The two magazine articles and their over-the-top ridicule of the October Surprise mystery had a powerful effect, too, on Congress, where the Senate backed away from a full-scale investigation and the House acted as if it would only go through the motions.
Little of this political/media dynamic changed even when it was demonstrated that the New Republic/Newsweek alibi for Casey was false, based on sloppy reporting and a rush to a preordained judgment.
In follow-up work at "Frontline," we discovered that the New Republic and Newsweek had misread the evidence of attendance reports for the London conference and had failed to do the interviews with participants that would have shown their "reporting" was completely wrong.
Our key follow-up interview was with historian Robert Dallek, who had given the presentation on the morning of July 28, 1980. Dallek told us that he had looked around the conference room for Casey but that Casey was not there.
The real evidence showed that Casey did not arrive at the conference until the afternoon, thus opening up the time "window" for the morning meeting in Madrid as described by Hashemi.
In other words, the New Republic and Newsweek alibi was bogus, a point that even the House investigation was forced to admit as it scrambled to concoct a different (and equally false) alibi to fill the hole. [See Parry's Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com's "The Bushes & the Death of Reason."]
Later, I was told by investigative reporter Craig Unger, who had been hired by Newsweek to work on the October Surprise story, that he had been shocked by the magazine's disingenuous assessment of Casey time "window."
"They knew the window was not real," Unger said of his Newsweek editors. "It was the most dishonest thing that I've been through in my life in journalism."
We also know a lot more today about the "journalism" of the New Republic, which was owned then (and still is) by neocon Martin Peretz, a staunch advocate for the interests of Israel. Plus, in 1991, Emerson was still regarded by many in Washington as a serious journalist although he has since exposed himself as a right-wing baiter of Muslims.
Recently, Emerson has boasted about his role in helping to structure Rep. Peter King's planned hearings into alleged Muslim radicalism in the United States. In one of the more bizarre developments in that extraordinary targeting of an American religious group, Emerson lashed out at King for not including him on the witness list and vowed to withhold further assistance.
"I was even going to bring in a special guest today and a VERY informed and connected source, who could have been very useful, possibly even critical to your hearing, but he too will not attend unless I do," Emerson wrote. "You have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness."
In a particularly weird twist, Emerson somehow envisioned himself as the victim of McCarthyism because he wasn't being allowed to go before the House Homeland Security Committee and accuse large segments of the American-Muslim community of being un-American. [Politico, Jan. 19, 2011]
It should now be clear that Martin Peretz, Steven Emerson and Maynard Parker (at Newsweek) had ideological and personal agendas in pushing a false alibi to "clear" Casey and the Reagan campaign.
But the strategy still worked. Twenty years ago, the October Surprise case was consigned to the loony bin of conspiracy theories.
It has taken much of the last two decades for a body of evidence to accumulate that should -- in a rational world -- far outweigh the discredited debunking of this scandal. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com's "October Surprise Cover-up Unravels"; "The Tricky October Surprise Report"; and "The CIA/Likud Sinking of Jimmy Carter."]
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