Jim DiEugenio has a fascinating piece about How CBS News Aided the JFK Cover up, based on the reporting of the late Roger Feinman, a CBS News employee who pushed for a serious, independent coverage of the Warren Commission report and was thwarted by his superiors who were determined to endorse the official theory of a lone gunman.
The documentary detail that Feinman collected, and DiEugenio presents for the first time, makes it almost impossible to dispute that senior CBS decision-makers refused to examine the new JFK evidence with an open mind, ie, they didn’t act journalistically. Indeed, they secretly collaborated with John McCloy of the Warren Commission to make sure CBS viewers didn’t get the whole of the story.
The question, of course, is why? I don’t think these men knew the official theory was false and deliberately perpetrated a story they knew to be untrue. I think they were too invested, intellectually and financially, to consider the possibility the eminent men of the Warren Commission could reach a mistaken conclusion. Or that that senior officials of the CIA and the FBI deliberately withheld and destroyed material evidence in the case of the murdered president. Today it is beyond any dispute that they did.
In other words, the government played CBS News for suckers. And nobody likes to admit they were fooled. The CBS News leaders were like Howard Willens of the Warren Commission. They were “naive to say the least” about the CIA. They were also unprofessional in their approach to journalism and did a disservice to their viewers.
Now with the benefit of history, hindsight, and a much deeper and richer historical record of the JFK story, you might think that CBS News might revisit the story That’s almost certainly not going to happen. CBS has a lot to lose, reputationally, by admitting its JFK journalism was profoundly flawed and its brand-defining personalities (from Cronkite to Rather to Safer) failed to get the story. I would say they have something to gain–namely viewer’s trust–by admitting a mistake and looking anew at the evidence. But I’m not TV network executive.
And as DiEugenio and Feinman show in detail, there were people inside CBS who were willing and able to practice real journalism around the JFK story. They were shut down and shut up and by defensive defenders of a government that was losing credibility. Its a sad story but it needs to be told.