- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

Press Coverage of TWA 800 Misses the Mark

For the second time this year, Bill Donaldson presided at a press conference to report evidence proving that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by missiles exploding in close proximity to the aircraft. The recent briefing and release of a 109 page report by Commander Bill Donaldson, former Navy pilot and crash investigator, occurred the week of the second anniversary of one of the country’s great civilian tragedies.

The report was the product of 15 months of investigation. The new evidence presented along with eyewitnesses and other material witnesses who had not previously come forward proved so compelling that Dr. Vernon Grose, who served on the National Transportation Safety Board during the Reagan administration, underwent a complete change of mind. He had been interviewed on TV more than 170 times defending the NTSB position that the explosion was the result of a center fuel tank explosion caused by fuel vapors. Following the press conference, Dr. Grose told reporters that he was “deeply disturbed,” and that he felt betrayed by the NTSB. He said he’s changed his mind and no longer believes the government version of what happened that night and in the ensuing investigation.

For the most part, the media proved more difficult to convince than was Dr. Grose. The Associated Press report ignored the reaction of Dr. Grose, though we had discussed it with them. Instead, they immediately went to government sources to refute Donaldson’s findings. Newsday, based on Long Island, prides itself on its coverage of this story. Though they had a reporter at the briefing and we discussed it with them later, we were told that they didn’t report the story because Donaldson’s findings were “contradictory” to what they knew to be true, and that they were unaware that Grose had changed his mind. The Washington Times, on the other hand, used the AP story, and then combined it with reporting on what Grose had concluded after being presented with the evidence.

WorldNetDaily, the rapidly growing Internet newspaper, gave the most extensive coverage to the recent conference. They devoted three paragraphs to Dr. Grose’s epiphany, and reported extensively on the other evidence and testimony. They reported that former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer strongly endorsed the report and called for a congressional investigation.

WorldNetDaily reporter Steve Allen wrote extensively about the other panelists with Donaldson, including several highly credible eyewitnesses. One panelist, Albert Mundo, was the flight engineer on TWA 800’s previous flight from Athens to New York. Mundo testified that after this flight he performed the procedure to drain all fuel from the center tank, and he doubted if there could have been any fuel vapors, since it had also been ventilated. He finds the government story to be, quote, “highly improbable.”

Donaldson suspects terrorism was what brought down the plane. They are all convinced it was a missile or missiles, and that there has been a clear pattern of cover-up and intimidation of witnesses and whistle-blowers at work. The need for a full and open investigation has never been more compelling than it is now.