Mouthpiece Journalism

By Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid

March 17, 2000

On March 7, ABC’s Sam Donaldson gave a classic demonstration of "mouthpiece journalism." Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Sam replied to a caller who had said the government was covering up the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800. Sam said that his friend Pierre Salinger believed that the plane had been shot down by a missile fired from a U.S. submarine. He said that was false, that the plane was not shot down by a missile.

I called in to test Donaldson’s knowledge of the facts. He said, "We investigated it. That’s why I say it. I don’t say it because I read it in the newspapers. We actually investigated it." Yes, he did a report on the crash in 1997. It was mouthpiece journalism, meaning it presented the government’s claim that the crash was caused by a spark in the center wing fuel tank. I said, "You are still holding to that theory even though in three years they have not been able to develop one iota of evidence that the fuel tank could have blown up spontaneously by some spark."

Donaldson said, "But that’s not true, sir.... Your statement that they have not produced one iota of evidence that the fuel tank, the center fuel tank, could have blown up because of the vapor is just not true, sir." That wasn’t what Reed said. Of course the tank exploded. The question is, was it caused by a spark or a missile.

Acknowledging that he had not visited any web sites that provide information on the crash, Donaldson, said, "I’ve gone to the evidence and looked at it myself. I’ve looked at the mock-up of the plane. I’ve looked at the metal. I’ve looked at the twisted plates. You’ve seen where the explosion comes from. The metal comes out, not in. I have seen it, sir. It’s not true what you say."

Reed pointed out that ABC News had not covered any of the press conferences where investigators and eyewitnesses had presented very convincing evidence of a cover-up of the cause of the crash. Donaldson responded with a bad distortion of the ridiculous crash scenario developed by the CIA to discredit all the eyewitnesses. He said, "They may have seen things in the sky, but by the time they saw the explosion, that plane had been dead for twenty-six seconds, because ....the first thing that happened was explosion of the center fuel tank, which was not visible. It separated the nose of the plane."

An explosion strong enough to break off the plane’s nose was not visible? The CIA had said, "The explosion, though very loud, was not seen by any known eyewitness." It assumed that no eyewitnesses looked skyward until they heard the loud noise forty-eight seconds after the fuel tank exploded. The CIA says what they saw was the noseless plane climbing three thousand feet and exploding again. It says they mistook this for a missile attack. Eyewitnesses say this CIA scenario is garbage, and radar data released last year confirm it. But mouthpiece journalists like Donaldson reject any evidence showing that their government sources have lied to them. Accusing me of believing in a "vast conspiracy in this doom-shaped world," he advised me to forget it.

Original article