly show hosted by Greta Van Susteren. They had seen a video produced by Jack Cashill titled “Silenced, Flight 800 and the Obstruction of Justice.” This is an effective presentation of the evidence that the plane was shot down by missiles and a refutation of the government claim that it was destroyed by an explosion in its empty center-wing-fuel tank. CNN invited Cashill to appear on the program.
This was hailed by the many critics of the government’s explanation of the cause of the crash as a significant breakthrough. They thought that their views were finally going to get a fair hearing on national television. Word about the program went out on the Internet, and a lot of people who usually watch Bill O’Reilly and Hannity & Colmes on the Fox News Channel were planning to see how CNN would handle the TWA 800 controversy.
They were disappointed and angered to find that Greta’s guest was not Jack Cashill, but James Hall, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who had taken the lead in pushing the theory that the crash had been caused by a fuel-tank explosion. Hall had bowed to the pressure from the FBI not to have a single eyewitness testify at the public hearing the board held to discuss the evidence.
A few hours before the program was to be taped, Cashill was bumped because Hall had refused to appear with him. Cashill says he had been told they were going to invite Hall, and he doubted that Hall would agree to appear with him. He was right about that, but since Cashill had been invited first and since he had something that would be new to most CNN viewers, he was disappointed. When he asked why they didn’t withdraw the invitation to Hall, he was told that it would not be responsible journalism to have Cashill appear alone, but having Hall appear alone was apparently considered responsible.
Those who had been prepared to praise them for airing the truth about the cause of the TWA 800 crash did not see it that way, and many of them made that known. Calls I made to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters left me with the impression that Philip Kent, the president of the CNN News Group, and others there recognized that this had made a lot of people angry, and they were concerned about it. I was told that they were planning to put on another program and Jack Cashill would be invited to be on it.
That was confirmed by Bruce Perlmutter, the executive producer of the Van Susteren show. Cashill received an invitation to appear on Thursday, August 2, and once again expectations that the truth about the cause of the TWA 800 crash would get an airing were high.
But once again those hopes were dashed. On the morning of August 2, Cashill was once again informed that his appearance was cancelled. This time they had lined up Jim McKenna, a former reporter for Aviation Week, to defend the government’s theory, but he too was disinvited. TWA 800 was bumped in favor of another story about the Chandra Levy-Gary Condit case. It was not because there was any new development. There wasn’t. They had decided to inform their viewers how the story was playing in Europe and Japan and to rehash a discredited tip about Chandra Levy being buried at a construction site in Virginia.
Executive Producer Bruce Perlmutter was not at all apologetic about this. He explained the cancellation, saying, “We just didn’t want to rush into something like we were rushing into it. Right now we are not doing it.” Rushing into to it? They have had at least three weeks to check and double check the facts about a controversy that has been crying out for attention for over four years. What CNN is lacking is the courage to tell its viewers that the government is still lying to them about the cause of this tragedy. Now they have two black eyes.