You Said What?



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Table of Contents

Introduction: So Many Lies, so Few Pages xii
Politics 1
Watergate: The Great American Scandal 3
Stalin’s Big Lies 10
McKinley’s Missionary Position 16
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere: Silversmith
or Poster Child for Civil War Draft 21
J. Edgar Hoover’s Not-so-Red Menace 29
The Soviets Blink 35
Daley Country 41
The First Casualty of War Is Truth 47
James K. Polk’s Fabrication to Congress 49
How the Roman Empire Lost Its Gallic Wars
but Julius Caesar Became Emperor 53

Radio Raiders of the Polish Frontier 58
Murder Most Foul 62
Listening In 67
The Yellow Peril That Wasn’t 73
The Magical Lies of Quicksilver 78
And U-2 89
How Not to Sell a War 93
Incident in Tonkin Gulf: The Dishonest Truth 100
Sink or Swim with Ngo Dinh Diem 106
King Hussein’s Trust Issues 122
History Books Lie Too 127
Cleopatra: Looks Were Not Deceiving 129
Death on the Nile 137
Christmas—In May? 141
Witches, Devils, and Puritans in Massachusetts 148
So Humble in Green County, Tennessee, 1834 154
J’Accuse! 157
Seventy-nine Bridges 162
Village of the Damned 168
World War II’s Master of Lies 174
Arms for Hostages? 181

But It Was in a Book . . . 189
This Is a True Story . . . Not 191
The Author of This Book Is . . . 203
The Janet Cooke Pulitzer Fiasco 213
Mark Hoffman’s Forgeries and Murders 217
The New York Times’s Khmer Rouge Story 222
The New York Sun’s Six-Part Story on Life on
the Moon 226
Trust Me, I Can Cure You 231
The Royal Touch That Healed 233
Grover Cleveland’s Secret Dental Surgery 237
Dr. Albert Abrams and the ERA 241
The High-Voltage Cure-all 246
Bad Blood 252
FDR’s Legs 257
Smoking Is Good for You 261
A-OK JFK: The Presidential Campaign Trail, 1960 266
Killing by Bureaucracy 270
What Lies Ahead? 277
“We Are Here to Save the Holy Land, Making
a Profi t Is Just Incidental!” 279
The Fake of a Fake 285

Tower of London: Not Really Where You Get
a Head 289
Are My Arms Tired! 295
No Speak English 299
Eric Clapton’s Undying but Temporary Passion
for Patti Boyd-Harrison 304
Vincent “the Chin” Gigante 308
Epilogue: Color Him Red-Faced 313

Very few things are worse than being caught in a lie. One of these is being
caught in a whole series of lies in front of the whole world. This was not
President Eisenhower’s finest hour.


LIE: A NASA weather research plane on a mission
inside of Turkey may have accidentally drifted
into Soviet territory.

   In 1960 the so-called Cold War was heating up, and in an effort
to defuse the tensions a summit meeting in Paris was scheduled
for May 16, bringing together the four heads of state of the United
States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

   Unfortunately on May 1, a U.S. Lockheed U-2 plane disappeared
over the sovereign territory of the Soviet Union. The pilot was a
civilian in Lockheed’s employ by the name of Francis Gary Powers.

   Four days after Powers disappeared, NASA (not Lockheed, which
was supposedly in charge of the fl ight) issued a very detailed press
release noting that a weather research plane had “gone missing”
north of Turkey, distancing the U.S. government from any involvement
with the matter. It was suggested in their release that perhaps
the pilot might have fallen unconscious while the autopilot was engaged.
They also stated that “the pilot reported over the emergency
frequency that he was experiencing oxygen diffi culties,” and as a
result may have uncontrollably drifted off-course.

   A photo of a U-2 plane painted in NASA colors was also provided
to the media by Lockheed.

   Quickly thereafter, the Soviet Union went public with an announcement
of their own.

   Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev declared that a “spy plane”
had been shot down, whereupon the United States issued a statement
reaffi rming the claim that the plane was a “weather research
aircraft,” and allowing that it may have strayed into Soviet airspace
after the pilot had “diffi culties with his oxygen equipment during
a mission over Turkey,” as was previously stated. Furthermore they
attested “there was absolutely no deliberate attempt to violate Soviet
airspace and never has been.” NASA attempted to strengthen
their case by grounding all U-2 aircraft to check them for “oxygen
problems” to avoid further potential “accidents.”

   In all actuality, the United States was lying through its teeth.

   The U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers (who had left the air
force in 1956 with the rank of captain to accept civilian employment
with the Central Intelligence Agency), had left Preshwar, Pakistan,
intending to overfl y the Soviet Union and land at Bodo, Norway,
with the intention of photographing Soviet intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM) development sites in and around Sverdlovsk and
Plesetsk, far within the borders of the Soviet Union. At its cruising
altitude, the U-2 was able to avoid being intercepted by Soviet
fi ghters on patrol and those dispatched in pursuit, but eventually
a 14 SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile disabled the plane and
brought it down.

   As was standard in such spy missions, Powers was under strict
orders to destroy the plane and himself rather than risk being captured,
even though such an event was considered unlikely since the
U-2 had the capability of flying higher than Soviet surveillance was
able to monitor—but no one was 100 percent sure exactly how high
an altitude Powers had reached when his U-2 disappeared.

   Still, the United States was confident that its secret mission was
still safe . . . that is, until May 7, when Khrushchev made a startling
revelation: “I must tell you a secret. When I made my fi rst report
I deliberately did not say that the pilot was alive and well . . . and
now just look how many silly things [they] have said.”

   Powers’s aircraft was indeed wrecked, having crashed near Yekaterinburg,
but Powers had been captured after making a parachute
landing. Moreover, the Soviets managed to recover the surveillance
camera and its fi lm and were even successful in developing the
incriminating photographs it contained. Also damning was Powers’s
survival pack, including 7,500 rubles, Soviet currency that
left little doubt about his intended fl ight path, and could not be
considered standard issue for a civilian pilot on a mission involving

   Powers was put on trial for espionage, pled guilty (to avoid being
executed), and was convicted on August 19. He was sentenced to
three years’ imprisonment and seven years’ hard labor, of which
he served one and three-quarter years before being exchanged for
Soviet master spy Rudolf Abel on February 10, 1962, and returned to
the United States.

   The Paris summit was left in shambles, and the long-anticipated
meeting between Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, Harold Macmillan,
and Khrushchev, in an effort to cool tensions, was preempted
by further escalation.

   The only saving grace had been that President Eisenhower himself
had not made the false statements concerning the U-2’s status
as a “weather research aircraft,” though he had issued frequent
denials in the past in the face of Soviet allegations that the United
States had encroached on sovereign Soviet airspace and undertaken
spy missions within the Soviet Union.

   According to Eric Alterman in his book When Presidents Lie,
Eisenhower admitted to his secretary that the entire incident made
him want to resign from the presidency. Several stories were quickly
put out that suggested that Ike may actually have been unaware of
the spy program, and that he was pursuing an investigation into
what exactly happened, since he should have been informed about
what was going on.

   A cloak of deniability was quickly fashioned for the president to
protect him from the scandal. Secretary of State Chris tian Herter
contended that the news and status of the U-2 program had never
crossed the president’s desk—but this did little to restore U.S. credibility
and made public the severe mistrust that existed between the
two superpowers. The incident brought more chill to the growing
Cold War.

   A large part of the U-2 wreckage, and items from Powers’s survival
pack, are still on display at the Central Museum of Armed
Forces in Moscow.

   In 1998, information was declassified revealing that Powers’s
fateful mission had actually been a joint USAF/CIA operation, with
Lockheed and NASA acting in camouflage.

   In 2000, Powers was posthumously awarded the Prisoner of War
Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the National Defense
Ser vice Medal—and an admission that he had been following direct
orders on his surveillance mission.

   When asked how high he was flying on May 1, 1960, he often replied,
“evidently not high enough.”

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