National media sidestep UFOs

Billy Cox

There was a big subculture buzz in Washington, D.C., a year ago this week when a group called the Disclosure Project launched a bid to end government secrecy surrounding unidentified flying objects. The goal: Open congressional hearings. The hook was to invite 20 witnesses, some bolstered with government documents, with testimony so compelling the media couldn’t possibly freeze it out.

No doubt, some of the panelists who showed up at the National Press Club offered detailed glimpses into the national-security ramifications of the phenomenon. Retired Air Force Capt. Bob Salas, for instance, revealed how UFOs had knocked 10 Minuteman nukes off-line at their Strategic Air Command silos in Montana in 1967. Former Federal Aviation Administration chief of Accidents and Investigations John Callahan showcased photocopies of incident reports seized by the CIA concerning a half-hour jetliner/UFO encounter off Alaska in 1986.

The ensuing failure of the national media to respond came as no surprise to a couple of journalists who’ve spent years monitoring these dynamics. What most Americans fail to understand, contend Terry Hansen and Patrick Huyghe, is that when it comes to national security issues, the facade of big-media outfits as combative public watchdogs has always been fragile. Throw UFOs into the mix and that facade becomes a myth.

From the World War II-era recruitment of Scripps-Howard executive editor John Sorrels and publishing magnate John Knight by the U.S. Office of Censorship to The New York Times’ quashing its own field reports about the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala, Hansen’s The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up chronicles repeated patterns of sometimes avid collusion with conventional covert operations. That such duplicity should extend to UFOs shouldn’t be terribly surprising, and yet, it is.

Take, for instance, a correspondence discovered at the Smithsonian Institution in 1997 between former members of the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel. Formed in 1953 to marginalize UFOs after a vexing volume of reports began receiving media attention, the panel recommended smearing witnesses as a way to stanch the flow.

In 1966, shortly after a “CBS Reports” investigation on UFOs portrayed witnesses as delusional or unreliable, Robertson panelist Thorton Page wrote former group secretary Fred Durant that he “helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel conclusions.” The host of that show: Walter Cronkite, aka The Most Trusted Man In America. 

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