15. WHO WILL UNWRAP THE OCTOBER SURPRISE?
April 15, 1991, Gary Sick, a former Carter administration staffer and now professor
at Columbia University, gave added credibility to the "October Surprise"
theory with a 2,000-word op-ed piece in The New York Times. In brief, the "October
Surprise" thesis suggests that 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign officials cut a
deal with Iranian revolutionaries to delay the release of the 52 hostages until
after Reagan's inauguration.
For two and a half weeks, President Bush didn't respond to the charges
and the White House press corps didn't ask him about them. The first
official administration response came in the form of a Marlin Fitzwater
one-liner: he called Sick "the Kitty Kelley of foreign policy."
day Sick's piece appeared in the Times, listing dates and participants in suspected
meetings between campaign staffers and Iranian clerics, none of the network evening
newscasts even mentioned the story. The New York Times ran a page 10 story the
day of Sick's op-ed piece but didn't return to the issue until two weeks later,
with another page 10 piece. The first report in The Washtngton Post, a five-paragraph
Reuters story, ran eleven days after Sick's op-ed piece. And over the next three
months, Time and Newsweek dealt with the October Surprise one time each: Newsweek
in a page 28 story in the April 29 issue, Time on pages 24 and 25 of the July
Between mid-April, when Sick's piece appeared and early August,
when Speaker of the House Thomas Foley announced his decision to move ahead with
a full-scale inquiry, there were a number of newsworthy developments that were
reported by the wire services and picked up by alternative papers but missed altogether
by the major media. When the story does appear, the key questions not only go
unanswered, they go unasked. And this is a story that could make the Watergate
scandal look like a third-rate burglary.
Finally, back to Fitzwater's Kitty
When Kelley's book was released on April 8, all three network
evening newscasts ran a reporter story. The local news shows and tabloids went
wild. Both Time and Newsweek ran Kitty Kelley cover stories. And The New York
Times scooped everyone with a Sunday front-page article outlining Kelley's assertions
about Nancy Reagan's fabricated childhood and her private lunches with Frank Sinatra.
And there were follow-up stories and analysis-of-the-Kitty-Kelley-hype stories.
days every marginally conscious American knew about Kitty Kelley and her charges
about Nancy Reagan; but even now, few know about Gary Sick and the essence of
his allegations about the Republican campaign in 1980.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER:
SOURCE: COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, 700 Journalism Bldg., Columbia
University, New York, NY 10027
DATE: September/October 1991
TITLE: 'Who Will Unwrap the October Surprise?
AUTHOR: Julie Cohen
COMMENTS: The "October Surprise" story originally
was one of the top 25 censored stories of 1987. Based on articles in
L.A. Weekly and The Nation, the story revealed reports that Reagan's
campaign staff had conspired with Iranians to delay the release of the
52 hostages until after the election. As noted in the synopsis of Julie
Cohen's story in the Columbia Journalism Review, the mainstream media
didn't pay much attention to the story until Gary Sick's op-ed article
appeared in The New York Times. Even then, the subsequent coverage was
Cohen noted there
had been interesting developments since her article appeared last September. Last
fall, "both houses of Congress started, then cutoff investigations into the
October Surprise. Some of the goings-on were pretty dramatic (like when Senate
Republicans walked out in the middle of a public hearing) but you wouldn't have
known about it from the major media."
Craig McLaughlin, an investigative
journalist with the San Francisco Bay Guardian, cited the journalists who had
kept the "October Surprise" issue alive through the years (Bay Guardian,
Noting the brief flurry of interest by the establishment media
after Sick's op-ed article appeared, McLaughlin said that "But by and large,
the scandal has been kept alive through the efforts of a handful of journalists
working for the alternative press" including: Joel Bleifuss, In These Times;
David Corn, Washington reporter, The Nation; Christopher Hitchens, Minority Report
columnist, The Nation; Doug Ireland, Press Clips columnist, Village Voice; Curtis
Lang, Dan Bischoff, and other reporters, Village Voice; Frank Snepp, former CIA
agent turned national security reporter; Robert Morris, Creative Loafing, of Atlanta;
and Martin Killian, of Der Spiegel, and Robert Parry, then of Newsweek, both of
whom worked with Gary Sick.
McLaughlin also noted two additional sources
for those interested in obtaining more detailed information about the October
The Fund for Constitutional Government
121 Constitution Avenue,
Washington, DC, 20002
The Data Center
Oakland, CA, 94612
The Fund for Constitutional
Government will send you a packet of information about "October Surprise"
for $10; The Data Center has extensive files on the subject available to members
($35 annual membership fee).