Clinton and Cronkite: Odd Couple?
by DCDave

It has recently been reported that in the midst of his Martha's Vineyard summer vacation, President Bill Clinton went on a boating excursion with former CBS anchor man, Walter Cronkite. Jay Leno gave the standard reaction to this news: "Here we have the most trusted man and the least trusted man in America together." The typical Rush Limbaugh listener, on the other hand, would see nothing particularly unusual about it. Why shouldn't Clinton cozy up to members of the liberal media, after all? Haven't they been very good to him? And for their part it never hurts to be on the good side of a president of the United States. We can recall that when Clinton took his first vacation at this watering hole of the rich and powerful, he resided at the guest house of Washington Post owner, Katharine Graham, and took dinner with her.

But there is good evidence that there is more to this Clinton-CBS-Post nexus than liberal politics. The following excerpt from "Katharine the Great, Katharine Graham and Her Washington Post Empire" by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991) connects a few more dots:

" (The Washington Post's managers') individual relations with intelligence had in fact been the reason the Post Company had grown as fast as it did after the war; their secrets were its corporate secrets, beginning with MOCKINGBIRD.* Philip Graham's commitment to intelligence had given his friends Frank Wisner and Allen Dulles an interest in helping to make the Washington Post the dominant news vehicle in Washington, which they had done by assisting with its two most crucial acquisitions, the Times-Herald and WTOP radio and television stations. The Post executives most essential to these transactions, other than Phil, had been Wayne Coy, who had been Phil's former New Deal boss, and John S. Hayes, who replaced Coy in 1947 when Coy was appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

"The acquisition of the Times-Herald and WTOP was accomplished by men dedicated to Philip Graham's vision of journalism. Hayes had been commander of the Armed Forces Radio Network ETO (European Theater of Operations) and in that capacity had made intelligence connections all over Europe. He had come to the Post, after turning the network to the service of the Marshall Plan with the title of vice-president for radio and television. In Washington he had become friendly with Frank Wisner, father of MOCKINGBIRD, and with Allen Dulles, an OSS man who became the second director of the CIA in 1953. The relationship with Dulles was particularly important because of Dulles's ties to Wall Street, from which intelligence, industry, and government all draw their leaders." (pp. 172-173)


"Hayes had been able to contribute to Post Company broadcasting largely because of his wartime acquaintance with Colonel William S. Paley, the founder and chairman of the board of CBS. Paley was a businessman who believed that the commercial media, as well as the military, must develop ‘all manner of propaganda' to help in the war effort; Hayes was the director of a radio network that was the military extension of Paley's commercial network. When Hayes came to the Post, which then owned only one local radio station, he looked to Paley, who owned a Washington radio outlet, as the company's entree into national broadcasting.

"Paley's own friendship with Allen Dulles is now known to have been one of the most influential and significant in the communications industry. He provided cover for CIA agents, supplied out-takes of news film, permitted the debriefing of reporters, and in many ways set the standard for the cooperation between the CIA and the major broadcast companies which lasted until the mid-1970s (sic). But in 1948, despite the mutual intelligence connections, when Hayes and Graham asked to buy WTOP-CBS radio, Paley had refused to sell. Within a year, though, an arrangement was worked out, Dulles having spoken of Graham and Hayes to Paley, and fifty-five percent of the WTOP stock was transferred to the Post Company. Wayne Coy at the FCC approved the license reassignment, and CBS and the Post began sharing their Washington news staffs (reporters then worked interchangeably for print and broadcast). In 1950 Phil then bought a small Washington television station, license approved by Wayne Coy, and changed its call letters to WTOP-TV; it became a CBS affiliate. That year he and Hayes also hired a news analyst who for two years after the war had been chief correspondent for United Press International in Moscow, a man who had experience with American intelligence and was also endowed with a good television presence; the man's name was Walter Cronkite. He soon worked his way onto the network staff.

"Paley sold the remaining WTOP stock to Phil in 1953, a year before Wayne Coy died, giving the Washington Post company complete control over the CBS radio and television outlets in Washington, which it retained until required by law to sell the television station in 1977. The Post men continued to see Paley and Cronkite every Christmas at a dinner given by Allen Dulles at a private club called the Alibi. The club is in an old, dark, red brick townhouse in the middle of downtown Washington, the only house on a block of office buildings. It bears a simple brass plaque and brass doorknob; membership is limited to men in or close to intelligence and is by invitation only." (pp. 175-176)

*Davis on MOCKINGBIRD: "Wisner began wide-scale recruitment of foreign students and infiltration of labor unions. But he wanted something more, a way not only to subvert and disrupt, but to give foreign peoples a sense of America, to ‘alter their perceptions' against Communism without violence; and the publisher Philip Graham helped him conceive of a way to use journalists for that objective. Intelligence agencies had used journalists before, but the practice had remained haphazard. This, however, was to be a formal program, structured and run according to high-level policy. The program had the code name Operation MOCKINGBIRD."(p. 129)


"By the early 1950s, Wisner had implemented his plan and ‘owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, and other communications vehicles, plus stringers, four to six hundred in all, according to a former CIA analyst who worked with MOCKINGBIRD. Each journalist was a separate ‘operation,' requiring a code name, a field supervisor, and a field office, at an annual cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars--there has never been an accurate accounting. Some of these journalists thought of themselves as helpers of the Agency, some simply as patriots who wanted to run stories that would benefit their country. Some did not know where their information was going, or did not know that the information they received was ‘planted' with them. The Agency considered all of them to be operatives." (p. 130)

And shouldn't we consider them all to be operatives? From the coverage we have seen of the Vincent Foster death, the Waco massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, allegations of CIA drug smuggling and money laundering, and the explosion of TWA-800, to mention only major scandals in the Clinton administration, one can hardly escape the conclusion that MOCKINGBIRD is going stronger than ever. To see where Clinton fits in, recall that Roger Morris in his book, "Partners in Power, the Clintons and their America," using more than one anonymous intelligence source, claims that young Bill was actually spying on the anti-war movement in England for the CIA while pretending to be an anti-war protestor, an affiliation that explains his meteoric political career and the charmed life he has led with the American press. Terry Reed in "Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA" and R. Emmett Tyrrell in "Boy Clinton," like Morris connect Clinton to CIA-sponsored drug smuggling through Mena Airport in northwestern Arkansas. British reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has related the assertion of the widow of slain Clinton security man, Jerry Parks, that Parks once returned with Foster from a trip to Mena with a car trunk so full of $100 bills that you had to sit on it to close it. This account is in Evans-Pritchard's book, "The Secret Life of Bill Clinton."

Zeroing in on Cronkite's CBS in particular, the network played a pivotal role in salvaging Clinton's candidacy with a softball interview of Bill and Hillary on 60 Minutes after the Gennifer Flowers affair surfaced in 1992. The allegations were much more serious than the revelations about candidate Gary Hart before, but the press treatment was almost diametrically opposite in its protectiveness of the candidate. Morris notes that Hart had been one of the more aggressive Senate members of the Church Committee delving into intelligence community wrongdoing and that he had promised to reopen the investigation of the Kennedy assassination if elected president.

Speaking of the Kennedy assassination, if Walter Cronkite is, indeed, the most trusted man in America, it can hardly be based upon the reporting and news analysis he has given us on that investigative travesty. Polls show that the public overwhelmingly rejects the Warren Commission conclusion that it was the work of Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. CBS, with Cronkite leading the way, has tried mightily to convince us that the government is right, however improbable their argument. Recently, in a long, glowing tribute to the avuncular anchorman, Cronkite could be heard once again assuring us of the unassailability of the government's case. Earlier CBS even conducted its own "investigation," complete with a re-enactment of the crime, with the smooth, reassuring Cronkite as narrator. Interestingly, a letter writer to the Washington Times, a former Alexandria, Virginia, police detective writing in defense of the good doctor, has told us that Foster autopsy doctor, James C. Beyer, upon whose extremely questionable findings the entire suicide conclusion depends, was technical adviser to CBS for their investigation.

So we see, as we close the circle, that Bill Clinton and Walter Cronkite are hardly an odd couple at all. More likely than not, they have both been on the same payroll for a long time.

For more on CIA corruption of our news media see CIA Plots Puerto Rico Statehood and Spook Journalist Goulden.

David Martin

August 27, 1998

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