Accuracy in Media

Edward Teller, often called the “father of the H-Bomb,” died recently at age 95. Teller was one of the first to urge Albert Einstein to warn President Roosevelt about the awesome power of nuclear fission. And he went on to become one of the most influential scientists of the second half of the twentieth century. For his contributions to U.S. national security, he received many awards over the years, including the National Medal of Science. In July, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Despite his many accomplishments, the liberal media emphasized the more controversial aspects of Teller’s public life. Every retrospective focused upon Teller’s putative role in the government’s decision to lift J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance in the mid-1950s. Teller testified that he had never doubted Oppenheimer’s loyalty to the United States. But by the time of Teller’s testimony, the government already knew that Oppenheimer had betrayed his country.

Similarly, the liberal media vilified Teller for his “ardent promotion of nuclear weapons.” The New York Times, for example, criticized him for not arguing against the use of atomic bombs against Japan, “unlike many atomic scientists,” who were not identified. One prominent Los Alamos scientist, who would later become lab director, did express his regrets. On an anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Teller told an audience his only regret was that America had only two bombs to drop on Japan. He was hardly alone in his “advocacy.”

Both the Times and the San Jose Mercury News alleged that Teller was the model for Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 movie. The Times writes that Strangelove had an artificial arm and a “Central European accent.” In fact, Strangelove had a heavy German accent and his “arm” would uncontrollably give Hitler “Seig Heil” salutes repeatedly. Teller was a Hungarian Jew who had fled the Nazis before World War II. Most critics believe that Strangelove was based on German rocket scientist Werner von Braun and the Rand Corporation’s Herman Kahn. The linkage of Teller to Strangelove was a gratuitous insult to the scientist’s memory.

USA Today labeled Teller a “persuasive Cold Warrior.” Teller was deeply suspicious about the former Soviet Union. But his accomplishments strengthened our strategic nuclear deterrent immeasurably and helped the U.S. win the Cold War. He is also credited with persuading Ronald Reagan of the value of space-based ballistic-missile defenses in the early 1980s. Although liberals now deny it, many Russian defense experts have acknowledged that “Star Wars” was a major factor in the eventual demise of the Soviet Union.

One article compared him unfavorably with his Russian counterpart, Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov was considered the father of the Soviet H-bomb, but in later years campaigned against nuclear weapons. In fact, late in his life, Teller decried the secrecy that surrounds nuclear-weapons science and urged that everything be made unclassified and public.

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