IT'S A LONG, complicated story, but suffice it to say that a while back someone accused me of committing an act of heinous bigotry. The person making the accusation either had his facts wrong or confused me with someone else or, for reasons of his own, simply made up the whole thing. I don't know. All I know is that I found out the hard way how hard it is to prove a negative - in this case that I was a bigot.
You run across this sort of thing all the time and if it has a generic term then it could be called something like the when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife syndrome. Sometimes you see an example of that sort of thing when a man has a feminine characteristic or two and then feels complelled to somwhow prove that he is not homosexual.
Sometime, though, this sort of thing becomes a political movement. That happened in the 1950s when people were fond of proving disloyalty by saying. "If he walks like a duck." The logic in this was that if you had unpopulalr views and if those views happened to coincide with the view of the Communist Party, you were, natch, a communist. It may seem hard to believe now, but some people lost their livelihoods as a result of this wonderful reasoning.
Comes not Del. Walter E. Faultroy (D-D.C.) to revive this sort of thinking. He said that he suspected some of the reporters covering the house Assassinations Committee on which he sits being CIA agents ot "operatives" out to torpedo the investigations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King and President Kennedy. By way of proof, he offers the following logic: The CIA, he says, would like the committee to disappear, some reporters have written stories indicating that that might not be a bad idea, so therefore the reporters are doing the CIA's work for it. to put it another way, if journalists report like ducks and write like ducks then they must be - drumroll, please - ducks.
Now there are some matters to be considered here. In the first place, Walter Fauntroy is not your basic mud slinger. In fact, most of the time he had been a cautious and prudent politician who has not become the District of Columbia's first representative in Congress by running off at the mouth. The second thing to consider is that Faultroy was both a friend and associate of the late Dr. King's. Maybe he knows somethig we don't.
So I called him and asked him what reason he had to suspect that some of the reporters covering the committee were CIA "operatives" - he word he used with me. What he said, not to leave you hanging, is that he had precious little reason to suspect anything of the sort. What he had, he said, were newspaper stories from 1973 reporting that some agents were posing as journalists, some bona-fide journalists did occasional contract for the CIA and still other journalists had no momentary relationship at all with the government, but merely swapped information with the agency while stationed overseas. The stories identified two reporters as being in the latter category and one of them, it turns out, is Jeremiah O'Leary of The Washington Star, a journalist who from time to time has covered the assassination committee. Kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it?
And that, folks, it is.Fauntroy could name no other names and the one he did name turns out to be not an "operative" at all, whatever that means, but a reporter accused of nothing more than swapping information. So the "few" Fauntroy mentioned in the television interview turns out to be one, and the one turns out to be far short of a spook.
"That's all i know," Fauntroy said, when expressed. "I would like to know more about it. I certainly would. All I'm saying is that I recall the name. It's interesting that a journalist who was reporting at least to be a CIA operative a few years ago, is writing stories about the committee. I think it might at some point be the subject of an inquiry."
Now the routine thing to do if this was a news story would be to call up the reporters involved and ask them point-blank if the CIA operatives. They would, of course, say that they are not. I could then ask them if they ceased being CIA operatives about the time they ceased being beating their wives. You get the point.
But Fauntroy does not. He does not seem to appreciate that he has made a reckless charge, that he might be accused of loose talk, of making baseless statements, of headline-hunting - of attempting to intimidate the press. Not saying, of course, that Fauntroy is doing any of this.
Just saying I thought I heard him quack.