Oliver North and Smithsonian Clash Again Over Access

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

Oliver North's plan to film at the Smithsonian Institution for his "War Stories" series on Fox News Channel has hit another snag.

North, whose crew recently worked in Vietnam, said: "It was easier to deal with Ho Chi Minh's proteges than our own Smithsonian Institution. At least the commies kept their word. Not so with the Smithsonian."

With a film crew waiting at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center on Monday, lawyers for the Smithsonian and Fox News, the outlet for North's series, failed to reach an agreement on terms of the shooting and future use of the material.

In an online column yesterday, North said the Smithsonian wanted to " 'own and control' every second of videotape shot by Fox News in their facility."

Claire Brown, the communications director for the space museum, said, "What it boils down to, as I understand it, Fox required unfettered, complete access to everything they filmed at the museum, not only for 'War Stories' but for any other program. . . . We felt that would be irresponsible on our part."

The two sides cannot agree on the use of the material beyond the North project, among other things.

"Fox News is not going to surrender Fox News material shot by Fox News personnel," said Pamela Browne, the executive producer.

The Smithsonian is still open to negotiation, said Joseph T. Anderson, deputy director of the Udvar-Hazy Center and a retired major general. "It doesn't sound like he continues to be interested. But it's the same contract we send to everyone."

Anderson was a classmate of North's at the Naval Academy. North went on to become a central figure in the Iran-contra scandal during the Reagan administration.

This is North's second dust-up with the Smithsonian over the same filming request. An earlier application to use the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb, as a backdrop was rejected. Later negotiations seemed to have worked out the problems until Monday's blowup.

North charged that the Smithsonian was protecting its contract with Showtime Networks, which is making documentaries for cable television in partnership with the museum. That contract has drawn widespread criticism.

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