Saturday, December 27, 2014

Great story on the NYT and the Bay of Pigs...

until they get to the point where they claim JFK's logic was faulty. The ability of JFK to see multiple sides of an issue is not a result of "faulty logic." He was mad at how it all turned out and he was wishing the NYT could have prevented the situation JFK found himself in after the invasion failed.  And the holier than thou NYT damn well knows that.

What's great about it are the photos of the newsmen. Tad Szulc is a hero of mine, a remarkable man.

1961 The CIA Readies a Cuban Invasion, and The Times Blinks

David W. Dunlap is a Metro reporter and writes the Building Blocks column. He has worked at The Times for 39 years.

President Obama’s announcement that full diplomatic relations were to be restored with Cuba brought to mind the bitter conflicts of the early 1960s.

One such battle occurred 1,300 miles from Havana, in the newsroom of The New York Times.

As the story of the Bay of Pigs is conventionally told, The Times squelched an article written several days before a C.I.A.-backed invasion force headed to Cuba in April 1961, where it met a humiliating defeat by troops loyal to Fidel Castro, whom the invaders hoped to overthrow.

That is not quite what happened.

On Jan. 10, 1961, after an account published in The Nation, The Times’s correspondent Paul P. Kennedy reported from Guatemala that preparations were taking place for what some Guatemalans said would be “an offensive against the Cuban regime” that was “being planned and directed, and to a great extent being paid for, by the United States.”

(That day’s front page is significant for another reason: a three-column photo of Charlayne Alberta Hunter, one of two African-American students who broke the racial barrier at the University of Georgia. She was being taunted by jeering white students simply for registering to take classes. Years later, as Charlayne Hunter-Gault, she was a reporter and correspondent for The New York Times, “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” and National Public Radio.)

Tad Szulc, the Times correspondent who knew much more about the impending invasion than The Times dared to print . Credit The New York Times

In the spring of 1961, the correspondent Tad Szulc happened to visit friends in Miami as he was being transferred from Rio de Janeiro to Washington. “Wherever he goes, things happen,” Turner Catledge, who was then the managing editor, recalled in his memoir, “My Life and The Times.”

Turner Catledge, the managing editor who tried to balance news coverage with his publisher’s concerns about national securit.  Credit The New York Times

“He soon sniffed out the invasion plans and, thinking this too important to discuss by phone, flew to New York to tell us what was happening,” Mr. Catledge wrote. He asked the publisher, Orvil E. Dryfoos, down to his office, Mr. Catledge said. “Szulc told us the story — that an American-backed invasion force was massing in Florida and elsewhere for an attack on Cuba.”

In a short time, Mr. Szulc had produced a “full and dramatic account” of the invasion plans.

But Mr. Catledge was troubled by references in the article to the invasion being “imminent” and also to its being directly sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency. “The government has quite a few intelligence agencies, more than most people realize,” Mr. Catledge wrote, “and I was hesitant to specify the C.I.A. when we might not be able to document the charge.”

The publisher had his own worries. “He was gravely troubled by the security implications of the Szulc story,” Clifton Daniel said in a speech delivered in 1966, when he was the managing editor. “He could envision failure for the invasion and he could see The New York Times being blamed for a bloody fiasco.”

Mr. Dryfoos and Mr. Catledge telephoned James Reston, the plugged-in Washington columnist, who “cautioned against printing any dispatch that would pinpoint the timing of the landing,” Mr. Daniel recalled. (Mr. Szulc was reasonably sure it would occur on April 18.)

In an abundance of caution, Mr. Szulc’s article was shifted at the last moment from its position in the upper right corner as the lead story of the day. It was further demoted in importance when the revised layout for Page 1 specified a headline one column wide rather than four columns.

Lewis Jordan, left, and Theodore M. Bernstein, Times news executives who believed the newspaper was underplaying Mr. Szulc’s story. CreditThe New York Times Company Archives

That was when the fireworks really began, Mr. Daniel recounted. Theodore M. Bernstein, the assistant managing editor on night duty, and Lewis Jordan, the news editor, “believed a colossal mistake was being made, and together they went into Mr. Catledge’s office to appeal for reconsideration.” Mr. Jordan’s face was “dead white and he was quivering with emotion.” He and Mr. Bernstein told Mr. Catledge that they wanted to hear from the publisher — in person — why such an important story was being underplayed to suit United States foreign policy.

Mr. Catledge was furious at such impertinence.

“However,” Mr. Daniel said, “he turned around in his big swivel chair, picked up the telephone, and asked Mr. Dryfoos to come downstairs.” The publisher did so, explaining that his “reasons were those of national security, national interest and, above all, concern for the safety of the men who were preparing to offer their lives on the beaches of Cuba.”

On April 7, readers of The New York Times were greeted by a front page with headlines that seem very familiar 53 years later (“Fears About Automation Overshadowing Its Boons”) and headlines that look very strange (“G.O.P. Liberals Striving to Remake Party Image”). Tucked into the middle of the page, above the fold, was news that an army of 5,000 to 6,000 men, intent on deposing Mr. Castro, was massing in Florida, Louisiana and Guatemala. What it did not say was that the attack was expected to occur in less than two weeks.

What unfolded 10 days later, on April 17, was exactly the “bloody fiasco” Mr. Dryfoos had feared. And, as he feared, The Times was indeed blamed by President John F. Kennedy. Two weeks after the Bay of Pigs disaster, Mr. Catledge was among a group of editors summoned to the White House to discuss with the president the issue of newspapers prematurely disclosing government security information.

As an example, President Kennedy cited the January report from Guatemala by the other Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Catledge countered that the information had already appeared in The Nation.

“But it wasn’t news until it appeared in The Times,” President Kennedy said.

Then, in an aside to Mr. Catledge, the president said, “Maybe if you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake” — the implication being that if The Times had said the invasion was likely to occur in mid-April, it would almost certainly have been scrubbed, or at least postponed.

“His logic seemed to me faulty,” Mr. Catledge concluded. “On the one hand, he condemned us for printing too much and in the next breath he condemned us for printing too little. He wanted it both ways, and he did not change my view that the newspapers, not the government, must decide what news is fit to print.”

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