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The hole in Byron York's head
Posted By Elizabeth Farah On 01/20/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
My February issue of the American Spectator arrived today. I immediately flipped to page 50 to reread the article, “Ron Brown’s Body,” written by Byron York. Why reread a piece of no worth? Because it’s just plain fun to analyze the inconsistencies and machinations of a “professional” who sacrifices integrity for reasons unknown.
York’s article is best described as a hit piece on Chris Ruddy, the journalist who broke the story that a military forensic pathologist, Lt. Col. Steven Cogswell, identified a perfectly round cylindrical hole in Ron Brown’s head. Of course, given Cogswell’s impeccable credentials, many would say, further investigation is necessary. Not so, says York. These are “baseless accusations.”
Let’s look at his use of words. Baseless means “without foundation.” Are photographs and x-rays of the wound enough of a foundation to warrant further investigation? Since Steven Cogswell came forward, three other professionals in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology have echoed his concerns. Does this fact constitute a suitable foundation? Apparently not, in York’s opinion. And to which “accusations” is he referring? To ascertain if Mr. York had uncovered some new wrinkle in the story , I carefully reread every statement in his piece. It took some searching but I did find one fact in the four-page article with which York challanges Ruddy’s reporting. He quotes Air Force Col. William Gormley as stating “the hole was not actually a hole; that is, it did not fully penetrate the skull. It was rather, a circular indentation in the top of the skull.” York contradicts one fact in his whole article — and he gets it wrong. We have known since Dec. 5, that the hole in Brown’s head penetrated the skull! (Psst. We even have pictures.) As a matter of fact, Gormley reversed his statement weeks ago. How’s that for hard-hitting journalism?
Let’s look for other inconsistencies. On page 53, Mr. York quotes White House spokesman Mike McCurry. McCurry was asked whether he gave any credence to the Brown-was-shot stories, his response:
“Absolutely none. And credence is only given to those reports by entities associated with Richard Mellon Scaife. And we are right back into another one of these chasing a story that’s been ginned up by people who no doubt for whatever reason hate the President of the United States….It’s time to knock this stuff off. And I’m not going to talk about this further or take any further questions on the subject.”
How’s that for righteous indignation? York then makes his point, “McCurry’s words were familiar to anyone who has followed the White House’s smear-the-accuser response to allegations of Clinton wrongdoing. While the tactic has been enormously successful against legitimate questions … it probably won’t work against the baseless accusations of the Ron Brown story.” (emphasis added) This comparison is rich. York had previously revealed to the reader the basis for his scathing denunciation of in his own “smear-the-accuser response.” He says the real issue is not the hole in Brown’s head but “Ruddy’s credibility” and “questionable reporting.” Parroting McCurry’s style, York points out that Ruddy works for a “newspaper owned by Richard Mellon Scaife.” In this he sees no contradiction. Nor does he point out that unlike Ruddy, he did not “investigate” the Brown story. He places no significance on the four experts’ findings, only his opinion of Ruddy’s veracity. By the way, until a scant two months ago, Mr. Scaife was a major financial supporter of … you guessed it … the American Spectator! Has Mr. York heard of the terms “conflict of interest” or “full disclosure”? I only ask because Scaife withdrew his financial support of the American Spectator because of a previous Ruddy hit piece they published. Oooo! Those grapes are sour!
In case you’re wondering what Mr. York says in the balance of his article, I’ll tell you — paragraph after paragraph of thinly veiled contempt for the black Americans who are demanding an investigation. I have no comment, if you want to wade through that muck, you’ll have to read the article yourself.
I imagined myself calling Mr. York for an interview. Of course, because I’m not “an investigative reporter” like he is, I am a little nervous.
Elizabeth: Mr. York, have you interviewed Chris Ruddy?
Mr. York: Chris Ruddy who? Oh, ah, no. You see I wrote this investigative report from the stance that the story is baseless. If I had interviewed Ruddy, he would try to confuse me with facts. Facts are sort of, well, they mix me up. I want to keep this piece straight and to the point.
Elizabeth: Have you interviewed Lt. Col. Steven Cogswell? Lt. Col. David Hause? Air Force Maj. Thomas Parsons? Chief Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski, all of whom dispute the findings of Col. Gormley?
Mr. York: No, ah, they weren’t home.
Elizabeth: Have you interviewed any representative of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology?
Mr. York: I found that unnecessary. I did read a couple of articles and saw a show in which they were quoted. I even taped the program and cut out articles and put them in a file folder.
Elizabeth: What did you think of the photographs, x-rays, or the written report when you examined them?
Mr. York: Photographs? X-rays? What report?
Elizabeth: Never mind. Do you have any thoughts about the official report from AFIP which government officials refuse to release? Did you know that two of the experts asked to participate in the review of the original investigation still insist an autopsy is necessary to determine Brown’s cause of death? And what about the missing photographs and x-rays from the case file? Did you know that one of the experts suggests they may have been intentionally destroyed?
Mr. York: What do we know about these experts, anyway? What is their agenda? They must be left-wing or right-wing kooks. Do they expect us to believe their motivations are based on professional ethics and integrity?
Elizabeth: Speaking of professional ethics … well, never mind. Gee, look at the time, you’ve given me all I need – deadline you know. Look for my column.
Mr. York: Hey wait a minute!! How can you do a thorough job without spending some time I N V E S T I G A T I N G! You’ve only asked me five questions for heaven’s sake!
Elizabeth: But Mr. York, that’s five more questions than you asked Christopher Ruddy.
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