Daniel Schorr -30-

Of all the many tributes and stories remembering the life and career of Dan Schorr, Scott Simon’s was the one that that moved me most. Schorr wasn’t a teddy bear; he pissed presidents and premiers off, as well as colleagues, columnists, and Congressmen.

NPR’s Scott Simon Remembers Daniel Schorr : NPR

No other journalist in memory saw as much history as Daniel Schorr.

He was born the year before the Russian Revolution and lived to see the Digital Revolution. He was there before the Berlin Wall went up and there a generation later when it came down. He was born before people had radio in their homes but pioneered the use of radio, television, satellites and then the Web to report the news.

How many people were personal acquaintances of Edward R. Murrow, Nikita Khrushchev, Frank Zappa and Richard Nixon?

For all the history that he reported, Dan Schorr will always be remembered for the moment he stood before live television cameras in 1974 with a breaking bulletin about a list of enemies compiled by the White House.

Schorr began to read the names. One of them was his own. “The note here is, ‘A real media enemy,'” he read, before continuing through the list.

“What went through my mind was, ‘Don’t lose your cool. Be professional,'” he said years later.

Schorr’s career is detailed, including the infamous story of how he allowed his old bosses at CBS think for a time that Lesley Stahl had actually leaked some Congressional documents to the “left-leaning” Village Voice. He gives his side of it, most notably in a quoted interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Other stories note the incident, showing that there were some people at CBS’ Washington bureau who maybe never forgave him for it.

There’s more about the Nixon enemies’ list by another LA Times/AP writer that added a few nice quotes by surviving elder statesmen of journalism Bill Moyers and Bob Schieffer (the latter of “Face the Nation”).

Daniel Schorr’s path through the news business began in print, then led to almost three decades in television with CBS News and the fledgling cable network CNN.

By the time of his death, he was best known as a longtime senior news analyst and liberal commentator on National Public Radio. He also wrote several books, including his memoir, “Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism.”

Bill Moyers, who like Schorr had stints at CBS News and in public broadcasting, said Schorr was a model of integrity.

“At NPR, he exemplified the very best of public broadcasting by refusing to be intimidated by either official funders or partisan thugs who besieged the brass in protest of his honest reporting,” Moyers wrote Friday in an e-mail. “With razor-sharp wit, personal courage, and love of our craft, he distinguished himself and journalism.”

CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer said if not for Schorr, he doesn’t know what reporters would have done to get stories about Watergate. “When Watergate came along, he kept us in the game,” Schieffer said.

“He was a model for us all,” Schieffer said. “I’ve never seen anybody who just enjoyed reporting a story as much as he did. He just loved it.”

Schorr reported from Moscow, Havana, Bonn, Germany and many other cities as a foreign correspondent. While at CBS, he brought Americans the first-ever exclusive television interview with a Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1957.

During the Nixon years, Schorr not only covered the news as CBS’ chief Watergate correspondent, but he also became part of the story. Hoping to beat the competition, he rushed to the air with Nixon’s famous “enemies list” and began reading the list of 20 to viewers before previewing it. As he got to No. 17, he discovered his name.

“I remember that my first thought was that I must go on reading without any pause, or gasp or look of wild surmise,” he wrote in his book “Clearing the Air.”

Schorr’s stories pointing out weaknesses of the administration’s programs so angered Nixon that he ordered an FBI investigation of the reporter, on the pretext that he was being considered for a top federal job. That investigation was later mentioned in one of the three articles of impeachment — “abuse of a federal agency” — against Nixon.

In White House recordings from 1971, Nixon and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman discuss a tax investigation of Schorr in the Oval Office.

“You take a fellow like this Dan Schorr, he’s — I notice — he is always creating something, isn’t he?” Nixon said.

“Oh … He incidentally is on — you don’t, shouldn’t get involved in this, but he’s on our tax list, too,” Haldeman said.

“Good,” Nixon replied.

“They’re going after a couple of media people,” Haldeman said. “They’re going after Dan Schorr and (Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Star columnist) Mary McGrory.”

“Good,” Nixon said again.

The recording was made available by the University of Virginia, which is transcribing and annotating the secret Nixon tapes.

He didn’t lose his cool when he read the enemies’ list with his name on it, and he was always a professional. In his final “Week in Review” with Scott Simon from July 7, you can hear that his voice is a little weak and Simon feeds him some some pretty obvious “tell us about that one time, Grandpa” questions about spies, but the answers are clear and detailed. We could only wish that our current crop of Junior Journos could have as firm a grasp of the facts as Schorr had, even in his final days.

I can’t imagine what he would have made of this week’s agonizingly stupid story of the fall of Shirley Sherrod, or how she was failed by a national press that’s become incapable of checking the most minor of facts (and in fact leaving it to bloggers to both make shit up, and debunk it). It seems like at a time in our history when we most need journalists to BE JOURNALISTS, they’ve completely forgotten how to get the story, and to get it right.

It’s a frightening time when blustering, blubbering bullies diagram insane conspiracy theories on tear-stained chalkboards and nobody bothers to fact-check them. Meanwhile, batshit-insane ex-con fanboys drink the full-strength Kool-Aid and literally swallow every damn stupid crazy fearmongering thing they’re told. They then feel free to load up on guns, ammo, and body armor before heading out to shoot up the ACLU and a community organization funded by (DUNH DUNH DUHHHHHNNNNNN!) neocon bogeyman George Soros.

George Who? Dan Schorr could have analyzed it for you, but here’s what Crooks and Liars detailed earlier today, complete with timelines showing what’s been bugging Beck recently, that can be connected to the “I-580 Shooter.”

Armed to the teeth, and as a third-striker, not particularly concerned with his fate, too:

When the officers tried to contact Williams, a 12-minute-long gun battle ensued. Williams, armed with three guns, including a .308-caliber rifle that can penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, eventually surrendered and exited the vehicle.

Williams was arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court Tuesday on four counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He received enhancements for wearing body armor. [Read more]

The Tides Foundation is George Soros’ philanthropic charity, and the ACLU is, well, the ACLU. I wonder, what would cause an unstable, bitter angry man to target the ACLU and the Tides Foundation? I wonder…

Here are some recent headlines from top right wing sites. I won’t link them or quote them, but let’s see what they say.

* July 19, 2010: FoxNation: Soros-Funded Group Wants Feds to Probe Talk Radio
* July 21, 2010: Big Journalism: There You Go Again: Soros Comes to America
* June 23, 2010: Soros Says Germany Could Cause Euro Collapse – FOXBusiness.com
* June 22, 2010: ‘Glenn Beck:’ Soros Poised to Profit? – Glenn Beck – FOXNews.com
* July 6, 2010: Oliver Stone Lunches With George Soros | The FOX

Why does the right wing, and particularly Fox, hate Soros so much? As far as I can tell, there’s no rational explanation. I did, however, find an irrational explanation on a weird, off-the-beaten path right wing blog.

Here’s a summary: George Soros is a foreigner who came from a “socialist country”, allegedly supports organizations promoting child molestation (he doesn’t), supported the Solidarity movement in Poland (he did), and donated money toward George Bush’s 2004 defeat (he did, but so did a lot of people).

Mostly, it’s irrational ginned up stupid fear of absolutely nothing. His name isn’t Koch, therefore he is evil. That’s as rational as anything.

More baffling, actually, is the ACLU. For all of those liberty lovers, the ACLU should be their very, very best friend, because the ACLU loves the constitution just as much as any true teabagger. So why do they hate the ACLU?

Here are some headlines:

* July 20, 2010: ACLU Wants Prayer Banner Expelled « FOX News Radio
* July 19, 2010: Black Hills Fox – ACLU warns of travel to Arizona
* September 10, 2009: Raw Story » Fox guest: ACLU defense teams should be jailed
* July 20, 2010: Judge OKs Lying About Military Service – Fox News, blaming the ACLU for bringing the lawsuit
* July 19, 2010: Beck: Does Presidential Assassination Program Exist? (Beck alleges the President could even assassinate the ACLU)

Not a week goes by without at least three stories about the ACLU threatening the frightened viewer’s freedom and liberty. Penis pumps for illegals? Fox News blames the ACLU. American Taliban lawyer going after Arizona’s immigration law? Blame the ACLU. Tourism down in Arizona? Blame the ACLU.

This is how these wingers operate. They make bogeymen out of anyone and any organization that doesn’t fall into lockstep with their thinking. And they just don’t care when some deranged fool takes their bloviation seriously, loads up the truck, puts on the body armor, and sets out on a mission to ‘start a revolution’.

And if he couldn’t start a revolution, well hey, he can shoot at some cops instead.

It ought to be criminal. There was a time where it was. Now it seems anyone can say anything and get away with it.

Glad that Crooks and Liars is there to call it out. Sad that Dan Schorr has filed his final story and won’t be analyzing this crazy week for us tomorrow with Scott Simon. I can only hope that Dan’s legacy for rigorous fact-checking and source-protecting will live on, perhaps in a new kind of news media.

As he started out in print, it seems best to end with the traditional journalist’s sign that the Dan Schorr story can be put to bed (go to print).

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