February 22, 1996
Mr. Joe Palka
8121 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Dear Mr. Palka:
As they say these days, even far from the baseball diamond, "three strikes and you're out." After having called your radio talk show on three separate occasions, and on each occasion having been cut off virtually in mid-sentence when I said something you didn't like, I have decided, probably to your great relief, that it is futile. You have obviously made the decision--or someone has made it for you--that no serious, independent information will be permitted to get to the public through your venue, and no genuine, civilized exchange of ideas will take place when the topic even begins to approach major wrongdoing in high places.
Your behavior is such as to make one wonder what you think the purpose of the news media should be in a free society. It seems that you believe your responsibility is to act as a sort of megaphone for those in the most powerful positions in government not as any sort of check on the natural tendency of people in those positions to abuse that power. Often, as I listen to your enthusiastic advocacy of whatever the White House line-of-the-day happens to be, I find myself asking, "What would this man say different if he were on Bill Clinton's payroll? Palka isn't even as tough on Clinton as Clinton is himself."
I was tempted to write you off as simply irrelevant and redundant. After all, the government has its own spokesmen. What's one more on one of the local talk shows? But then I thought of the obligations of citizenship and how we are constantly reminded that we can make a difference, even by casting just one vote. If one vote is important, how much more important is one "Joe Palka," masquerading as an independent voice, and with an audience into the tens of thousands? And you are far from the only government toady out there in the putatively private opinion molding business. The true perniciousness of your collective influence is brought home to me by the observation of Abraham Lincoln in the first of his famous debates with Judge Stephen Douglas: "In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions."
Am I being too harsh? Well, let's get down to cases. I first heard you on my car radio as I was returning home from a Saturday errand a few months ago. You were enthusiastically applauding, in a smug and humorous fashion, what I consider to be very nearly the most vicious and professionally irresponsible piece of journalism ever visited upon the American people, Mike Wallace's craftily-edited "60 Minutes" hatchet job on the courageous, well-nigh heroic young journalist, Christopher Ruddy, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. To listen to you one would believe that Wallace had effectively exposed the one reporter in this vast country who has been vigorously investigating and REPORTING ON the mysterious death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, Jr., as a dissembling, Clinton-hating conservative partisan, exploiting a tragic death for political and pecuniary gain.
Never mind that, but for Ruddy, we might never have found out that Vince Foster's body was found lying straight as a stick with the arms also straight and pressed up against his body "as though ready for the coffin," according to one emergency worker, that there was a virtual absence of the blood and gore one would expect when the victim has shot himself through the mouth with a .38-caliber revolver, and the investigating police violated the most basic rules of procedure in the case of a mysterious violent death. They did not treat it as a homicide until they had gathered sufficient evidence to rule it out, as they are properly trained to do. Since the police never effectively ruled out homicide, little wonder is it that the great majority of the American people haven't ruled it out either.
It apparently doesn't concern you that, but for the pressure exerted by Ruddy's shocking revelations, we might never have learned further that the autopsy doctor claims to have taken no X-rays even though he checked on the gunshot wound chart that he did, and a Park Policeman in attendance wrote that the doctor told him that the X-rays showed no bullet fragments in Foster's head. We also might not have learned that, according to blood tracks leading from the mouth, Foster's head had assumed several different positions post mortem, Foster's fingerprints were not on the gun found in his hand, the powder marks found on his hands, to have come from the gun upon firing, would have required him to hold the gun in an impossible fashion, and there were numerous carpet fibers of various hues on his clothing whose origins have never determined, or even sought. Finally, skipping over numerous other important revelations, we might never have learned that the Park Police investigators were unable to find two sets of keys, including the ones he would have had to use to drive himself there, anywhere at the body-discovery site, Fort Marcy Park, even though they went through his pants pockets looking for whatever they could find.
No, according to Joe Palka, it is not the gratitude of the American people that Chris Ruddy deserves for these revelations, but ridicule and scorn. "He said Foster was left-handed and therefore the gun shouldn't have been in his right hand, but we've learned that Foster was right-handed all along. Ha ha ha. Mike Wallace really nailed him." But then you went too far. You belittled by name one of the critics of the government and the press in the Foster death case, Reed Irvine, the head of the Washington-based Accuracy in Media. He or a friend was listening, and Irvine called in. It's one of the pitfalls of a call-in show, I guess.
Irvine, who has done the kind of research on this case that you seem to think is unnecessary for you and your colleagues in the press to do, set the record straight. It was the Boston Globe, he said, that reported that Foster was left-handed. A video in which Ruddy participated, but was not ultimately responsible for, repeated that claim, but it was Ruddy who broke the news that Foster was indeed right-handed, AND RUDDY HAD TOLD THAT TO MIKE WALLACE. Nevertheless, Wallace made the false charge that Ruddy had, in effect, lied about Foster's right-handedness the centerpiece of his indictment.
To your credit, you allowed Mr. Irvine to stay on the line to discuss this matter and others in considerable detail. He revealed that he, at one point, was able to get through to the widow, Lisa Foster, by phone and ask her if Vince was right or left-handed. She responded, "No comment," and hung up. No wonder suspicions about the question still linger.
Irvine was also able to puncture Wallace's bubble in the only two other points he had made in his piece. By going back and forth between Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Donald Haut and Ruddy, Wallace left the viewer with the impression that Ruddy was misrepresenting Haut when he claimed that Haut had said that there was little blood at the site where the body was found. In fact, Ruddy had a tape of Dr. Haut saying precisely that and Wallace knew it. Wallace was able to get Dr. Haut to contradict what he said on that tape and what he had told FBI investigators working for Robert Fiske, which is part of the official record. Wallace also made light of the fact that Foster's clothes were covered with strange carpet fibers by noting the fact that Foster's townhouse had been recently re-carpeted, and so the fibers must have come from there. Irvine reminded you, as I recall, that, suspiciously, no one has ever made an attempt to match up the carpet fibers and that one doesn't normally pick up carpet fibers from a rug just by walking on it whether it is new or not.
But you stuck to your guns, remaining publicly unpersuaded in the face of a mountain of evidence and a transparent attempt at a smear of an honest reporter, that this was anything other than the suicide from depression that authorities are telling us it is. To support your position you made one, and only one point, and Irvine, noted Republican Party partisan that he is, had no answer for it. "If this is a murder, or if the body was moved from some other location, why aren't the Republicans aggressively challenging the official findings and making political hay over it?"
By this time I had returned home, and my call to you got through. You will recall that I told you that I had gone to college with Vince Foster and that was one reason why I had followed the case very closely. I also told you that I had supported Bill Clinton, voting for him in the 1992 election, but I admitted that I had grown disillusioned even before Foster's mysterious death and Clinton's peculiar reaction to it. At any rate, because of my unusual interest, I said I had learned a great deal more about the case than the average person, and I advised your listeners to pay careful heed to Irvine because everything he was saying was true.
Then I offered an answer to your conversation-stopping question. I suggested that whatever it was that got Foster killed must involve misdeeds that stretch beyond Clinton and the Democrats, and if the full truth were to come out, the Republicans would find themselves seriously tarnished as well. I think I might have mentioned something about the drug smuggling business, but I believe you successfully kept that off the air, because the phone went dead.
Friends who were listening say you did, indeed, cut me off in mid-sentence and then proceeded to dismiss me as just one of those pitiful "conspiracy theorists," which was not a very manly or upright thing to do because I had been electronically precluded from speaking up in my own defense. Now I would like to do so.
I freely admit that I, like everyone else confronting an unsettled question, am a "theorist." I am offering a theory, or a hypothesis, if you will, which I believe best answers the question that you have posed. Had you let me stay on the line I would have recommended that you get local resident, R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor of The American Spectator on your program as a guest, who could tell you about his interview of state trooper L.D. Brown who has described to him his work with the C.I.A. importing cocaine from Central America with the full knowledge of Governor Bill Clinton. I might also have urged your listeners to get a copy of "Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA," by Terry Reed and John Cummings. In each case we are dealing with charges of a large and serious crime that involves both Republican and Democratic administrations. Vince Foster, with the assignment of setting up a blind trust for the Clintons, knew more about the Clinton's personal finances than anyone outside of Bill and Hillary themselves, and he is now safely beyond subpoena.
I theorize, quite frankly, that Foster's death had something to do with this large-scale criminality. It wouldn't be our first drug-related homicide, and it won't be our last. But "conspiracy theorist" doesn't quite get it as a proper characterization for me. "Corruption theorist" is a much more accurate term, and again, this wouldn't be the first example and it won't be the last of a government and a society falling prey to massive corruption.
Now let's look at your implicit answer to your rhetorical question: "The Republicans aren't making political hay over the Foster death because there's nothing there." But you don't know there's nothing there because you choose not to look. The busy, diffuse public is depending on you in the media to tell them what's going on and to keep the politicians honest, and you won't trouble yourself to do so. I've looked, even though it is not my job as it is yours, and I tell you there is indeed something there (See the attached review that I did of the Fiske Report [12-pager to be added to web site when I have time. ed.]).
Let's rephrase that last sentence. In this case, it's not just your job, it is your solemn responsibility as a member of the Fourth Estate, in the last line of defense against tyranny, to look deeply into such a potential major crime as this. People are counting on you. What if your sanguine assurances are wrong, as the preponderance of evidence tells me they are? Where does that leave us?
The public, if truth be told, is being left to count on someone who is, himself, at best, nothing more than a theorist, but his guiding theory seems to be that the system is fundamentally sound and its ranking members are essentially trustworthy. Therefore, if Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, or Rep. William Clinger, or Robert Fiske or Kenneth Starr offers up a conclusion about anything related to Bill Clinton we are, like Joe Palka, to accept it without examining the supporting evidence simply because these men are "Republicans." Your faith is touching, but it is a blueprint for national ruination.
My belief in your essential fair mindedness, which had been initially induced by your willingness to hear out Reed Irvine, but had been shaken by your abrupt termination of my call, was shattered by my second experience on your program. I was listening to your program with only about half an ear when I heard you say that the Western Journalism Center had made a half million dollars selling a video which peddled the fantasy that Vince Foster was murdered.
I called to correct your error. As a source of your information, you once again cited the Irvine-discredited Mike Wallace hatchet job on 60 Minutes. I reminded you that the video in question was not being sold by the Western Journalism Center but Strategic Investment newsletter, which was clearly stated on the cited program, but they were seriously in error about the money that has been made. The charge, itself, was made on the program by the lawyer of a Park Policeman who had had a frivolous libel suit over the Foster case thrown out of court, hardly the best authority. I informed you further that Jim Davidson, the publisher of the newsletter in question, has offered to pay Mike Wallace five times the independently-audited profit that he has made on the video if Wallace will appear in a public forum with him to defend the charges he made on 60 Minutes.
Far from being grateful for my adding to your storehouse of knowledge on the press coverage of the Foster case and correcting factual errors, you sailed into a diatribe on why it was obvious to you that Foster had committed suicide. Throughout your long monologue you demonstrated a blithe disregard for all the evidence which I had heard Mr. Irvine lay out for you during the earlier program. I tried to make it a dialogue, but then you reached into your technological bag of tricks and muted me, making it sound to the other listeners that by my silence I was not objecting to the nonsense that you were spouting. Without this figurative stuffing of a sock in my mouth, I would have welcomed your statement. In public gatherings my favorite method of addressing the question of the Foster death is to ask anyone who will do so to tell me what evidence is most persuasive to them that he committed suicide. No one can say anything that is not easily rebutted.
Then you came to the end of your monologue, and I heard the mute button click off (Do you realize that it's audible? You must have your technicians do something about that.). "Now," you said with a little mock-apologetic titter, "I've had my say. You have 30 seconds to respond."
It wasn't easy, but I believe I managed to get myself cut off even before my penuriously allotted time had elapsed. "You put a great deal of stock in the statement of the family that they are satisfied that it was a suicide," I said, "But here in Fairfax County we have a case of another suspicious ‘suicide,' that of Tommy Burkett. He had the same autopsy doctor, James Beyer. The parents are raising holy hell saying it was a murder, and you people in the press ignore them."
I don't think I was able to get all of that statement out. About as soon as I uttered the name, "Tommy Burkett," I heard the line go dead again. This time friends listening say you simply called me a "crackpot" after you had so unceremoniously disposed of me.
So, I correct factual errors in your statements about a Foster-case video and I do no more than mention the death of Tommy Burkett, and for that I am a "crackpot."
In case you don't know already, Tommy Burkett was a 21-year-old college student who lived with his parents in Chantilly Highlands, about three miles from me. On December 1, 1991, his parents returned home from a poetry reading to find him seated in his bedroom with a revolver in his hand, stiff and dead. Signs of a struggle were in the house, with fresh blood spattered on the walls of other rooms of the house. Neighbors reported seeing other people pursuing Tommy's car and later driving his car after he was dead. They also report hearing several gunshots.
Through their own inquiries the parents found out that Tommy was doing undercover work for the Drug Enforcement Administration and that on the day he died he called 911 not once but twice, and he was apparently ignored. Dr. Beyer concluded that Tommy had died from a shot through the mouth and out the top of the head. Interestingly, the police never even bothered to recover the bullet from the wall. The parents had the body exhumed and another autopsy performed. The second autopsy revealed a broken jaw, a mangled ear, and numerous bruises, all of which clearly indicated that Tommy had been beaten to death before he was shot.
NBC found the case compelling enough that they made it one of their "Unsolved Mysteries on November 11, 1994. You should get the tape. I bring up the Burkett case because I am thoroughly convinced that a doctor capable of ruling suicide in a case like this, when it was clearly murder, could as easily do the same thing in the Foster case. But, hey, to Joe Palka, the big Democrat, the champion of the little guy, for trying to publicize what happened to young Tommy Burkett and trying to see justice done, I'm just a "crackpot."
Before I go on and pillory you some more, might I offer you a chance to redeem yourself. Tommy Burkett's parents are as near to you as your desk. Pick up the phone and call (withheld for privacy). Either the father, Tom, Sr., or the mother, Beth George, would be delighted to talk to you and tell you their story, if you are willing to listen. I can think of no greater service that you could perform for the cause of truth and justice than to have them as guests on your show for as long as it takes to get the whole story out. Should you do so, I can assure you that no copy of this letter will be seen by any other readers, unless it is by your choice.
My third call to you was meant to be a bit of a game, and you played exactly according to form. I called to say I was going for the "hat trick," that is, to see if I might get you to cut me off for a third time in three tries. May the record show that I achieved my objective, while my initial challenge to you probably bought me a few more minutes than I would have ordinarily been permitted.
This time the subject was the lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Clinton. You, of course, in your chosen role of defender of the powerful, as long as he is a professed liberal Democrat, had been belittling it and her. I reminded the listeners that her allegations were much more serious than those Anita Hill had made against Clarence Thomas, almost constituting sexual assault. You rightly pointed out that, technically, sexual assault was not the charge, though I think you would have to agree that exposing yourself to a subordinate and requesting oral sex in a very explicit way is certainly offensive behavior deserving of some form of legal retribution. The really important question is if the charge is true, and it will certainly be hard to determine because no one else was in the room.
President Clinton, as I reminded you, has a very weak defense because he maintains that Paula Jones was never in a hotel room alone with him, but the story came to light in the first place because state trooper Danny Ferguson told reporter David Brock that on this occasion he escorted a woman named "Paula" up to Clinton's room for sex. She had remained quiet about the matter publicly until she was thus forced to defend her reputation with the true story. Further supporting her version of events is the fact that she told a co-worker immediately after the fact what had happened, and trooper Ferguson continues to confirm that he did escort her to the room. No wonder Clinton wants to deny Mrs. Jones her day in court.
Further strengthening the case against Clinton, as I reminded you, is his known pattern of sexual misbehavior. My citing of chapter and verse on this point is what got me cut off for the third time. I mentioned the case of Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas several years Clinton's senior, who had a brief affair with him back in 1983. She says she was approached by someone speaking on Clinton's behalf during the 1992 campaign who promised her a well-paying federal job if she would keep her mouth shut and implied that bodily harm would come to her if she did not. She did not, and she received death threats, I told your listeners. At that point you quickly interjected, "Now I let you get that in, and I'm not cutting you off." You were apparently mimicking your hero when you said that because cut me off is exactly what you did. Had you not done so I would have given the source of my information as the London Sunday Telegraph of January 23, 1994. I might even have made it to the concluding quote in the article:
"I've had it with the American press," she said. "I think it's going to take a foreign paper to bring this whole thing out, because the powers here are so strong. You know, they've protected Bill Clinton in a way they've never protected anybody in the history of America."
I could not agree with her more, and you are one of the worst offenders. When prominent members of the press like you consciously and willfully keep from the American public information about the serious, criminal misdeeds of high government officials, our freedom is in serious jeopardy.
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