Saturday, August 22, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 4

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 3 of article).

In a 1993 telephone interview, Downtown asked Reader’s Digest’s then-press spokesperson, Craig Lowder, what the magazine’s response is, to the criticism that it has acted as a tool of the CIA since 1948, as asserted in John Heidenry’s book Theirs Was The Kingdom.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to respond to every allegation made in Heidenry’s book. But I can comment generally on the book. Frankly, we feel his book is full of a lot of gossip, a lot of unsubstantiated innuendos, and many factual inaccuracies,” replied Lowder. “We learned about Heidenry’s plans to write a book and were initially excited about it. But then we found out what he was doing, when we received complaints from some former employees about the kind of questions he was asking. They didn’t believe what he was doing. His book became an unfair character assassination of [Reader’s Digest co-founder] DeWitt Wallace. There’s so much in that book that’s completely false. There are some charges made in which his only alleged sources are people who are now dead.”

The Reader’s Digest then-spokesperson, however, wasn’t willing to specifically confirm or deny the specific allegations in Heidenry’s book regarding the magazine’s historic CIA ties.

Despite its history of apparently using Reader’s Digest as a secret propaganda instrument, the Central Intelligence Agency wasn’t too eager in the early 1990s to let the many readers of Reader’s Digest read about the exact nature of the CIA’s relationship to Reader’s Digest co-founder DeWitt Wallace and the magazine. Theirs Was The Kingdom author Heidenry, for example, noted in 1993: “An FOIA request to the CIA for its files on DeWitt Wallace and on the Reader’s Digest was denied, as was an appeal…” (end of part 4)

(Downtown 10/27/93)