In an utterly convincing 20-minute piece on the tragic fate of TWA Flight 800, Australian reporter Charles Wooley and producer Steven Burling have shown their American counterparts what real reporting looks like.
The piece aired Friday on the Australian version of “60 Minutes.” It draws heavily from “TWA Flight 800,” a new documentary on the destruction of the Paris-bound 747 that blew up off the coast of Long Island in July 1996.
Producers of “TWA Flight 800″ Tom Stalcup and Kristina Borjesson did their homework. They persuaded a half-dozen highly credible whistleblowers from within the investigation to tell their stories on camera. They also interviewed any number of eyewitnesses.
The unmistakable conclusion of both the documentary and the “60 Minutes” segment is that the plane was shot down, possibly by as many as three proximity-fuse missiles. The producers choose not to say who did the shooting, but their evidence points to an accidental strike by the U.S. Navy.
By contrast to the Aussies, the American media continue to embarrass themselves with reporting that is simultaneously both dumb and dishonest. I got a whiff of this up-close when I appeared this summer on CNN’s “New Day” with Alison Kosik.
After introducing the subject, Kosik turned to Jim Polk, a CNN producer who did an earlier documentary on the subject. To prove that TWA 800 was not shot down, he showed interviews with two airline pilots who were flying above TWA Flight 800 and about 20 miles away. They did not see a missile.
When Kosik asked my opinion, I said, “Well, unlike what Jim says, there were 270 eyewitnesses to a missile strike, 96 of them, this is FBI eyewitnesses, saw it from the horizon ascend all the way up to the plane. They all described it the same way.”
As I explained to Kosik, the FBI recruited the CIA to create an animation to show what the witnesses purportedly saw. The animation showed the nose of the plane blowing off allegedly from a fuel tank explosion. The fuselage then turned upright, ascended rocket-like about 3,500 feet, and confused the eyewitnesses into thinking they saw a missile.
Aviation pros thought this zoom-climb scenario a joke and did not hesitate to say so. When Polk did his animation for the CNN documentary 10 years after the crash, he wisely eliminated the zoom climb.
When I pressed him, Polk agreed there “was no supporting evidence for the CIA’s animation.” What then, I asked him, did the eyewitnesses see? How, I wanted to ask, could he continue to buy the government’s scenario when its best evidence was clearly fraudulent?
Kosik came to the rescue. “OK,” she asked, “if there was an external blast, who shot [TWA Flight 800] down, why would anybody shoot it down, and why would there be this cover-up?”
Having no irrefutable evidence as to who shot the plane down and only a minute to answer, I focused on a subject that I know better than anyone but the participants.
“Let me address the cover-up,” I answered. “Five weeks after the crash, the New York Times had this headline above the fold right: ‘Prime Evidence that Explosive Device Found in or Destroyed TWA Flight 800.’ That’s a paraphrase, but it’s close.”
The actual headline was this: “Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800.” This article ran on Aug. 23, 1996. The Times argued that the FBI was uncertain whether the device was a bomb or missile, and only that uncertainty kept the FBI from declaring the plane’s destruction a crime.
“Above the fold left,” I continued, “was ‘Clinton Signs Welfare Reform Bill on Eve of Democratic National Convention.’ One of those headlines had to go.”
I pantomimed dropping the right headline from the screen. “This was Bill Clinton’s Benghazi moment,” I added. “They [the Clintons] just wanted to kick this can down the road until after November, so it would not affect the outcome of the election.”
Someone at CNN had obviously heard enough. When CNN released the transcript of the show the next day, it jumped from Polk’s final comment to Kusik awkwardly saying, “Well, the good thing is – I have to cut you guys off. But the good thing is that there’s a documentary about this.”
After I squawked about the edit, and others did as well, CNN put the missing minute back in the transcript, but their initial impulse proved anew that their heart was in all the wrong places.
The Aussie “60 Minutes” piece is a powerful antidote to the toxic nonsense from our major media. It needs to be seen and shared. That the American media have buried this story for 17 years should embarrass us all.