Who Stole My Country 73 – Blacklisted

I had agreed to talk to anyone who would listen and a few days before I handed in my resignation at WBAI, a CIA agent interviewed me in my WBAI office.  He had no interest in my observations about the war.  He showed me maps of villages and asked me to identify buildings.  The few I knew were all civilian targets.  No one knew I was resigning from WBAI at that time.  I hadn’t even told the staff, but Walter Freund (Walter the Friend), told me he’d heard I was leaving Pacifica.  Asked how he found out, Walter would only say it was “in the air.” Then he offered, “a smart, enterprising young man like you” a job with the agency. Over the course of the last year, I’d been recruited by both super power security agencies!

Pacifica ran my Vietnam programs incessantly after I resigned.  I was bitter.  I went to a WBAI listeners meeting on the upper west side several weeks later.  I sat unobserved in the back of the room.  Chris Albertson was answering questions.  In the midst of some comment that I thought was particularly egregious, I rose and confronted him.  The audience gasped.  Albertson ducked behind his chair and escaped out the back in utter confusion.  I had the stage to myself, my fans enthusiastically applauding me.  Another battle won while the war was lost. Albertson remained manager of WBAI while I was looking for work.

Ho-In-HanoiI sold four pages of photographs to Life Magazine.  They showed militia firing rifles at simulated jet fighters and Ho Chi Min raising his fist with other North Vietnam dignitaries as they sang the national anthem. Newsweek ran a three page spread with my pictures and text.  The article ended with the importance the North Vietnamese placed on the American Peace Movement. I published three lengthy articles in the Denver Post I.F. Stone gave me the entire October 11th, 1965 edition of his Weekly.  I.F.-Stone's-Weekly-VietnamMy articles appeared in Diplomat,  the War/Peace Report, Viet Report, The National Inquirer and several other small magazines. Students, churches and peace groups across the country asked me to speak or write for their local publications.

My basic message, in both articles and speeches, was that we were going to lose the war.  It was not a message that every audience wanted to hear.  In Plattsburgh, New York, I created a near riot during a debate with World War II veterans, and my sponsor led me out a back door as the audience erupted in anger.  At an Optimists Club meeting north of Denver, Colorado, I escaped through a back window as the optimists stormed the stage.   I was too pessimistic.

Sandy Sokolow of CBS news called in mid November and asked me to meet him at the Slate, the dark CBS hangout on 11th Avenue. The head of the news department, Gordon Manning, wanted to talk to me about an on-air job covering the Congressional races in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  I met with Manning in his huge CBS office in front of a larger than life-size photograph of his two children.  He offered me the job.  When I asked about salary, Manning slipped his arm around my shoulder and said, “At the level you’re coming into CBS I wouldn’t worry about salary.”  I was only thirty; I’d carried out a journalistic coup and CBS had just offered me an on-air job. I still remember that feeling of exhilaration as I walked down 6th Avenue.  I thought I had New York City by the tail.

The conversation with Gordon Manning took place in mid December.  Christmas came and went.  New Years Eve.  I expected to hear something from CBS shortly after the first of the year, but time dragged on with no response.  I called Manning’s office.  He was unavailable.  I called Sandy Sokolow.  He was out-of-town.

Diplomat

Diplomat Magazine Fall 1965

In late January I was speaking at a synagogue on Long Island.  Someone asked me what I planned to do now that I was no longer with Pacifica.  I told the story of the aborted job offer by CBS.  After my talk a man came up and introduced himself as a lawyer for CBS.  He offered to find out what happened.  He called the following week.  “You were hired.” he told me.  “I saw your paperwork.  It was sent down from New York to Washington where all CBS hires are reviewed by CBS lawyers.  They took one look at your record and said, ‘You can’t hire this kid.’”  

On February 4th, I received word from the State Department that they were lifting my passport.  Staunton Lynd, Herbert Aptheker and Tom Hayden had just become the second group of Americans to go to North Vietnam.  The state Department had taken their passports.  Now they were coming after ours.  Leonard Boudin agreed to represent me.

In early March Sandy Sokolow called me unexpectedly and asked to meet again at the Slate.  Sandy wanted help getting a team of reporters into Hanoi.  I offered to produce the segment for him, but Sandy turned me down.  I asked him if he could help me find work at one of the other networks.  CBS, after all, had been enthusiastic about my work.  Sandy looked even more uncomfortable and replied, without looking at me directly, “Have you ever considered work in another field?” 

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