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tv   QA Donald Ritchie The Columnist  CSPAN  July 11, 2021 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT

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store. there is a collection of c-span products. browse to see what is new. you still have time to order the congressional directory, contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go to c-span. >> president roosevelt was called you a chronic liar. a late tennessee senator called you a liar by profession, a liar
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by day and by night. what is there about drew pierson -- pearson that inspired such bitterness? >> for one reason, when you hit the truth, sometimes it hurts most. i dearly loved roosevelt and it hurt me deeply when he called me a chronic liar, which he did. i did not enjoy being called that by truman, either, but truman after all had a vocabulary. >> that is a 1957 interview with drew pearson. he is the subject of donald richie's -- donald ritchie's
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new book. mr. ritchie: he did a column from 1962 until he died. he also had a radio show monday nights, a popular radio show and also tried to make it into television in the early 50's. he was a best-selling author for his books. he told the truth, as he said, and he said when you hit the truth that hurts the most. he told what politicians would prefer not to see in newspapers and he tried to get behind the news and tell people what was really going on in washington. he wrote about president of the united states and representatives, british prime ministers, other politicians. host: why is this story interesting for people in 2021? mr. ritchie: public confidence
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in the news is at an all-time low. one poll said half the population does not believe that newspaper reporters and other media are giving them the truth. but they are exactly -- they are exaggerating stories for political purposes. so writing about a man who was accused to be a liar by so many people, was he telling the truth ? did he get it right or wrong? who was right -- who was right and who was wrong? how much can we rely on information we get from the media? >> you are the united states historian emeritus. why does this columnist story interest you? mr. ritchie: they thought briefly about making public information and the senate is a
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200 year old institution and often reporters were calling the historical office for information and we could not talk about politics or policy, but we could talk about the president and history of the institution. so eventually they discovered we were not taking sides. we were just telling the story as best as we could determine what it had been so we got so many calls and i had so many personal visits from reporters, foreign correspondence, i got just foreign correspondents, i got curious about them collecting the news. so i am always going back to look at historical newspapers and i got interested in finding
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out how reliable the information was and how good a reflection of what congress had been at the time. earlier i wrote a book about the 19th century press called "press gallery" and then about the 20th century press. drew pearson is in both books. one begins on the other ends in 1932 which is when he was emerging as a figure on the scene. so he is a continuation of my interest in using the press as a historical source. host: you have an interest in war -- interesting story in the acknowledgments about how this surrounded a family number. mr. ritchie: that's right. my wife and i talked to media through mutual friends and a
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library board so we went to their home and heard stories about famous people who had been there before and about drew pearson. when i retired, tyler came to me and said, people have forgotten who drew was. he has faded into history but is an important story people should know. do you want to write his biography? i said i had other things in mind. tyler was persistent. wednesday he invited me to his farm and took me into the hayloft and took me to a file cabinet. he said this is the material we have not yet sent to the library. you can look at whatever you want. we have oral histories and you have carte blanche to look at this. we will not tell you how to write a book but it's up to you to make that decision. i thought, this is a gift. i began looking into it and the more i did, more interested i
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grew and the more i could see a book developing. host: where did the title "washington merry-go-round" come from? mr. ritchie: a book he and his partner wrote in 1932. they wrote it anonymously. they were originally going to call it washington carrousel but the editor thought merry-go-round sounded more american. it was a big bestseller 1931. it exposed a lot of what was going on in the hoover administration just when the economy was collapsing and people were losing faith in hoover. it also poked fun at political and social pretension in washington and at some of the press they thought were deferential to the politicians. everyone loved it except hoover, who got the fbi to try to figure
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out who the authors were and get them fired. they did not fire pearson but when they wrote a sequel, he was fired. that is when pearson and alan thought, why don't we take this writing and turn it into a newspaper column. host: what does the muckrakers mean? mr. ritchie: the term starts at the beginning of the 20th century. there were mass-market magazines and they hired a lot of colorful writers. in washington you had washington correspondents who developed high placed sources and got accurate information but they did not want to embarrass their sources.
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muckrakers breezed into town, found the stories the regular correspondents were not publishing and published the exposes. one leg to the amendment of the constitution -- one lead to the amendment of the constitution. they were influential but the regular washington writers hated them. they would have their regular gridiron dinner and theodore roosevelt spoke and attacked the muckrakers as wanton sensational lists. he got great cheers. a few days later there was an unveiling of a building and roosevelt gave the speech again in which he attacked muckrakers.
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the term stuck. some saw it as a slur and others as a badge of honor. drew pearson was proud to be called one. he carried on the tradition. he is the link between the old world muckrakers and post-world investigators. host: the defeat of several congressmen. with a corrupt? mr. ritchie: they did not police themselves the way they do now. it was not an ethics committee. pearson prompted the house and senate to create ethics committees. his exposes led to censures and in some cases indictments and imprisonment of members for kickbacks on staff salaries and insider trading, things that are
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illegal and would be prohibited today, it was looser in those days. so he spent a lot of time exposing what was happening in congress. he was immediately attacked as being a liar by members of congress. he wants published a liar's scoreboard. members that accused him of being a liar and then what happened to them. they all wound up in jail or losing their seats. one was jay parnell thomas, he had sent many of the hollywood 10 to jail for contempt of congress and because of pearson 's expose, he wound up in the same penitentiary as some of the hollywood 10. so he had a lot of sins on the wall essentially from going through congress. he also argued these were a tiny
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fraction of the members of congress and if their actions made the rest look bad, but he was not trying to disparage congress as an institution. he wrote about the accomplishment of members, as well. he promoted careers as well as destroying them. host: much of his source material came from leaks. every administration tries to control leaks. what is it about leaks and why they happen? mr. ritchie: for everyone who has a reason to keep something a secret, there is someone else who has a reason to open it up. sometimes it is administrations trying to suppress information and lower level civil servants who think this is a disgrace and sometimes it's the very top, the president's part -- press secretary. politicians in general are
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satisfied with the leaks they leak themselves and are outraged at the ones others have leaked. franklin roosevelt, the "washington merry-go-round" column was pro new deal so he got good press. but he hated to be anticipated before making up his mind. he wanted to wait and spring it on the press and when he opened the newspaper and read in the "washington merry-go-round" there was one instance where he got his staff in the oval office and said, we are not going to leak again. no one is allowed to leak again. one staff member said, we have the story we would like to get out in advance so we can test public opinion and congressional opinion, and roosevelt said, ok, you can leak that story. and the staff member said, i already have. host: you describe his
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philosophy not just that the public had a right to know, but they needed to be excited and entertained to become better informed. mr. ritchie: he had a very lively style. in those days there were social columns that had gossip about celebrities. he was not writing about sex and divorce. another writer was doing that. pearson wrote about politicians. not there private lives -- he did not write about their private lives, although sometimes he would leak information to others. but he put in the things you would not read in the regular newspaper columns. for instance, the vice president's winnings at his poker game. human interest stories. sometimes outrageous, sometimes
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funny. you cannot predict what the column would have. sometimes it had a lot of different stories, sometimes just one. senators found it was easy to click because they could drop out a paragraph and it will not change much. there were lots of pieces. it was entertaining and scored high on the poles of -- the polls of newspapers. it was a problem for editors and publishers. they sometimes hated the column because it attacked the politicians they liked but if they tried to cut it out, readers complained and they put it back in. sometimes they would put a disc claimant -- disclaimer. host: readers will see you included snippets in your book.
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mr. ritchie: i think most people have not read "washington merry-go-round" and you need a flavor about what it was about the column that made it interesting. some are hard news stories and others are funny. president roosevelt goes to wellsprings and forgets to cancel his order of papers and they started piling up in the white house -- his order of breakfast roles and they started -- rolls and they started piling up in the white house. roosevelt did not like that. one of the things he wrote in the 1930's, he was always attacking the navy for being old-fashioned. he said they were unprepared for modern aircraft warfare because right after pearl harbor is
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publishers said he was right about his predictions. so it was exciting, funny. the russian post put it on the comics page. not because they thought it was funny, but because it irritated them a lot when it was on the editorial page so they thought they would hide it but pearson said a lot more people read the comics so he was happy. host: he was a quaker. how did that affect his worldview? mr. ritchie: that's one thing i learned. i knew him vaguely. i had read his column for about two years when i came to graduate school in the 1960's but i did not know a lot about him. religion is an important factor in people's lives, but you do not know how important. it comes up enough that i realized it shaped his worldview
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so on civil rights, for instance, he was not initially in favor of civil right. -- rights. a lot of his readers were southern. but he became offended by what he saw and offended by the ku klux klan and segregation and national press club not allowing black members. so it became a crusade for him of inequality and justice. and his family he used the old quaker style of speaking. they did silent prayers at meals . just enough to indicate it was on his mind. he judged politicians by the standards the quakers and he had. the two presidents he got along the worst with were herbert
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hoover and richard nixon, who were both quakers. they were not his same form. host: the column appeared every day and later they added radio and television. i wanted to show a clip we have of the television program. how did he do all of this? watch and we will come back. [video clip] ♪ >> with congress back in town, the news is certainly breaking. eisenhower has decided he has to get this program to congress at any cost and here are the developments. he has finally picked a successor to senator taft. mr. nixon who one year ago, his name was mud but today he is the
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white haired boy around the white house. this will naturally cause trouble with mr. nolan of california because both men are young, ambitious, and aspire to be president of the united states. host: 365 columns a year. mr. ritchie: radio, every sunday night. television was sporadically. late in his career he did not quite make the transfer. a lot of radio reporters just could not move to this new form of radio, as they called. he was also giving lectures, traveling constantly giving public lectures. the cover of the book is pearson working late at night. he worked all hours of the day and night. he learned to sleep on trains and planes and wake up and work. he would write the weekend columns during the week.
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he was not necessarily writing on those days but his family said pretty much every day he was doing some kind of work and it was a grind. but they also had younger reporters he hired for low salaries to go out and walk the halls of congress and go to the pentagon and pick up all the rumors and news and if he came up with a story, he would send them out to prove the information. get the facts to back that one, he said. so we had help. in some cases he was the managing editor of the column but he wrote a lot of it and some of them were personal letters he would write to his daughter, stepson, or other family members and people he knew explaining what he thought about the korean war or whatever issue of the time. it was a constant drain and he had few hobbies other than
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farming. his stepson said he wrote more than he read. he did not play golf. he had good friends he liked to dine with. his evenings were spent with washington politicos. those at the dinner table would wind up in the column. host: one of his post may miss lehman was jack anderson. -- one of his most famous laymen was jack anderson. mr. ritchie: a reporter for the stars and stripes. an old-time reporter told him if you go to washington, you want to work for drew pearson. they had 100 applicants for the job and jack anderson got the job. he said it was either because he was so young and malleable, he
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could be shaped the way pearson wanted, or he was willing to work the least amount of money. he had a terribly low salary. almost all of the staff complained about the salary they got and almost all of them had second jobs. jack anderson also worked on parade magazine to have more income. even though pearson made a lot of money from the column and radio show, he was sued for libel so often that he had enormous attorneys fees. so he basically was shunting money to the court cases, not to the staff. but the staff was loyal to him because they knew he believed in what he was doing and they were willing to work at the low salary he paid. host: jack anderson ultimately succeeded drew pearson in the column.
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mr. ritchie: jack anderson was a good, determined reporter who really pressed and also pressed pearson in areas where pearson stepped back. thomas dodd, the senator from connecticut, jack anderson found out from the former staff that dodd was taking campaign contributions and using them for personal finances. he collected information. his staff went in on the weekend and took things out of the file and gave them to anderson and then returned to them. anderson published about 20 columns on this and eventually the editors were saying, this is over the top, this could be a libel case, people are going to get bored because you are doing the story so often. pearson pulled the plug and said this is not. anderson showed up with a young
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staff member at pearson's home and presented him with the case. he finally said, ok, let us go with it. they presented 100 articles and dodd was censured. the poster committee gave the pulitzer prize to pierson pearson -- pearson and anderson. jack anderson on his own later won the pulitzer prize. host: he said it was a great regret in his life that he never got the prius. mr. ritchie: he felt he never got the recognition. he would have loved to have been secretary of state. he started out as a diplomatic correspondent.
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he wrote a lot about foreign policy over the years. lyndon johnson hinted that might be a possibility just enough to keep him sympathetic to the johnson administration. but it did not happen and the pulitzer prize did not happen. host: he regularly violated appropriate journalistic practices, lobbying for the causes, he would testify before congressional committees. he wrote speeches for politicians. how did he square that role with him being a reporter? mr. ritchie: he was a columnist, not a reporter. they can't take sides and have a political point of view. they can armor -- they can argue in favor of a bill. they are allowed to have an opinion. regular newspaper reporters are supposed to be objective.
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and today you will see newspaper articles in which a reporter will call a politician a liar because they can prove what they said was not true. in those days, they would just say, senator mccarthy made an outspoken claim, not that it was true or false. but pearson could do that and he carried that on to supporting bills and legislation he was in favor of. he promoted careers and wrote speeches for members of congress. he testified before committees. he was open about a lot of it. he wrote speeches for presidential candidates and got involved with a lot of things. he felt that as a columnist, it was part of his responsibility and he had permission to do it. host: he was married twice. both marriages helped advance
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his career. mr. ritchie: as a young man he met the daughter of the wealthiest woman in washington who became an editor of the washington times herald. so being married to her daughter open the doors to high society and gave him -- and gave him a lot of leeway around washington. that marriage lasted two years. she was a free spirit and did not want to be confined in marriage. later, he married the ex-wife of his best friend in washington, which ruined the friendship along the way. she shared his interest in politics. pearson could ruffle failure --
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ruffle feathers and she could smooth them out. if the washington post was irritated or embarrassed, his wife was playing bridge with -- the only thing they disagreed on was during the vietnam war, he supported lyndon johnson and his daughter-in-law was the white house social secretary during the administration. his stepson was chief the protocol. but his wife was picketing the white house with antiwar groups. in the end he came to believe she was right and in march of 1968 he wrote to lyndon johnson and said he would have to stop
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supporting him on the war and that we need to withdraw from vietnam. host: one character that appears throughout his work is j edgar hoover, longtime director of the fbi. you say there are thousands of pages of documents collected about pearson by the fbi. he was also using them as sources for his work. what was the relationship with the fbi? mr. ritchie: that 1000 pages was a big asset for me in writing the book. every sunday night they made some agentless into the radio show to report to hoover every monday morning -- every sunday night they made some agent listen to the radio show to report to hoover every monday morning.
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when i saw was in 1935 when the fbi was being formed the justice department was worried the public was more enamored with gangsters like john dillinger and others and not with the government agents so they called in pearson and his partner and said, what can we do? they said, you have to build up the public relations of the fbi on the column began to promote j edgar hoover's career as a super g-man. he liked that and reciprocated by providing information from the fbi. if they came across a claim they could not substantiate, they would show to the fbi. in some cases the fbi would go investigate. that's how many members of congress ended up in jail.
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the fbi followed up on a column that pearson had published. when the red scare started in the 1950's, pearson was fiercely opposed. joe mccarthy had been a great source for the column previously but once he started on this communist crusade, pearson started running negative columns. jack anderson said, he is a great source. pearson said, he might be a great source, but he's a bad man. hoover embraced mccarthy and became outraged at what pearson was writing. hoover wrote many nasty comments about pearson in the margins and was so offended by what he was saying. but as late as 1968 when the fbi had information they thought was in the interest of the public to
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know, they leaked it to the "washington merry-go-round" as they knew it was valuable even though it offended them. host: you work your way through the administration's and i want to do a little more of franklin roosevelt. you talk about the relationship between the columnist and white house. speak specifically about the challenge of reporting during wartime and the creation of the censorship office and how it impacted pearson. mr. ritchie: the column started as the new deal was starting. the public was fascinated. it put the column on the map. in 1941 the u.s. went to war. suddenly the question is, can you be honest and open about reporting on the government and wartime? mr. ritchie: -- pearson said yes, the public has a right to know. we are still voting in
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elections. we do not want the government hiding things the public should be aware of. what was the nature of the destruction at pearl harbor? he thought they needed to know what was happening. the government was troubled by this. they created an office of censorship. they looked over his scripts and told him to change the wording. he read the censorship code so well he could quote it back to them. he was adept at getting things out. he could switch back and forth. he could get things in the column and he if he couldn't get it in the column, he would put it in the radio. he the reporter that wrote the story that general patton put two shellshocked soldiers in a military hospital, thinking they
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were slackers. no one dared to publish it. pearson found out. he got it on the radio. once he broke the story, all the war correspondents in europe verified it and pearson got through it. he was threatened with prison or being sued. when he was in england and he published some things about -- if he had been in england when he wrote about some things about winston churchill, he would've ended up in jail. but he felt like it was his responsibility. all of the documents were marked secret. he said 90% of them were not to protect the public, it was to protect the civil servant. he felt it was his right to decide if something was really secret or not.
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he did not publish everything he knew. he learned early about the atomic bomb and did not reveal it. he did say on the radio program that the war would end as abruptly as it began. but there are things he suppressed for national security reasons. the fbi investigated him. they tapped his phone lines. the british planted a spy in his household to find out where he was getting information that was critical of churchill. the spy was a british royal air force officer named rollbot -- named world all, the children's author. -- roahl dahl.
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the children's author. they had an interesting relationship. it indicated how much other governments were concerned about what went in the column. the british noticed we did not have a national newspaper. even the new york times only went around new york. the newspaper column appeared in every newspaper, big and small. and that really affected public vision -- public opinion. so british agents worked hard to get pearson on his side. -- on their side.
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he didn't use things they leaked to him. host: an opening clip, pearson made reference to sherman's animosity -- reference to truman's animosity. mr. ritchie: he hated him because pearson dared to criticize his wife and daughter. he hated what pearson was writing. he got under his skin constantly. he shot him out of the administration. the only time pearson got in the oval office was at the beginning of truman's presidency and he got a tongue lashing. an aide of truman was getting in a lot of trouble and the column
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was exposing what he was doing. so the column basically said truman needed to fire the man and president truman spoke at a meeting and said, no sop is going to tell me -- s.o.b. is going to tell me who to fire in my administration. pearson wrote his own memoirs that appeared and the title was confessions of a s.o.b. >> mr. president, a lot of people have been criticizing me because i had been critical of mccarthy.
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mccarthy says it is important to put communists in jail. what is your opinion? >> i do not think the message -- the methods of mccarthy are ever necessary. the bill of rights is the basis of the freedom of the individual and his idea of an approach is by suspicion, not facts. but the communists have been indicted. host: the outcome was that drew pearson was one of the contributors to mccarthy's downfall. mr. ritchie: that was the first interview truman did after leaving the presidency.
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mccarthy brought back people who had been fighting for each other with year. pearson and truman had been on the outs but became friends. same thing with senator miller tydings, a great opponent of -- pearson columns irritated mccarthy and from time to time mccarthy threatened he would beat up pearson. mccarthy had been a fighter before, a prizefighter, and he said he was going to punch him out or beat him up or break his ribs, all sorts of threats. in 1950 a socialite in washington was famous for having parties in which she brought
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enemies together. she sat pearson and mccarthy at the same table. they were both outraged. pearson was there with his wife and trying to be polite. mccarthy harassed him through the evening and finally pearson got up and came around and leaned over and whispered, when are they going to put you in jail? mccarthy jumped out of the chair and said, let's go outside and settle this. everyone separated them. at midnight they were in the men's cloakroom at the club and pearson was getting his coat and reaching for change in his pocket and mccarthy accused him of going for a gun.
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he slapped him in the face and kneed him in the groin. who appeared, richard nixon, who separated them. pearson slapped mccarthy across the face hard. mccarthy said to nixon, you should not have stopped him. nixon got very bad press from pearson over the years. but nixon was a quaker and felt he should break up the fight. host: the administration was a tight ship with not many weeks. but i want you to talk about the incident that started a press government relations down a slope credibility gap. mr. ritchie: as a former
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military man he was used to controlling the press and thought he could control them as president. he had an effective press secretary, jim haggerty, who provided the press the information they were seeking but made sure they did not see the information the administration wanted to protect. they did not want leaks. eisenhower did a lot of foreign policy through the cia. there were instances in iran, guatemala, vietnam, that we did not know about at the time but it affected our foreign policy for generations. they are still feeling the effects in iran. at the time, everything was hush-hush and eisenhower was happy. one of the issues that came up was, is the u.s. falling behind russia and producing missiles?
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so the image of a missile gap developed. some federal agencies were promoting that gap because they thought by scaring the public, the military budget would increase. eisenhower knew there was not a missile gap. he knew the u.s. was well ahead of russia but he couldn't say it did not want to. he didn't want to say these were spy flights. when a plane was shot down, we thought he just crashed. jack anderson went to the pentagon on behalf of pearson and went to his sources who confirmed it was a weather flight that crashed. so the column printed that. couple days later the russians said, we have the plane we shot
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down and we have the pilot he was still alive. so the story they had produced was a cover story and pearson was outraged. he wrote a column to his readers saying, the story we got before, we thought it was true. we got it from our sources. it was not true. so now the government is not telling us the whole truth. it turned out some of the most prominent reporters knew all about the flight but they thought it was their duty for national security not to reveal the information. so the idea that reporters would sit on information was offensive to pearson and is what drove him to reveal things. the slippery slope is that up until that point most americans never believed their government would like to them. a lot of reporters thought the
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government gave them straight stories. but people began to question things. it increased during the kennedy administration when there were questions about news management and during the johnson administration when the pentagon papers revealed the stories that robert mcnamara was saying in public conflicted with what he said privately and that the situation in vietnam was much more dire. so johnson really lost credibility severely during his presidency but i thought it started in 1960 when people became more skeptical of information from the government. host: what did pearson about the kennedy administration? mr. ritchie: he got off on the wrong foot by going on the mike wallace show. mike asked him what he thought
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about john kennedy and pearson said, he's the only person who got a pulitzer prize for a book that was ghostwritten. there were rumors that sorensen had really written profiles encourage. kennedy was sensitive of that. the project was developed when kennedy was recuperating from back surgery. a lot of people contributed. he was more like the managing editor of the book, not the author. sorensen did a lot. but it was not ghostwritten. that charge hung over kennedy and he was sensitive to it. he kept pearson at a distance. also because pearson was critical of kennedy's father, who he thought was pro-german at the beginning of world war ii and he continued to write critical columns about papa joe,
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as he called them. he was critical of robert kennedy because he had worked for joe mccarthy in the early 1950's. so the kennedy family sort of kept pearson at a distance. pearson was a generation older than john kennedy. the president's up to that point where his age or older and now this president was 20 years younger. pearson was the generation of christian death -- khrushchev. he was one of the few american correspondents invited to do interviews with him. he came away convinced that he wanted to avoid war at all costs . that's the message he took back to kennedy and it played a part in kennedy's thinking during the
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cuban missile crisis. host: lbj administration, civil-rights legislation was passed and pearson became a real advocate. how did he view lyndon johnson's work on the bill? mr. ritchie: when johnson was vice president he was writing columns saying johnson is speaking out on civil-rights, chairing the commission on civil rights at the time and looking at hiring equal opportunity. johnson was talking about the issue well kennedy was not. as president, he was trying to downplay the civil rights issue. in 1963, kennedy gave three speeches in the south in which he did not mention civil-rights. pearson thought johnson would come up with a more forthright program on civil-rights.
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he was right and bills and voting rights acts passed because of johnson. pearson gave him credit for that. johnson wanted that kind of credit and cultivated pearson. he was criticized a lot as a senator but determines the column would be on his side when president. host: richard nixon was the final president he covered. let's watch pearson talking about the reputation in washington. >> are people fearful of you in washington? >> they shouldn't be. some of them are, i guess. >> in a room, if two people go, there is pearson. >> usually it's the other way
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around. i look around to see if there is tom dodd in the room and if i should get ready to give him the cold freeze he would surely give to me. i do not think people are fearful of me. host: where was his career in 1969? mr. ritchie: at the end. he died that september. he had been opposed from the day nixon was elected to congress and they had a terrible relationship. then he was elected president. for the first six months of the administration, he did not go on the attack. but before he became president, nixon told his chief of staff that no one was allowed to talk to pearson. but we will read the column
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every day to make sure no one is talking to him. pearson was the first person on the nixon enemy list. then he died before watergate and jack anderson took over and began to expose things going on in the administration. as watergate broke, anderson wrote a column saying, pearson was right. he nailed what nixon was all about and how untrustworthy he is. i can feel his spirit hovering over my typewriter. pearson did not get to live long enough to see how seriously the public would take investigative reporting and how different it would become after his death. he was the link between the muckrakers and post-watergate investigative reporters. he died at the cusp of when it began. moses did not get to the promised land.
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host: when he died there were services in the national cathedral in 1000 people attended. all these people were calling them liars. how do we square 1000 people? mr. ritchie: when his mother-in-law died, she had been viciously opposed to him and he showed up at his funeral. someone said, now i know she is dead. she would not have tolerated this. but he was popular to people who agreed with him. we think only about the people he attacked. but the fact is, he was promoting causes that a lot of people were trying to get through and they valued the publicity that came out of the column. they liked him as a person.
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he had a lot of people that stayed friendly with him because it was a good way to get good press in his column but others thought he was doing a noble job as a columnist. he was very influential for a long time and probably helped a lot of careers of those in the audience. host: jack anderson talking about investigative journalism in this interview. to follow up on your comments about the cusp of investigative journalism. >> remember when investigative reporters were pariahs. i think we are going back to that again. the reason is the government does not like to be investigated. publishers and tv station owners are close to the people in power. they belong to the same social circles. they attend the same soirees.
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they are embarrassed by investigative reports. they have to explain to their friends. editors and program directors, it causes them problems. they are asked embarrassing questions. they get notes from the publisher. a lawyer might threatened to sue. it's easier just to cover. host: i want to use that as closing comments on the state of journalism today. is investigative journalism alive and well? is anyone doing the kind of work that pearson and anderson did? mr. ritchie: it is alive. i do not know if it is well. eventually editors get tired of difficult stories and they pull the plug on things they do not
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want to spend more money and time on or things they think will embarrass the media they are dealing with. they cannot do that with pearson . he had a 600 editors and publishers. certainly people got offended on the column was dropped from time to time but other newspapers would pick up the slack. so he had more freedom than a lot of investigative reporters who worked for individual newspapers. there are groups of investigative reporters who work on the state and national level to get around some obstacles. yes, we still have investigative reporting. things appear in the newspaper political leaders would prefer not to see and print. there up times i've looked at the washington post and thought, what were they thinking? people thought they could get
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away with something like this in a town where everyone watches what is going on. yet politicians often think they can go around and withhold and present a rosy view. eventually someone will crack the story. pearson spent years doing it. we think about the pentagon papers but pearson was doing that every day for 40 years. he was constantly digging up information, offending presidency light like franklin roosevelt and those he did not like -- offending presidency he liked president -- offending presidents he liked and those he didn't. evidence shows pearson got
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stories pretty accurate. he got the gist of stories correct. it was the person who was accusing him who was lying. the presidential press secretary saying it didn't happen. but it did. the president saying that's not true about my administration. and it was true. so i came away more confident in him and his abilities as a reporter and also the fact that almost every column he wrote is available online today. i could look up every original column and i can go back and cite the information with confidence after studying his life. host: your
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