Killing the Story: Bush's Media Accomplices
Friday, February 4, 2005
Killing a Story, Helping to Elect a Corrupt, Lying President
Almost as astonishing as the fact that President Bush cheated
and wore a device--most likely a wireless magnetic induction
hearing device--during his three presidential debate
appearances--is the fact that the nation’s two leading newspapers,
the New York Times and the Washington Post, failed to report the
story in any serious way.
While both papers did mention the issue once it had appeared in
Salon.com, the online magazine, both also treated it as a joke, an
"internet conspiracy," which was the line put out by the White
House and Bush/Cheney campaign in an intense campaign designed
to keep the potentially explosive story from going anywhere.
Now, in an article in Extra!, the media criticism journal published by
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the inside story of the killing by
senior editors of this important story about presidential cheating is
It all began when Robert Nelson, a leading astronomer and photographic
analysis expert at NASA's Jed Propulsion Laboratory who works on the
Cassini Saturn project, saw the early stories speculating about a curious
"bulge" on Bush's back following the first presidential debate. Nelson
decided, out of scientific curiosity, to snap a digital photo of the president's
back from a video of the debate, and subject it to the same enhancement
process that he routinely uses to enhance photos taken by NASA space
probes--primarily enhanced edge definition and enhanced contrast.
The results, available on Extra!'s website and also on my own website, This
Can't Be Happening! , were dramatic. What looked like a curiously angular
bulge in the video is seen clearly to be an elaborate back harness with a wire
snaking up over the right shoulder.
Nelson, shocked at what he'd found, immediately tried to notify the media.
He first went to two local papers where he had some connection--the
Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, PA, where he had gone to college, and the
Star-News in Pasadena, home of JPL and Nelson himself. Neither paper
would touch the story, so Nelson went to the Los Angeles Times. There,
he says the paper diddled for four days and did nothing.
Nelson went next to science writer William Broad at the New York Times,
where at least initially he had better luck. Broad passed the story to two
Times science writers, Andy Revkin and John Schwartz, who went out and
reported further on it.
My own investigation, which included tracking down Revkin's and
Schwartz's sources, showed that they had gone to scientists at Cornell
(to confirm Nelson's reputation), the Bush campaign, and to spyware
experts and makers of devices similar to what Nelson had found under
the presidential jacket. It was a major story they developed and on the
week before election day, it was ready to run--first on Tuesday, Oct. 26,
and then, after being bumped by another Times investigation--the story
about the unguarded cache of high-density explosives in Iraq.