One President's Secrets—And The Media That Keeps Them

There’s still a striking double standard between the way the big American media treat American officials and foreigners. Let’s compare Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former President George H.W. Bush.

Have a look at a recent New York Times article about Putin’s response to leaked diplomatic cables that cast him in a negative light.

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin responded Wednesday to criticism of Russia revealed in United States diplomatic cables published by the Web site WikiLeaks, warning Washington not to interfere in Russian domestic affairs.

His comments, made in an interview broadcast Wednesday night on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” referred to a cable that said “Russian democracy has disappeared” and that described the government as “an oligarchy run by the security services,” a statement attributed to the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates.

Mr. Putin said in the interview that Mr. Gates had been “deeply misled.” Asked about a cable that described President Dmitri A. Medvedev as “playing Robin to Putin’s Batman,” he said the author had “aimed to slander one of us.”

The next paragraph is of particular interest here:

Mr. King, whose program is carried on CNN’s channels around the world, has long had a reputation for softball questions. So Mr. Putin’s decision to appear on the program allowed his voice to be heard both in the United States and abroad while avoiding being challenged on contentious topics like his own grip on power and the limits on human rights and free speech in Russia.

How often does The Times go after King for “softball questions?” Well, let’s have a look. King recently interviewed former president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. How did the Times cover it? Just a short item in its blog, The Caucus, about a recent appearance by the elder Bushes with the suspender-clad host:

Barbara Bush, the former first lady, got in one of her ever-so-genteel digs at Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska. In a CNN interview to be broadcast on Larry King tonight, Ms. Bush said of Ms. Palin, “I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she’s very happy in Alaska.” She then added the zinger: “And I hope she’ll stay there.”

This is basically gossip. But there are plenty of serious questions, also based on documents, that should be directed, if not at Barbara Bush, then at her husband. Why has neither Larry King, the New York Times or any other corporate-owned news source bothered to ask this former president the following questions:

-Why did you claim, years ago, not to remember where you were on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963? Have you since been able to recall?

-Can you tell us about your longstanding friendship with George de Mohrenschildt, the man who was in and out of Lee Harvey Oswald’s house on almost a daily basis in the year before the Kennedy assassination?

-Did you, as characterized in an FBI memo, work as a CIA officer in tandem with Cuban exiles at the time of the Kennedy assassination?

-Why have you never spoken publicly about the documented call you made to the FBI on Nov 22, 1963, in which you identified yourself fully and claimed to have information on a possible suspect in Kennedy’s death? What was the purpose of that call, in which you mentioned your whereabouts at the time of the call, 1:45pm, as Tyler, Texas, i.e. about 99 miles away but just a short flight on the private plane on which you were traveling? Why did you tell the FBI that you were en route next to Dallas and would stay at the Sheraton there when you had already been at the Sheraton the night before—and right after that call flew to Dallas but only to switch planes and fly back immediately to Houston? Why were you giving the FBI the impression you would be staying in Dallas the night after the assassination instead of letting them know you had stayed there the night before the assassination?

-Why was your own assistant at the home of the man you would finger as a suspect in the shooting, and why did he end up providing the man with an alibi? Was the ultimate purpose of that call not to cause the alleged suspect any permanent harm, but merely to use the “tip” as an excuse to state in government files that you were in a place other than Dallas?

-Since you claimed not to remember where you were when Kennedy was killed, how is it that after these FBI memos surfaced in the 1990s, your wife Barbara suddenly found and published what is purported to be an old contemporaneous letter written at the moment of the assassination, placing you and her in Tyler Texas shortly after the shooting?

-On the day of the assassination, were you in touch with your friend and Republican running mate Jack Crichton, a military intelligence figure who was connected to figures forcing their way into the pilot car of Kennedy’s motorcade? The same Crichton who controlled the man who served as the interpreter between Oswald’s wife and police and reframed her words so as to implicate Oswald in Kennedy’s shooting? The same Crichton who was working out of a secret underground communications bunker below the streets of Dallas? The same Crichton whose secret military intelligence unit counted dozens of men who simultaneously held jobs as Dallas police officers? The same Crichton who did secret oil industry intelligence work in the Middle East while you did intelligence related oil industry work via your company, Zapata Offshore?

-What about the fact trail suggesting that, just like Vladimir Putin, you spent a lifetime in covert operations—but unlike Putin, you have not admitted that? That as far back as the early 1950s, your small but hyperactive company, Zapata Offshore, appears to have been commercial cover for super-secret ops?

These matters are extensively documented, and source materials footnoted, in the pages of my book Family of Secrets - a book provided to The Times and to shows like King’s.  Yet while the allegations about Putin in the Wikileaks documents can be raised (and King criticized for not taking them on), these outfits seem unwilling to apply the same scrutiny to a living former US president who is treated with nothing but deference.

How ironic that the Times piece, and the Wikileaks document, cite Robert Gates calling Russia “an oligarchy run by the security services.” Who is Robert Gates? A security service lifer, protégé of long standing of George H.W. Bush, himself, scion of the American oligarchy. Gates, CIA director for HW Bush, and defense secretary for another scion of the American oligarchy, George W. Bush, and—for some reason never properly articulated, retained in that position by the Democratic “reformer” Barack Obama. Step back for a moment and consider how hard it is for President Obama to institute changes in taxation that benefit struggling ordinary Americans while asking a bit more of the wealthiest and most privileged people in this country.

Some news, it seems, is just a little too big to cover.


Image Credit:  (


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.


4 responses to “One President's Secrets—And The Media That Keeps Them”