Accuracy in Media

The news conference at the National Press Club was packed. There were 5 or 6 television cameras there, including C-SPAN. The occasion was the release of the book, The Buying of the President 2000, by Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity. Lewis, who previously did investigative reporting at ABC News and CBS News, assembled a great deal of information about those who are seeking the presidency and their backers. In his prepared remarks, Lewis touched on a matter that has attracted our interest in the past—Vice President Al Gore?s Communist connection.

But Lewis didn?t put it that way. Instead, he referred to Al Gore and the “controversial” Armand Hammer, the late chairman of Occidental Petroleum. In fact, Hammer was a Soviet agent and money launderer for the Communist Party who helped Vice President Gore and his family become rich.

Lewis explained how, personally and professionally, Gore still profits from Occidental largesse. “To this day”, Lewis said, “he still draws $20,000 a year from a land deal in Tennessee brokered between his father and Hammer. The total amount is more than $300,000. The personal relationship between young Gore and Hammer was very close throughout the 1980s, including trips on Hammer?s private jet and constant campaign contributions.”

Lewis explained how the Energy Department in 1997 sold 47,000 acres of federal oil reserves to Occidental, after Vice President Gore, who has a reputation as a staunch environmentalist, recommended that the president give oil companies access to this land. Although the Energy Department was supposed to review the environmental impact of the sale, it did not. It turned the job over to a private company whose board of directors included Tony Coelho, now the general chairman of Gore?s presidential campaign.

In fairness to Lewis, who only alluded to the “controversial” nature of Armand Hammer, his book on the buying of the president goes into much more detail. His book points out that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wanted to prosecute Hammer for his activities on behalf of the Soviet government but that “Hammer had friends in Congress whom Hoover believed would attempt to protect him from prosecution…” Among them was Al Gore?s father. This was a relationship that was transferred from father to son. Al Gore Jr. was dealing with Hammer in the 1980s.

The vice president has been the subject of countless stories because he has benefitted from campaign money raised from tainted Asian sources. But Charles Lewis has raised a far more important issue – his receipt of money from and his relationship with a Communist agent. Is there anyone in the media willing to take on this issue? On the matter of Al Gore and the other presidential candidates, Charles Lewis and his Center for Public Integrity have peformed a real public service. They are doing the kind of work we should expect from the major media. In terms of print coverage of Lewis? revelations, the Washington Post ran a story on page 5. But it said nothing about Al Gore?s communist connection.

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