March 6, 1996
Michael H. Jordan
Chairman, Westinghouse Electric Corporation
11 Stanwix Street
Dear Mr. Jordan: In the Wall Street Journal article on you of February 28, 1996, the phrase "pulling CBS from the ratings basement" caught my attention, and led me to wonder whether it would be possible to accomplish such a feat while CBS continues to be weighed down with personnel who have demonstrated such lapses of intelligence and of integrity as were requisite to broadcasting "The Ugly Face of Freedom." If you take the trouble to read the enclosed documentation, I am sure that you will be convinced that my depiction of this broadcast as requiring lapses of both intelligence and integrity is not hyperbolic, but rather is restrained.
Let me right now give you just one example of the hatemongering that was offered to CBS viewers as investigative journalism in "The Ugly Face of Freedom." It is Morley Safer reading into the camera — without so much as blinking — "The Church and Government of Ukraine have tried to ease people's fears, suggesting that ... Ukrainians, despite the allegations, are not genetically anti-Semitic." One might have expected that no mainstream journalist would be able to speak such words in any public forum and still keep his job. Had someone made up the equally fantastic and inflammatory "The World Jewish Congress has tried to ease people's fears, suggesting that Jews, despite the allegations, are not genetically addicted to usury," then surely he would have been out of a job. Mr. Safer did say one of these things — does it matter which one? — and yet somehow he still works for CBS television, reading his lines into the camera just as if he is not to be held accountable for his statement, carrying on as before just as if he had not played the leading role in what may be the most concentrated fifteen minutes of disinformation and hate to come out of the mainstream media.
CBS's behavior since "The Ugly Face of Freedom" continues in the same vein and encourages the suspicion that those at its helm continue to be crippled by the same deficit of intelligence and of integrity. Specifically, CBS claimed first that of the 16,000 pieces of mail which it had received objecting to "The Ugly Face of Freedom," all had been answered. On being pressed, it later revised the "all" downward to 25%. And only after the Ukrainian community beat the bushes in a vain attempt to find a single person who had received an answer did CBS revise that figure downward still another notch — to none at all having been answered. Topping that off, instead of keeping the 16,000 letters of protest on file as is required by the FCC, CBS trashed them. To date, almost one and a half years after the original broadcast, CBS remains frozen like a deer in the headlights of an onrushing car, devoid on the one hand of arguments to refute the charges levelled against the broadcast, and devoid also of the courage to admit that these charges are correct — perhaps taking the advice of its lawyers that when you find yourself unable to say anything convincing in your own defense, then the best policy is to say nothing at all.
I urge you in the interests both of truth and of redeeming CBS to weed out the incompetents responsible for "The Ugly Face of Freedom," and to direct CBS to offer its viewers the retraction and apology which are long overdue.
cc: Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace