Tuesday, November 6, 2007

CBS's Secret 1976 Luncheon With Former President Bush I

Shortly after [now-deceased] former Warren Commission member and U.S. President Gerald Ford named U.S. President George W. Bush II’s father (former U.S. President Bush I) as CIA director in 1976, former President Bush I secretly met with former CBS board chairman and former Columbia University Trustee William Paley, former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite, former 60 Minutes Correspondent Mike Wallace and the now-deceased former CBS News Correspondent Eric Sevareid at a luncheon in Paley's private dining room on the 35th floor of the CBS Building in Manhattan, according to former CBS News Correspondent Daniel Schorr’s Clearing The Air book. Although Schorr had been assigned by CBS News to report on CIA activities, he wasn’t invited to attend CBS’s luncheon for Bush. In Schorr’s view, “…Paley’s lunch for Bush assumed larger proportions in my mind as a symbol of alienation—CBS socializing with the CIA inside while it kept its own CIA reporter outside.”

Schorr later found out what was talked about at former CIA Director Bush I’s secret meeting with Paley, Cronkite, Wallace and Sevareid. According to Clearing The Air, the CBS luncheon for Bush “did not go as” Paley “had hoped” and “What was to be a sociable welcome for the son of the late Senator Prescott Bush, warmly remembered as an early CBS board member, turned, after dessert, into an argument about CIA agents posing as reporters…” According to Clearing The Air:

“Cronkite demanded that Bush disclose the list of news people who actually had been CIA agents. Bush…flatly refused to uncover those who had served the CIA in the past under a promise of eternal confidentiality. At the height of the argument, Paley stepped in graciously supporting his guest and suggesting that it would be best to bury the past.”

On Feb. 17, 1976, the Washington Post also reported that “at the luncheon with CBS, Bush had found support for his idea of burying the past and not trying to expose journalists who had worked for the CIA.”

Although CBS News’ Director of Communications Tom Goodman told Downtown in 1992 that “We’ve never hired any CIA employees in the present or the past,” in Clearing The Air former CBS News Correspondent Schorr noted that in 1976:

“Sig Mickelson, former president of CBS News, was prepared to state that two former CBS stringers had worked for the CIA. On the telephone, Mickelson…told me he had learned from CIA Director Allen Dulles in 1956 that Frank Kearns, stringer in Cairo, was actually in the agency’s employ. So was Austin Goodrich, one-time stringer in Stockholm, about whom Mickelson said he had learned, of all places, in Paley’s office. In October 1954, just back from his introductory tour of European bureaus as head of CBS News, Mickelson said he was called in by Paley and introduced to two CIA officials. They wanted to know why he had not met with Goodrich while in Stockholm, which would have been useful to Goodrich’s cover.”

Although Schorr was originally asked by the CBS Morning News producer at that time, Charles Thompson, to arrange a live interview with Mickelson to talk about CBS’s hiring of CIA employees, the midnight before the interview was to take place the CBS Morning News producer “called in distress to say that he had been ordered by `higher authority’ to cancel the Mickelson interview for the Morning News,” according to Clearing The Air.

(Downtown 6/24/92)

Next: Interviewing CBS News’ Director of Communications In 1992