In National Review, Conrad Black Defends Fox News, Nixon, And Warrantless Wiretaps

Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

In a National Review article, convicted fraudster Conrad Black falsely claims that Fox News is honest about how its political views sway its news coverage. In order to prove his point, Black attacks other mainstream news outlets for their unfair coverage of former President Richard Nixon and his unconstitutional policy of wiretapping his political opponents without warrants.

Black, a businessman who has been convicted of a $600,000 fraud as well as obstruction of justice (other convictions against Black were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court) and is awaiting sentencing, argues that the mainstream media pretend that they are unbiased when in fact they favor progressives. By contrast, Fox News "makes no bones about its conservative penchant."

In fact, while Fox News admits that its opinion shows have a point of view, it strongly maintains that its supposedly "straight news" programs are objective, all evidence to the contrary aside. Furthermore, Bill O'Reilly, the only Fox personality that Black mentions in his piece, has repeatedly claimed that most of Fox News is "fair" and is not "out to hurt" President Obama (again, all evidence to the contrary).

But that's not all that's wrong with Black's piece.

To make the case that the mainstream media are liberally biased, Black refers to the media's treatment of Nixon and Mark Felt, the Watergate source nicknamed "Deep Throat":

The most egregious occurrence of this sort of thing in recent years was the saga of Deep Throat in the Watergate affair. In 2005, he identified himself as Mark Felt, former senior official of the FBI. He was duly lionized as one of the heroes of the Left, and the whole Watergate business was replayed again. What was almost entirely unmentioned in the mainstream national liberal media was that when Felt and an FBI colleague, Edward Miller, were accused in 1980 of criminally violating the privacy of members of the urban-terrorist Weather Underground by authorizing break-ins in their homes, Richard Nixon, although he suspected Felt was Deep Throat, offered to help them pay their legal fees and volunteered to testify on their behalf. They had the decency to decline, saying that they doubted Nixon would be helpful before a largely African-American jury in Washington, D.C. Not to be put off, Nixon required the prosecutors to call him, though he made it clear that he would be supporting the defendants. He appeared on Oct. 29, 1980, amid demonstrators outside the court and hecklers within, who were forcibly removed by U.S. marshals at the judge's order.

Under constructive cross-examination by defense lawyers, Nixon made a strong case for "warrantless searches" and pointed out that in his first year as president there had been 40,000 bomb scares, and 3,200 bombings that killed 23 people, injured hundreds, and did $20 million of property damage. He defended the conduct of Felt and Miller as necessary to defend the lives of the innocent. They were convicted anyway, but Nixon successfully lobbied incoming President Reagan to pardon them, and sent them champagne and congratulatory notes when they were pardoned. Felt in his memoirs made no mention of this, or of his status as Deep Throat, and when he came out of that closet in 2005, his coronation was not sullied by reference, in the major media, to Nixon's determined help to his chief accuser. The irony alone should have made it a compelling story. But it was ignored, not to say stifled.

I'm not sure what Black means when he says that Nixon's testimony at Felt's 1980 criminal trial despite suspicions that he was Deep Throat was "almost entirely unmentioned in the mainstream national liberal media."

The Washington Post, the paper who received the benefit of Felt's testimony, reported:

FBI agents have rallied around Felt before, but in a decidedly different case. In 1980, Felt was convicted of authorizing illegal break-ins that targeted members of the radical Weather Underground group. At one hearing, more than 500 agents, clerks and friends of Felt stood on the courthouse steps to show their support for him and another senior FBI official. Former president Nixon -- who had suspected Felt as a leaker in the Watergate scandal -- nevertheless testified at the trial on his behalf, and Felt was later pardoned. [retrieved via Nexis]

In its obituary for Felt, The New York Times reported: "In a criminal trial, Mr. Felt was convicted in November 1980 of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of Americans. Nixon, who had denounced him in private for leaking Watergate secrets, testified on his behalf. Called by the prosecution, he told the jury that presidents and by extension their officers had an inherent right to conduct illegal searches in the name of national security."

CNN's Jack Cafferty stated: "Ironically, President Nixon testified on Felt's behalf in the 1980 trial, where Felt was accusing of authorizing illegal break-ins at homes of people associated with the radical Weather (ph) underground" (retrieved via Nexis).

And what about Black's argument that "Nixon made a strong case for 'warrantless searches' "? I'm not sure how good a case Nixon made for warrantless searches. I haven't read the trial transcripts of Felt's trial. But what I do know is that Nixon's warrantless wiretapping policy was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held that the wiretaps were unconstitutional in 1972. The vote wasn't close. Seven justices held they were unconstitutional. An eighth judge believed they were illegal under federal statutes, and the ninth judge was recused from the case. No justice defended the legality of the program.


Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Fox News Channel, National Review
Conrad Black
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