CNN Censors Richard Belzer
It seemed like a good idea. CNN’s ratings are in the toilet. The celebrity Richard Belzer has a new book out that he wants to plug, and it’s all about politics, which is CNN’s bread and butter. Unfortunately for CNN, politics has been particularly dull this year, what with the presidential race dominating the news and the race having come down to two unpopular, almost indistinguishable candidates.
The celebrity certainly seemed to have what it takes to draw an audience. Playing detective John Munch on a number of TV cop shows, most recently “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” Belzer is well known and recognizable, and show business celebrities almost always score higher ratings than political celebrities do. On top of that, his book, Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-ups, co-written by David Wayne and with an afterword by Jesse Ventura, told us with its subtitle that it had plenty of what it takes to pique people’s interest, that is, controversy.
Therein lay a certain amount of risk to a mainstream guardian of the conventional wisdom like CNN, but they clearly felt that they could manage it with their Tuesday night, August 14, interview program. Belzer’s just an actor, after all, and they had the slick, super confident former Rupert Murdoch news manager, Piers Morgan, with his superior British accent to do the interviewing, and for a backstop they had brought in “conservative” P.J. O’Rourke, who is billed as a political humorist but to this writer comes across mainly as just smart-alecky, to counter any “conspiracy theories” that Belzer might try to peddle.
It probably didn’t take CNN very long to realize that they had made a big miscalculation. Morgan began by telling Belzer how much he admired his work on “Law and Order,” to which Belzer responded, “You should come on the show so I can arrest you.” The Belzer-conjured mental picture of Morgan in shackles and an orange jump suit, which he might well merit on account of his work for Murdoch, immediately put most of the audience in Belzer’s palm.
Morgan had archly introduced Belzer as a “conspiracy theorist” and the latter was quick to dismiss the term as an essentially meaningless put-down expression and to announce quite seriously that his new book deals only with facts and that he was proud that the book is properly being placed in the “history” category.
Dead Wrong has ten chapters of greatly varying length. Each chapter deals with the unnatural death of one individual. They are in chronological order, with the first one having occurred on November 28, 1953. The names of the deceased are Frank Olson, Henry Marshall, George Krutilek, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Fred Hampton, Vincent Foster, and David Kelly. Marshall and Krutilek are the most obscure on the list, both of whose highly questionable Texas “suicides” in the early 60s were closely connected to the political career of Lyndon Johnson.
Morgan began with a cautious probe about Marilyn Monroe’s death. It had to be a murder, said Belzer, because none of the drug that killed her was in her stomach and they took hours to call the police after finding the body.
“So who did it and why?” asks Morgan, using #12 of the “Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression,” as though the private citizen Belzer had all the powers at his disposal as Detective Munch does on TV.
Belzer didn’t shrink from the question, though, and offered his opinion that neither of the Kennedys was behind it, that it was done for the purpose of embarrassing the Kennedy brothers.
At this point Morgan hastens on to the lesser known and what he must think is the easier of the two Kennedy murders. “Everyone saw Sirhan Sirhan shoot Bobby Kennedy, didn’t they?” he asks.
But he approached Bobby from the front, responded Belzer, and he never got closer than eight to ten feet. The fatal shot was behind Bobby’s ear, and it left powder burns. Furthermore, Sirhan’s pistol only held eight bullets and 14 spent bullets were found in the room. These are all established facts.
“Uh oh,” Morgan must have thought. “This isn’t going well at all.” So he attempted a low blow.
“So do you believe we never went to the moon?” he asks.
“I’m really disappointed in you for asking that question,” responds Belzer, and offers his congratulations to the moon explorers for their great accomplishments. The moon landings are not his chosen battleground.
At this point they go to a commercial break and I get a call from my brother in North Carolina, whom I have encouraged to watch the program in spite of what he describes as his inability to stomach Piers Morgan for more than a couple of minutes.
“This interview is over,” he informs me.
“But they’ve just got started,” I protest.
“You’ll see,” he responds. “Too much is getting out. They’ll pull the plug.”
And in so many words, he was right. Enter O’Rourke, stage right. He offers something incoherent that is apparently meant to be a one-size-fits-all put down of any judgment from on high rendered by authority, but is so weak that it doesn’t even merit a rebuttal.
And that ends all talk of conspiracies and Belzer’s book. At this point Morgan gets the bright idea that everyone has tuned in to hear a TV cop and an unfunny “satirist” debate the relative merits of Obamney from the left wing versus the right wing perspective. All subsequent questions from Morgan are aimed at soliciting the opinions of his two guests about the current presidential campaign. Yawn! You might as well listen to two predictable ideologues go at it in the barber shop. From questions that get to the heart of who really rules America we were quickly steered back to debate over the seeming rulers.
But what was the man to do? He works for a network whose star newsman, Anderson Cooper, was an intern at the CIA when he was an undergraduate at Yale, and the CIA is the prime suspect in fully half of the murder cases that Belzer is there to talk about, and he’s talking about them very effectively.
Morgan pulled the plug, and the plug stayed pulled when it came time for CNN to describe what transpired on Tuesday night on its web site:
On Tuesday, "Piers Morgan Tonight" welcomed actor and comedian Richard Belzer to the program for his unique and entertaining blend of perspective and insight.
Joining the host for a world exclusive interview, the longtime star of NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" shared the dilemma he'll take with him to the polls in November:
"The deciding factor for me is which person, when they're in office, will cause the least amount of suffering on the planet? And I know there might be a subtle distinction," says the man who has played Detective John Munch for nearly two decades. "This is a pretty stark choice that we get to make between [Barack] Obama, who I have problems with, and [Mitt] Romney, who I have more problems with."
Joining Belzer during the segment was well-known political satirist and author P.J. O'Rourke who offered his economic analysis of the country, in the process, referencing a certain well-known political figure from the host's home country:
"Margaret Thatcher made the point that sooner or later you run out of other people's money," began the 64-year-old journalist. "It sometimes seems like there are way too many rich people. And I may say, having recently been to Manhattan, it certainly looks that way to me down there. But once you start taxing the living heck out of them...they vanish."
Quick to rib his long-time colleague Belzer, a noted conspiracy theorist, quipped: "They don't have to vanish. They know how to hide their money, P.J., you know that."
Watch the clips, and listen to the interviews, as Belzer and O'Rourke join Morgan for a segment unlike any in recent memory.
Really. The editors in the old Soviet Union’s Pravda couldn’t have done it any better. There is no better distraction, no better misdirection, than the old left versus right debate.
But if you’re now inclined to dismiss Belzer because CNN has persuaded you that he’s just a left-wing partisan, take a long look at who’s #9 on his list of suspicious deaths, Vincent Foster. The propaganda press has told us that only extreme right wingers question the official suicide verdict in the case of Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel, but Dead Wrong has a 47-page-long chapter that does just that in spades. It is about as fair and thorough a treatment of the subject as one can make without reference to this writer’s work. To its eternal credit, it leans very heavily on the very best, most honest, most comprehensive analysis of the crime scene that has been done, that of John Clarke, Patrick Knowlton, and Hugh Turley in their Failure of the Public Trust. Belzer and Wayne also make a number of mainly minor mistakes relying on people that are not all that easy to recognize as fake critics, but that’s all part of the game. These are honest guys doing the best job they can.
Listen to Jesse Ventura in his afterword:
There is a famous movie quote that most people are familiar with where, during a trial, a Marine Corps Colonel is pressed on revealing the truth to a questioning attorney, until it gets to the point where the Colonel has finally had enough and he screams:
You can’t handle the truth!
That’s a good metaphor for the place that we’re in right now because apparently—based on their actions—our so-called leaders don’t seem to think that the American people are actually capable of handling the truth…
This book is a perfect example of how Americans have not been trusted with the truth; it profiles case after case where we have often been intentionally misled and even clearly lied to on the most basic points of important events that changed history. The fact that we have been lied to about the JFK assassination is so obvious that it’s outrageous. The government cover-up was—and still is—so transparent that it’s ridiculous.
The writers are absolutely clear that in the forefront of the liars and the misleaders are the major news media. CNN has now helped them make their point. (Belzer’s interview went somewhat better on the Alex Jones Show.)
August 17, 2012