Tuesday, February 10, 2004

NPR Has Joined Lyndon LaRouche

Although I'm mad that Jonah got to it first, I was amazed to hear NPR (purported) Republican (purported) historical commentator Kevin Phillips shopping around a Lyndon LaRouche/Oliver Stone conspiracy theory.

Specifically, Phillips alleged that Lawrence Silberman, now a federal appellate court judge and member of President Bush's Iraq intelligence investigation panel, conspired to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran until after the 1988 election. This is an old conspiracy theory, and has been investigated, debunked, and rejected by the New Republic, the American Journalism Review, and both House and Senate investigations. In short, it's a myth that the far left won't let die.

Not only did Phillips present the October Surprise allegations as credible and "well documented" accusations, he didn't even mention the considerable evidence on the other side.

I'm very disappointed in NPR. I don't know whether they're not fact checking Phillips or whether they're so liberal that they didn't even think to check whether Reagan had conspired to keep the Iranian hostages in bondage.

Anyway, here's what I wrote to the NPR Omsbudman. Everyone else should write something too.

D[ea]r Sir or Madam:

I was amazed to hear Kevin Phillips slandering Lawrence Silverman on the February 9, 2004 Morning Edition. This conspiracy theory has been debunked for more than a decade, but I woke up to hear an NPR historian presenting it as a "well-documented" accusation. I would like to know NPR's policy on fact checking its commentators, and to request a correction and apology.

Phillips presented the so-called "October Surprise" as historical fact, without disclosing that this theory first originated with Lyndon LaRouche, and has been investigated and rejected by both United States House and Senate investigations approximately ten years ago.

In relevant part, Phillips stated:

"[Silberman's name has been raised in two well documented connections . . .

. . . The second was the the October Surprise episode in 1980, in which the Republicans were later accused of colluding with the revolutionary government of Iran, to keep 52 American hostages confined in Iran, so that they could not be freed by the Jimmy Carter administration in time to influence the 1980 Presidential Election.

The complaints voiced against Silberman are as follows: First that in 1980, as part of that year's Republican campaign, he attended at least one of the "October Surprise" meetings, where an Iranian representative discussed what Iran would want in return for keeping the hostages . . .

. . . [Lawrence] Walsh wrote about both instances in his book _Firewall_."

Phillips' comments were presented as historical fact.

1) First, being as fair as I can to Phillips, I can only say that his assertions are an unproven conspiracy theory, which he has presented as "well-documented" and without context. The allegations first arose, in 1980, in a magazine published by Lyndon LaRouche, and were investigated, and rejected, by both the House and Senate in 1992.

The American Journalism Review debunked the "October Surprise" theory in 1993. You can find a copy of that analysis here. [http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id406.htm] .

You can also review the 1991 New Republic article "The Conspiracy that Wasn't" in this except of the US Congressional Record. [http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1991_cr/h911104-october2.htm]

I don't believe that there is any basis for the accusations at all. However, I find it grossly irresponsible for NPR, and Phillips, to refer to these accusations as "well-documented" without even mentioning the House Inquiry, the Senate Inquiry, or the multiple other non-partisan sources that have rejected those accusations.

Please inform me:

1) Whether NPR employs editors and/or fact-checkers for commentators such as Mr. Phillips.

2) Whether Mr. Phillips (a supposed historian) and/or NPR's editors were aware of the contrary evidence at the time they referred to the October Surprise allegations as "well documented."

3) Whether NPR intends to issue a correction, and in what format.

4) Whether NPR intends to continue to use Mr. Phillips as a historical commentator, and/or to flack his book.

Thank you.

Jon Mann