The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

The New York Times and the Bay of Pigs

While I have the Hallin out (piece earlier), I've refreshed my memory with his account (p22ff) of the incident involving a piece by Tad Szulc on preparations being made for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Visiting Florida in April 1961, Szulc had found the invasion was an open secret amongst Cuban exiles. He wrote a piece which was destined for the front page. Hallin quotes Harrison Salisbury's description of the bull pen of news editors Theodore Bernstein and Lewis Jordan laying out the page, with Szulc's piece accorded the honour of a Column 8 berth (right-hand lede) with a four-column hed.

However, Hallin goes on,
Orville Dryfoos, the publisher, had meanwhile been on the phone to James Reston, the Washington bureau chief. He and Reston had agreed, he told [managing editor Turner] Catledge, that the story should at least be toned down, lest the Times be "blamed for tipping off Castro." All references to the imminence of the invasion and the involvement of the CIA were excised, the size of the head was reduced from four columns to one, and the story was bumped from the right-hand lead to column four.

This duly went down like a ham sandwich at a barmitzvah over in the newsroom.

But did Dryfoos [1] have his arm twisted? Hallin cites Kennedy's speech of April 27 1961 to the American Newspaper Publishers Association which is a menacing call to conformity:
On many earlier occasions, I have said--and your newspapers have constantly said--that these are times that appeal to every citizen's sense of sacrifice and self-discipline. They call out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against his obligations to the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who serve in the newspaper business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.

I have no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news. I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or any new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: "Is it news?" All I suggest is that you add the question: "Is it in the interest of the national security?"...And should the press of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific new steps or machinery, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations.

A horse's head worthy of his bosom buddy Sam Giancana, I'd say!

But the suggestion is that Kennedy, having been tipped off by someone at the Times that a bombshell story on Cuba was imminent, phoned Dryfoos to get him to desist.

There's no sign of the JFK call in Hallin's book; and, apart from the piece linked, nothing online for "orville dryfoos" "tad szulc". I wonder whether the story comes from Seymour Hersh's The Dark Side of Camelot whose reliability has come into question.

  1. Dryfoos, Dreyfus - let's call the whole thing off...

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