The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #67

In 1967 public opinion polls indicated that two-thirds of the American public rejected the Warren Commission Report’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of President Kennedy. Nevertheless top CIA officials were assured they could depend on US news media to assuage such widespread public skepticism.

According to historian David Talbot, “An exchange of letters between CBS news director William Small and (CIA founder Allen) Dulles in July 1967 summed up the media’s lockstep allegiance to the officials story, no matter how many holes were punched in it by new research.” ’I hope you had a chance to view the four-part series on the Warren Commission,’ wrote Small, referring to his TV network’s massive apologia for the Warren Report. ‘We are very proud of them and I hope you found them a proper display of what television journalism can do.’ … After reviewing transcripts of the entire series that Small had obligingly provided him, Dulles assured the CBS news executive, ‘ If I have any nitpicking to pass on to you, I shall do so as soon as I have read them.’ The spymaster,” Talbot concludes, “was always happy to offer guidance to his media friends, down to the smallest details.”

David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, New York: Harper Perennial, 2015, 597-598.

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