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December 02, 2006

"I Tried To Change The Subject [Away From Reality]"

I assume this lapse in protocol occurred because Peter Jennings was Canadian:

Four years ago, Barbara Walters, who calls Kissinger "the most loyal friend,"was entertaining Kissinger and his wife at a dinner party for a D.C. politician when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died last year, suddenly piped up, "How does it feel to be a war criminal, Henry?"

The subject of Kissinger's past sins was very much in the air at the time. Judges in both France and Spain were seeking Kissinger for questioning as the long-simmering debate over his connection to Chilean general Augusto Pinochet's brutal killing of dissidents in the seventies returned with a vengeance...

The question stunned the dinner guests, who included Time Inc. editor Henry Grunwald, who also died last year, and former ABC chairman Thomas Murphy. Grunwald told Jennings the comment was "unsuitable," but Jennings persisted.

"I tried to change the subject, but it was a very uncomfortable moment," says Walters. "[Kissinger's wife] Nancy reacted very strongly and hurt."

Kissinger said nothing.

What I especially like is the editor of Time, Inc. telling a journalist that asking a powerful figure a question about reality is "unsuitable." Just imagine that said by hundreds of editors to thousands of reporters (as powerful new executives watch approvingly) and you will understand the U.S. media.

BONUS: Here's David Broder getting an award at the National Press Club in 1988:

"I can't for the life of me fathom why any journalists would want to become insiders, when it's so much fun being outsiders—irreverent, inquisitive, incorrigibly independent outsiders, thumbing our nose at authority and going our own way."

Broder then added, "I am Anastasia Romanov."

Posted at December 2, 2006 08:15 AM | TrackBack

1. Well, if the Jennings question were to have been asked and followed up since the Germans of WWII fame were hanged or jailed for war crimes and crimes against humanity, most "leaders" of most governments should have enjoyed their fate--USA, USSR, France, African and ME and S America.
The list of dead and tortured is long and spreads across the globe.
2. Broder is disingenuous. You become an insider to get the tidbits for the story or many tidbits for the book, a la Woodward. That's how the system in DC has worked for decades and Broder knows. A few real reporters still exist, usually on small papers.

Posted by: donescobar at December 2, 2006 11:18 AM
What I especially like is the editor of Time, Inc. telling a journalist that asking a powerful figure a question about reality is "unsuitable."

You mean around a formal dinner table or during one of the reputed news shows that Jennings had influence on? He had no issues editorializing on a number of permitted subjects.

Isn't this type of character redemption common? Jennings had the intestinal fortitude to question Henry in private. I don't recall this line of questioning being forefront on the news aside from the matter of fact announcements that Henry has been indicted yet again in some European court, thus justifying reasons not to join the ICC, lest we subject our politicians to political whims of leftists the world over.

In other words, the authorized news uses the fact that Henry is indicted as a building the case against the ICC, not as an effort to inform citizens and examine foreign policy fuckupedness.

Posted by: Ted Pan at December 2, 2006 11:33 AM

Is Broder still writing, so to speak?

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at December 2, 2006 11:37 AM

how dare a canadian of all people ask such an impertinent question!!!

i demand he be exhumed and then beheaded, and the head to be presented on a platter to that Epitome of Peaceful Democratic Diplomacy named Henry Kissinger.

Posted by: almostinfamous at December 2, 2006 12:09 PM

Jennings must have know he had cancer and thought "What the fuck? I'll just say it." He salvaged a bit of his soul.

Posted by: Lloyd at December 2, 2006 01:10 PM

He should've get himself checked for Polonium 210 after that dinner.

Posted by: abb1 at December 2, 2006 01:40 PM

Oops - "should've get"? That's it, I'm firing my editor.

Posted by: abb1 at December 2, 2006 01:44 PM

Baba Wawa has Kissinger as a "most loyal friend"; Larry King was extremely chummy w. George H.W. Bush on a recent show; it makes me glad to be nobody and to associate with nobodies.

Thank God I'm a mammal,

Posted by: Freddy el Desfibradddoro at December 2, 2006 03:06 PM

I've always thought war criminals should have a German accent. That's why I always liked Kissinger.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at December 2, 2006 03:28 PM

"Time Inc. editor Henry Grunwald, who also died last year," and when the rest of these soul-less f*cks die off the world will get a chance, again, I suppose.


Back to nursing my bowl of sliced bananas and chocolate pudding.

Posted by: rich at December 2, 2006 04:26 PM

The question is, in fact, unsuitable for a dinner party. It belongs in a prime-time or big magazine news interview. Where, as Ted Pan correctly notes above, Jennings already understood it to be unsuitable (and Grunwald likewise).

Posted by: Nell at December 2, 2006 08:30 PM

Jonathan, re Broder: Don't you mean "And I am Marie of Roumania?"

Posted by: Nell at December 2, 2006 08:32 PM

That Peter Jennings was just a major league asshole. ;)

Posted by: PhillyD at December 2, 2006 10:23 PM

I liked Peter Jennings. Brokaw and Rather always came across as being real-life Ted Baxters, a la the Mary Tyler Moore show.

(I wonder if Clinton regards himself as a war criminal, in his heart of hearts. I imagine he's not delusional like GWB, and he's certainly smart enough to understand the ramifications of his actions (and inactions), and in Rwanda, Iraq, and probably in other places whose specifics I forget offhand.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at December 3, 2006 02:03 AM

Great description of todays' corporate media.

I can see why one could state Bill Clinton might be theoretically guilty of war crimes, however, in this reality, the discussion was of actual circumstances of Kissinger being wanted for testimony by two sovereign states regarding his alleged involvement in war crimes. I am unaware Bill Clinton was similarly charged, what with all the attention focused south of his belt.

And always remember: almost 70% of us saw through the relentless msm circus about oral sex. His highest approval ratings.

Good on us.

But yes, what Clinton did with those sanctions could be termed criminal. Should be.

Posted by: farang at December 4, 2006 09:09 AM

Seymour Hersh is apparently the only American journalist that uses his connections to expose contradictions rather than to take dictation. CNN/Fox/NYT are just court stenographers.

Posted by: Cous Cous at December 4, 2006 12:44 PM

You have to admire the big, brass balls on Jennings.

Posted by: Big Ed at December 5, 2006 09:46 PM

We aren't given the context of Jennings' question to Kissinger. Maybe Kissinger had just said something insulting like "the media likes to pretend it is part of the aristocracy, but they are Boswells to our Johnsons"

Posted by: MRx at December 5, 2006 11:07 PM