TWA 800: Thank God for C-SPAN!
This Saturday at 8:45 p.m. and Sunday at 10 p.m., on C-SPAN’s "Book-TV", a national TV audience will get to see, unedited, my take on the fate of TWA Flight 800.
In truth, the story should have been on every network. My book, TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy, addresses the most successful cover-up in American peacetime history, the one that followed the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island in July 1996. The fact that the Clinton White House orchestrated this cover-up during the heat of the 1996 election campaign should have made the new information in the book at least as newsworthy as, say, an eleven-year-old hot mic recording of a Donald Trump locker room chat.
As Trump has been at pains to point out, however, that is not the way our media roll, especially the broadcast media -- except, of course, for C-SPAN. In the way of background, Brian Lamb, a Purdue grad and Navy vet, first conceived of C-SPAN in 1975. While working for a cable industry trade magazine, he saw the need for a nonprofit network funded by the cable industry to televise sessions of Congress and other public affairs presentations. By 1979, C-SPAN was up and running and, as far as I can see, has kept to the straight and narrow.
This will be my tenth "Book-TV" presentation. The other nine are all available on line, beginning with my 2004 book Ron Brown’s Body. Despite titles like You Lie! and I Had a Son, the website editors describe my books as matter-of-factly as if I had written a book on John Adams or the Panama Canal.
Consider, for instance, the introductory paragraph for my 2011 book Deconstructing Obama: “Jack Cashill questions whether President Obama wrote his memoir, Dreams from My Father. Cashill argues that Barack Obama was assisted in the writing of his 1995 memoir by Bill Ayers and contends that the president's life story is different than the one presented in his biography.” Bingo!
Compare this description to one offered up on the same subject by New Yorker editor David Remnick, “Cashill’s assertions might well have remained a mere twinkling in the Web’s farthest lunatic orbit had it not been for the fact that more powerful voices hoped to give his theory wider currency.” Now, you can begin to see why I appreciate C-SPAN.
I had hoped “more powerful voices” would have given wider currency to my TWA 800 book, but with some notable mainstream exceptions -- the New York Post, the London Daily Mail, the Newark Star-Ledger -- that has not happened. It has not been for want of trying. My publicists at Regnery and I have been knocking on doors for the last three months, including those of the Washington Post and New York Times.
As with all my investigative books, I offered to share my information without reserve and promised Pulitzers to those crusading journalists who would take the story the next step. What I discovered for the tenth time, however, is that there are no crusading journalists left in the major media.
For a moment at least, NY1, New York’s 24-hour news station, seemed like an exception. In the week after the twentieth anniversary of TWA 800’s destruction, a cameraman from the station called and asked if he could interview me. The timing worked out as I was at the New Jersey shore that week.
The interview lasted two hours and went as well as an interview could. The cameraman thought he was on to something, and so did his producer. She called to tell me how much she liked the material and followed up with an email. “Thank you so much for the information and contacts you've passed along,” she wrote. “I feel strongly about this story and am definitely giving it 120%.” She finished the email with a p.s., “I’ve been glued to your book.”
I spare the producer’s name because she tried her best. Embedded in her email was a caveat that I read with more caution than she intended. It said simply, “I really hope [the story] continues to get approval through the ranks here.” If there were “ranks” to be gotten through, I was confident the story would not get through them, and I was right.
Again without intending, the cameraman had planted a political IED in the recording. At the very end of the session, he asked me how the news of the cover-up, if it ever broke, would affect Hillary’s chances in the election. I downplayed the consequences, but there was no denying there would be some. Alas, the NY1 story blew up somewhere between the New Jersey Shore and the New York air waves.
Thank God for C-SPAN! I did my "Book-TV" presentation at the TWA Museum in Kansas City three weeks ago. Audience members had to register in advance, and TWA veterans took most of the seats in the SRO crowd. I did not need to remind them that 53 of their colleagues died in that crash. Many in the audience knew at least some of the dead. There is a room at the Museum dedicated to their memory.
I began by telling those in attendance I would not dishonor that memory -- nor would they allow me to -- merely to sell books. As the audience understood, the media use the term “conspiracy theorist” as a coping mechanism, a way to allow reporters to feel okay with the fact that others are doing the work they get paid to do.
At the end of the presentation the TWA vets asked some very knowing questions, and not a one of them, as far as I could tell, has bought the government line that the plane just sort of blew up. Tune in Saturday to see for yourself.