Russ Baker joins comedian Tim Dillon to talk about the (sad) state of journalism, the importance of independent news sources like WhoWhatWhy and his book Family of Secrets.
In this wide-ranging interview Russ is certain to open some eyes about the way the country really works and provides lots of examples from the past 60 years in which an event initially seemed to be one thing (and was covered by the media in that way) only to turn out to be something different altogether.
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Full Text Transcript:
Tim Dillon: Hey, this is Tim Dillon of “Tim Dillon is Going to Hell” and let me tell you right now, you guys should definitely subscribe to the GaS Digital Network; use the promo code “hell”. You can subscribe to only my show, which is only $2.50 but I would definitely subscribe to the whole network. You get a lot of great shows like “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll,” “Part of the Problem with Dave Smith,” “Louis J. Gomez’s Real Ass Podcast.” Basically you get the entire network for about $6.00 a month, which includes all the live video feed. You’re going to get a lot of bonus content and everything that is not going to be available to people who don’t subscribe, you will have access to immediately. So please, get on the network. We look forward to having you listening.
Tim Dillon: We’re going to really take a hard, critical look at the people that society has decided to hate: the billionaires, the dictators, the CEOs. We know that you’re a bad thing to the world, but there are bad people and thank God, what’s good without evil? Welcome to Tim Dillon’s Going to Hell everybody. I’m very excited; this is a special episode today. I am joined by, as my always my cohost Ray Kump, but it’s very rare that you meet somebody in life that has actually really impacted the way you see the world. One of those guys is in the studio today. He’s an investigative reporter. He’s written for publications like the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation. He attended Columbia University. He was an editor on the Columbia Journalism Review. He won a Deadline Award for reporting on George W. Bush’s military service and he is the author of a book that I think is essential reading if you are interested at all in how the country is run. The book is called Family of Secrets; it was published in 2008. It is about the Bush family but about much more than that. The subtitle here is “America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last 50 Years.” I would pick this up if you can, I would buy it. 100%, go and buy this book right now. He is also the founder of WhoWhatWhy.org, which is a nonprofit, it’s one of my go-to places everyday now and I think it’s the home of some of the best reporting on the web. Russ Baker, thank you for coming in.
Russ Baker: I’m glad to be here. I actually wanted to walk up the four flights of stairs.
Tim Dillon: We have an elevator.
Russ Baker: I was disappointed by that. You gave me the wrong address so I went two doors down, nobody answered. I said, well that’s typical radio people; I actually snuck in with the pizza guy.
Tim Dillon: We run a very professional operation.
Russ Baker: I can see that.
Tim Dillon: A guy like you who wrote a book like that, you know you can get in. You’re going to find a way to get in, whether it’s with the pizza guy or anybody. One thing I want to start; I want to talk a little bit about WhoWhatWhy because it is something, and I don’t know if this is a feeling that you have, but I feel like this is a website that is now getting more attention. People are sharing articles, I see on Facebook, on Twitter. One of the things I love about your website – and I think again everybody should go, it’s WhoWhatWhy.org – right after something happens, right after a big news story, you do not have a story up five minutes later. There is a significant amount of time where I think you’re doing your due diligence. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Russ Baker: Yeah sure. Basically what we do is we talk amongst ourselves and we say, “Huh, what the hell do you think that was about?” And so when everybody’s rushing to get the so called early report, breaking news or a typical thing with something like the cable networks where they have people in the field, and they don’t know anything and then the host saying, so can you fill us in? And they’re saying, well so we’re getting information, we’re waiting for information, the latest we’ve heard is – and of course they’re repeating what the anchor had just said – so they don’t know anything. We don’t want to do that. We want to figure out what’s really going on, what happened, why it happened and why it matters and that takes a little bit longer.
Tim Dillon: Absolutely. When did the idea for the website, where did that come from?
Russ Baker: It came from being in the media for a long time, and being frustrated by the way we’re supposed to behave in covering stories. One of the things I noticed very early on and I kind of wondered if it was me or if I was just strange or if there was something else going on, which was that there was very quickly a consensus. Actually this goes back to when I was a child and we would watch the evening news together. The Vietnam War was playing and they would have Walter Cronkite and then you’d switch to David Brinkley and so on, and ABC and they all had the same stories. And I remember asking my dad, I said, “Are these the only stories there are because they all have the same stories?” When I got into journalism, I found that that’s what you do. Everybody follows, there’s some sense from the pack and it used to be the New York Times that would set the agenda and so it was very important for people who wanted to shape public perceptions to make sure that they had friends in the right places: The New York Times because the whole country and the whole zeitgeist would follow.
Tim Dillon: Did you always want to be a journalist?
Russ Baker: No. I actually wanted to be well paid but that never worked out so I ended up being a journalist instead.
Tim Dillon: Am I wrong in that your title is an investigative reporter? It seems to be a dying breed.
Russ Baker: Yeah. It is dying. It’s probably the most expensive kind of journalism because it takes a really long time to do your research and if it’s interesting, it also takes a really long time to write it up in some comprehensible way so that’s the first thing that they cut. Although these news organizations also regret cutting it because it is also the sexiest material and it’s the most proprietary; it’s what sets them apart from everybody because everybody else is covering the same stories on a superficial basis.
Tim Dillon: Right. So basically as an investigative reporter, you begin to start looking at how George W. Bush became president.
Russ Baker: I did. I was actually living in, oddly enough the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Serbia. When the run up to the war began and because I was outside of the United States, I wasn’t subject to the same, sort of sensory assault from the American media, which was all basically beating the drums for a war and I was watching other things. I had a satellite dish on my apartment, and I was watching these European news channels and they were more skeptical. It seemed to me that we hadn’t really seen any evidence. It also seemed to me very clear that there was an agenda driving it, that they wanted this war. I became very interested, and I thought why did they want this war? Then Bush was running for reelection and they had already discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction and I thought well, he can’t possibly be reelected. And then there’s this John Kerry fellow who’s a war veteran, a military war hero, who is anti-war. And then there’s George Bush, who’s pro-war and who we hear skipped out on Vietnam War service. I said, “What a story! I got to get back to the U.S. and cover this.” And that’s what I did. I came back and began covering the election. And some of the publications I was writing for said: “Look, there’s almost no way that anything you find will change anything because Bush is going to win.” And I remember somebody said to me, it was really like that saying that former Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana said: “The only way I could lose is if I’m found with a live boy or a dead girl.” And that’s what they told me about George W. Bush. They said there’s really nothing you can do and so I found all these amazing things and they kept saying “not big enough, not big enough, not big enough.” And then I started looking into this military service thing and it was clear to me that he had actually dodged the military while his father was a prominent government official and managed to get away with it. And I said how did they do that? How did they cover that up? It got me interested in the family. I wanted to learn more about them, about where this sort of hapless and improbable guy came from and how he could become the most powerful person in the world. These things fascinate me.
Tim Dillon: Because it was a great American story. You know, this party guy that’s sobered up, found Jesus, got serious, dedicated himself. Most people who do that become a good mechanic but he became the president. So it is an interesting story, the flipside of that, Ray you were going to…
Ray Kump: You touched on the weapons of mass destruction, how they didn’t find them. But in the lead up, they had doctored evidence to get us into the war, it didn’t seem like it was a point like when they first went in, they hadn’t found them yet and they were saying to people, if they don’t find them they better just put them there. And it seems to be that they would be willing to do that to get us into it. Do you have any take on that, why there was no even attempt to try, was it almost intentional – as a way of kind of beating down the public on a long term level, psychologically, like we don’t even need to explain ourselves?
Russ Baker: I was never entirely able to figure that out but the truth is that they’re really not all that good at what they do. And this is important: is that they’re an odd mix of incompetence and ruthlessness and together of course, that’s very sort of potent…
Tim Dillon: Incompetence and ruthlessness –
Ray Kump: That’s great.
Tim Dillon: So you look into this family and you start to find things that… Before you wrote this book, I know that you were a reporter, you probably lean left, I would imagine, but were you, before you wrote this book, in what you would consider the mainstream of American political thought?
Russ Baker: I think I was. I think most people in journalism, most people actually deal with people – whether or not not ordering them around – are sort of somewhat bleeding heart because they’re people and they discover that hey, these are people. Now, when you’re a zillionaire and everybody around you are basically people on your payroll, of course you yell at them when you can’t find your shoe and so forth but I think that ordinary people, whether you’re a social worker, whatever, unless everybody you deal with is a complete shithead, then you end up sort of, at least relating to them somehow and understanding that they are human beings. You see somebody sleeping on the street, you don’t think that’s so great and you wish something could be done about that. So, yeah, I mean I think I was like that but I think one of the main things was that I didn’t know anything about something that I now call “deep state dynamics” or “deep politics”, which is an understanding of let’s say the sort of configurations of power within a society that perpetuates certain policies and certain elites and this is something we don’t know anything about. It’s something that the media knows nothing about. If they know about it, they don’t talk about it and this is really what I think changed my life. It led to Family of Secrets, which is a book that’s about “the deep state”. It led to some extent to the founding of WhoWhatWhy because I felt there needed to be a news site, a news organization that did recognize this dynamic.
Tim Dillon: Yeah. I mean it is something. I remember this is one of the only books I’ve read that I’ve gotten chills when I read the book. With certain things I read, I felt like I was opening a door that hadn’t been opened before and I think some of the most interesting material in the book centers around, not so much George W. Bush, but his father; Poppy Bush, who I think is a guy that we were kind of sold this narrative that he was just kind of a lovable guy that was like bumbling through history and I think you find that he lived something that we would call a secret life for the majority of his life. Was there one piece of information that sent you looking for that? Was there one particular day that you remember finding something and going: wait a minute?
Russ Baker: I think there was. It had to do with George W. Bush’s essentially going AWOL during the Vietnam War. I discovered that basically what they had done was for some reason, they had to get him out of his flying responsibility with the Texas Air National Guard, the so called “Champagne Unit”. They shipped him over to Alabama and they put him on a political campaign of a friend of the father’s, and he was supposed to continue his service there on a land based unit. But records show and interviews show that he never served and I think it’s actually possible that the father never knew this. The father had served in World War II, this is very important to the family, it’s very important politically. The grandfather, World War I. It’s very important to them that everybody served, either from an honorable or a public relations standpoint, up to you to choose but that was important. And so I got the distinct impression that over the Christmas Break of 1968 maybe, he went home, W. went back to family that was living in Washington and they had a huge fight. That fight has been reported before, but I don’t think anybody knew what the fight was about and I think basically the father asked the son something about his military service and he said, “I just blew it off” and the father went bananas. This is my surmise and so the father said, “Well, you have just ruined your political future and maybe my political future. We can’t survive this thing.” And so the father began covering it up and the way that he covered it up, the strings that he pulled – I’m not going to say he did it, but let’s put it this way, records disappeared, records were destroyed in fires that destroyed entire facilities, people couldn’t remember things. The most interesting thing of all is George W. Bush had moved out of Alabama, he’d moved back to Texas but on his way from Washington, he stops off in, I want to say I think it was Montgomery, where the base was, stops off there, calls a woman he had dated a couple of times, shows up to pick her up on a date, is wearing his uniform and he says to her, “Yeah, I’m here just doing a little more of my National Guard Service.” And then he also goes on to the base and he goes into the dental clinic and they see a guy in uniform, he’s got access to the base. They do bitewings on him, you know, routine exam. Years later, when he’s president of the United States, they trod out these bitewings as evidence that he served in the military and of course this woman is interviewed, and she says well I remember him serving. She didn’t remember him serving, she remembered him picking her up for a date very deliberately wearing this uniform.
Tim Dillon: And the ability to do that, the ability to cover things up on that level, the thought to just cover your tracks in that way, was that evidence to you that there was something at work here more than just being a capable politician?
Russ Baker: Right. So the son, I don’t think had a mind that was quite that wily, that nimble. That pointed to the father. The father had quickly come up with this solution. And so you know a lot of people talk about the Bushes and maybe they’re not all that bright and so on, but they have a certain kind of a native intelligence. The son, very charming, thinks quick on his feet, I think you may remember him from the debates. He was pretty darn good for a guy who didn’t know any of the answers. And the father had the same thing. He admitted that he had a problem with the vision thing, he couldn’t really quite get any vision about anything but when it came to stuff, and this went back – I looked at the father through his whole life, and at a very early point in his life, he had been reprimanded for telling the truth about something and putting something on paper and they told him never to do that again and this I think was a turning point for the father and where his mind really, I don’t want to say it snapped but he really went into the dark recesses.
Tim Dillon: This is interesting because you’ve spent so much time studying these guys, have you ever met them, any of them?
Russ Baker: They just don’t invite me over.
Tim Dillon: At no point in your career, even prewriting Family of Secrets, were you ever in the same room with any of them? Not even Jeb?
Russ Baker: It just doesn’t happen. I mean, I have actually met people who were one step removed from them, including somebody who knows them extremely well. They are aware of me, they are aware of the book, believe it or not.
Ray Kump: Are they fans of the book?
Russ Baker: Well, I believe this is in the book. I called one man who was a very important figure in one of the many dark subtexts of the book who had been very close with Poppy, the father. I called him up – his name is in the book – and I explained that I wanted to talk to him about his activities using an oil company as cover for intelligence work and covert operations back in the 1950s, 1960s, and he was silent for a moment and he didn’t say I was crazy or I had called the wrong number, he was silent. Then he said, am I authorized to talk to you? And then I said, well authorized by who? And then he said is the Bush family, is this an approved biography – which tells you a lot about how things work. And I said no it’s not and he said let me call and I’ll get back to you. And believe it or not…
Tim Dillon: Was this Jim Bath?
Russ Baker: No, this is another person. This is a sort of investment banker, some oil guy. And he called me back very graciously and I think he actually left something on the answering machine, which is again another fascinating thing about these ex-CIA people, that they’re not always so on the ball with this stuff. But he left a message basically saying something like: I talked to the old man and he said you’re crazy and don’t talk to you. So he at least knows me well enough to form some kind of a judgement.
Tim Dillon: Now as a journalist, when you asks you is this authorized, does any part of you think to lie to him and go, oh yeah or is that kind of like, will you get into trouble?
Russ Baker: Of course it occurs to me. That’s how we get in with the pizza guy. But the idea is not to lie, the idea is to not volunteer information that will prevent you from getting an interview. So we try to be honest, but we try to be – what’s the right word? –
we try to be congenial and to not seem too scary.
Tim Dillon: So now some of the revelations in the book like for example, you look at the life of Poppy Bush, who’s George W. Bush’s father and you come to the conclusion that you believe he was a deep cover intelligence officer for the majority of his life. If you told most people that, like I was at a family barbeque and you try to bring some of this stuff up – like if I said hey, you know George H.W. Bush was actually a deep – they would go oh okay, well he was just doing his patriotic duty for his country but the thing that kind of really grabbed me was this interview that most people don’t know anything about where he admits to not knowing where he was the day that JFK was shot, which seems crazy.
Russ Baker: Yeah, well to your first point, we live in a time where, I don’t want to say nothing matters, but it seems like almost nothing matters. If you tell people that somebody did something, they love to say “it doesn’t surprise me.” If you look at Amazon, you look at the reader reviews on Family of Secrets, it’s almost a solid 5 stars, it’s like 4.6 or something. But there’s a few who write other things. They usually write things like “the book arrived late.” They don’t seem to know that it’s not a review of Amazon delivery, it’s a review of my book, so there are those things. And then there are people who say “This man’s a Bush hater, I didn’t even have to read the book to know that.” But the other category of people are people who actually write, “Yeah, I already knew all this.” Well, since I didn’t know it and nobody knew it except three people in the Bush family or the CIA, they’re obviously wrong but they think – all worst case scenarios are assumed and so for example, George H.W. Bush was the CIA director for a single year and people conflate that with the notion that he was a deep cover CIA officer for thirty or forty years while using a cover as a diplomat, an oilman and so on, and they don’t understand the difference between the two. They don’t understand the difference between somebody who publicly was a non-intelligence person who was in politics and was made to be the CIA director because he was going to create a clean break for an agency that was in trouble publicly. That was the official story and that he had no background connections or ties and what I’m saying, which is the actual real reason they put him in, was because he was an inside guy who was part of the ongoing cover up that was absolutely essential and that the CIA had effectively, almost really had taken over the United States if there was effectively a coup, and in that way it’s very similar to Vladimir Putin and what happened to the so called Russian Revolution of post-USSR. So people don’t even get that and of course then you can’t have a conversation about anything.
Tim Dillon: Right. This stuff is very complicated and I know that like sometimes you’ll be speaking and someone will ask you a question and you’ll be very polite to them but you’ll go: I don’t know that I can explain this to you in two minutes at a Barnes and Noble, you know, like this is a little involved. When you read this interview, and he’s asked can you go into this, somebody’s asked him, how does that come up? Do they just say like innocuously; hey do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?
Russ Baker: He was interviewed, and I don’t have a transcript of this. As I recall, I wrote Family of Secrets some years ago and I’m a little bit hazy on a few things but as I recall, he was interviewed by a Japanese television network news crew and I believe he was vice president at the time and it was kind of a softball interview. They didn’t really know what to ask him, so they said, “Oh you’ve had such an interesting life. Tell us about some of the great historical moments and your thoughts on them.” And so one question was: “When John F. Kennedy was shot, where were you when you heard and what was your reaction?” Well first, where were you when you heard and he basically sort of went white. He just blanched and he wasn’t expecting the question and he couldn’t answer it and people say to me well, why did he not answer? I say, more interestingly, where was he? And so I went more to the where was he if he couldn’t remember, I’d just like to know where he was if he doesn’t remember, and I spent years believe it or not, trying to find out.
Tim Dillon: Do you remember the moment when you’re reading that interview that you just go, this is – do you automatically, when something like that happens with a guy like him, do you automatically go, wait a minute, there’s a problem?
Russ Baker: Yeah. Some of these things were in other books. This was in a book where it was raised. It just said he couldn’t remember where he was and then it went on. So what I did was I read a lot of these books. I did as many interviews as I could and I would see things, I’d go “wait a minute.” Wait a minute here! What do you mean he doesn’t remember where he was? I’m going to do that and there went years, there I went into years of research and that took me down what I would call a rabbit’s hole, where I began to be on a whole subterranean level of American history, American politics, American power and I was like holy cow, I am in some place I didn’t know existed. And really, it’s largely thanks to that and a series of other bizarre reckonings.
Tim Dillon: One of the first things you found was a memo from the day of the assassination right, the CIA or the FBI was briefing Bush?
Russ Baker: Yes. These memos were out there but were not well known and not thoroughly studied except by the person who found it who went as far as they could go. Yeah, there were a couple of interesting memos. They were both FBI memos and they had been released under the JFK Records Act in the early ‘90s as a result of public outcry after Oliver Stone’s JFK film and everybody became upset. Stone pushed for the release of documents – he’s a great American hero in my opinion. He forced all of this stuff to be released, along with a lot of activists. In any case, the records released these things and one of them was this declassified FBI memo, or two of them and one of them was to J. Edgar Hoover. Basically the memo said that there was a briefing conducted the day after the shooting about the assassination and that there were two people from other intelligence agencies who were briefed, FBI explaining this – they said we briefed Mr. So-and-So of Military Intelligence and we briefed Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency and I looked at that and I said wow, that’s really interesting, unless this is another guy. And there’s a whole backstory where eventually when that came out, vice president Bush’s office claimed “Oh, it must have been another George Bush.” I could tell that whole story, but that was one memo. The second memo was also an FBI memo and this was from the day of the assassination. Within about an hour of Kennedy being shot, a man called one of the FBI offices in Texas, identified himself fully, this time, as George H.W. Bush with his home address. He said he was in the oil business so we know this was him, and he said: “I’ve heard the president’s been shot. I may have some information on a possible suspect.” Now, that alone for a man who can’t remember where he was when he was shot, the fact that he called from Texas…
Tim Dillon: This is amazing. So if these memos are out there, why are they not better known?
Russ Baker: You know; the media is terrified of almost everything. The media is like Don Knotts, remember Don Knotts; K-N-O-T-T-S? The quivering, skinny actor who was always afraid of his shadow, that’s the media. The media likes to act very tough and macho, but the truth is the media is always scared of its shadow and the shadow is breaking away from the pack, having a different story because the risk is everybody turns on you. The whole media pack seeks to tear you apart like wild dogs and so everybody knows that and they won’t go out on their own. And so everybody’s waiting; they all by the way, would really love to do these stories, but they’re waiting –
Tim Dillon: These seem like the fun stories.
Russ Baker: Of course they are. They’re all waiting for the go ahead. There’s a turning point in certain stories. You take, I don’t care what it is, the Lewinsky story, stories about almost anything that became a huge story, they all knew this stuff early and they would talk about it over a beer but they would never report it because they didn’t want to get in trouble but when it started somehow attaining critical mass, that was the moment and then the bosses say go, and they say “Go and get a little bit ahead of the pack. Stay in the same direction, but get a little bit ahead.”
Ray Kump: Do you think that – we’ve seen this country over the past thirty, forty years; a consolidation of the media by corporate conglomerates and a lot of people just subscribe that to profit seeking models and whatnot. Do you think there was a deliberate attempt by the people, whoever this nexus of people in power is, to deliberately shape the media – of course they have a motive to – but do you think there’s a more long-term look to that or do you think it’s because of the random effect of profit seeking?
Russ Baker: There is not an institution of any kind anywhere in the world that does not seek order through control. I don’t care if it’s a family or a little restaurant or whatever, if there’s a lot of dissent, if people are grumbling, if they’re gossiping, if they’re encouraging their fellow members of this organization to ask questions, this causes problems and the institution can’t have it. This is why most of us work for big corporations. Big corporations are always doing that happy talk, you know you go on the 10k run for that cause and everybody gets free t-shirts. This is all carefully calculated, not because they care about these causes; I’m not saying, some of them probably do but principally because they’re practicing good management which is keep the people happy on the plantation, basically.
Tim Dillon: Now if you… George H.W. calls and informs on this guy, I think it was James Parrott and he says “This guy was spouting off some very hateful rhetoric” or something like that. What is the purpose of doing that?
Russ Baker: So he called about this man and the whole call was strange because he didn’t call the Dallas FBI office and Kennedy was shot in Dallas and Bush was near Dallas the time he called. He called the Houston FBI office, which didn’t make any sense except that Parrott was in Houston. Well, if Parrott was in Houston and Kennedy was shot in Dallas, who cares about Parrott? And what I discovered through my research was the man who took the call and filed the report was actually a friend of his; it doesn’t say that in the report. So he calls a friend of his inside the Houston FBI. I think the friend dutifully makes a record that Mr. George H.W. Bush has called from Tyler, Texas. Now you might say well, what’s Tyler, Texas? I don’t know what it is, I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t Dallas. Actually, I will tell you what it is. It’s a place very near Dallas that’s not Dallas. And so when you say I’m in Tyler, Texas, when it gets back to Washington, it’s just some guy somewhere else in Texas is calling to help and he’s reporting on this man and the whole thing was ludicrous. It was pretty clear that this James Parrott hadn’t done anything and in my research, I found that in fact, weirdly enough George H.W. Bush, who claimed he barely knew who this man was, James Parrott was like an aide to him. He was sort of ratting out a guy he knew, who couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with this and the best thing of all is here’s a man who’s supposedly a suspect in the murder of the president of the United States and so what happens is instead of the FBI doing anything, they ask – this is a true story – they have some guy go and bring Mr. Parrott into, and I think it was the Secret Service Office in Houston, and they bring him in just so they could chat with him. So I’m thinking, you know how many TV shows have you seen where they’re kicking the door down for the slightest infraction and here they are, yeah well you know if he’s a suspect in the murder of the president, yeah well, what is convenient for him. Drive him on down and you’ll have a chat with him. So the man who drives him down, it turns out, is an even higher ranking aide to Poppy Bush and he knows this guy and he drives him down and he actually says “Oh yeah, I was at Mr. Parrott’s house the time of the shooting, so I could tell you that he didn’t have anything to do with it.” So you have this ludicrous scene –
Tim Dillon: So the guy driving him down is his witness?
Russ Baker: Yeah, and the guy driving him down is also George H.W. Bush’s chief aide within the Houston Republican Party that Mr. Bush is the chairman of at the time.
Ray Kump: How did you discover all of this? When you say he’s a top aide, what are you looking at? What are you researching?
Russ Baker: I mean the internet definitely helps. I still use a lot of paper. I travel a lot, I go to archives, I collect stuff, I interview a lot of people, I go to these ancient microfiche, microfilm and I destroy my eyesight trying to read weird, old, classified ads from 1952.
Tim Dillon: And this took you five years?
Russ Baker: It did, yeah.
Tim Dillon: So all of these revelations…In your new book, which I want to talk a little bit about, I know that you’re working on something and it deals with some of the same material with the Kennedy assassination. Why is that moment so important for you? As if you have great revelations in Family of Secrets about Watergate, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit, so why is the Kennedy assassination such a huge thing for you?
Russ Baker: Well, it’s a huge thing for me because it wasn’t a huge thing for me. Most people know that he was killed. Most people know that there’s some controversy. Most people know that people will get in each other’s faces at a party over this sort of thing. They know there are a lot of books. Most of us haven’t really read this stuff, we haven’t really studied it. It’s a subset of the population that has and so the rest of us don’t really know too much. Most journalists, by the way this is a dirty little secret, are not all that well read. They don’t read books, necessarily. They don’t know that much about history or the broader picture, and most journalists don’t know anything about this, but they’ve heard that Oswald did it, that’s what the government concluded and that’s what all supposedly sane people concluded, and that anybody who gets into saying something else is supposed to be a nut. And so the same thing as they’re worried about getting out ahead away from the pack, they’re not going to do it here either. They stay with the conventional narrative, so I did too. As a journalist, I didn’t know anything about it. If somebody started talking to me about Lee Harvey Oswald, I would tune them out, but because of my work on the Bushes and because I discovered – and this is really I think the key point here in Family of Secrets perhaps, is that it is the undiscovered twists and turns of history that give us an entirely new understanding of who we are and how we got where we are and where we’re going and what this is really all about. It has the profundity of theology in a sense because it really just changes everything and so –
Tim Dillon: And not necessarily for the better.
Russ Baker: Well, you know I mean I would argue that in the end, we all need to know the truth because if you don’t, things just get worse.
Ray Kump: Now when you look at, you mentioned being labeled the nut. There was a lot of, especially in the last 10 years, a lot of conspiracy stuff on YouTube, these guys like Alex Jones and it seems like besides you and a few other examples, for the most part these people, Alex Jones, will have a lot of information that turns out to be truthful. Sometimes it can sound very cogent and then other times he just sounds like a lunatic.
Tim Dillon: And he’ll be challenging Hillary Clinton to take her globalist army against his Christian army.
Ray Kump: We have a guy like David Icke, who will talk about a lot of overlapping things to what will happen when Family of Secrets of these families overtime… but then they’re all lizard people…
Tim Dillon: So what happens to these people where it starts to become cartoonish?
Russ Baker: The real danger here and I don’t know what motivates them; the real danger here is when the most important material is co-opted and dominated by people who are a mix of right and horribly wrong and frankly quite reckless, they’re not careful researchers, what happens is they own that turf and I have to say, if I were the bad guys, if I were the ones who wanted to keep the public in the dark, I would want people like that out there basically tarring legitimate inquiries by putting a crazy spin on it.
Ray Kump: Do you think there’s any notion that perhaps they are poisoning the well and that guys like that are somehow put up to it?
Russ Baker: All I can tell you is the only thing you conclude is either they are doing it deliberately, putting out bad stuff and mixing it with good stuff, or they’re not doing it deliberately and I don’t know what’s worse. They’re both very problematical.
Tim Dillon: Now, when you start going to your friends with the revelations and things we’re talking about, you’re going to people, you’re going “take a look at this.” What is the reception that you get from other journalists?
Russ Baker: You know, this has been very hard for me. I had, I think a good reputation, I was careful, I wrote for, produced and so forth for some of the best news organizations in the world and never had any problems of any kind in my career and once I started doing this, I was warned. People said you know, that is the electrified third rail. You’re going where from which people never return and people just kind of warned me. I mean everybody warned me, from one end to the other, including people in the publishing world that you can’t get this published, it’s going to destroy you or do the book but leave out the Kennedy and the Watergate stuff, which turned out to be the book. I won’t say who it is, but some people who work close to the publishing process encouraged me not to put that stuff in. All kinds of people gave me advice, saying please I beg you for your own career, don’t do this because they understood and indeed, when Family of Secrets came out, we were expecting a tremendous reception. It’s a book published by a very well respected publishing house, the book has more than a thousand footnotes, it’s carefully written.
Tim Dillon: Even your detractors have said how well researched the book is, they have to put that in, you know. And none of the people, and I’ve read some of the negative reviews, they don’t really challenge you on substance; they call you names. They say, well this is paranoid, you’re connecting things. But they don’t talk about those memos. They don’t go there, so it is interesting. It almost begs the question, what would there need to be? What kind of spoken gun?
Russ Baker: The people who are critics of what you might call breakthrough journalism are real hypocrites because at the slightest evidence of something that they want to put out, they say it’s enough and then on the other hand, no matter how many things you have – and by the way, one of the reasons I’m doing the Kennedy book is because I now believe that John F. Kennedy was removed from office by the same people who make a business of removing world leaders from office when they displease power structures and I think those elements still are very much present in American society and in other countries. Bernie Sanders called it the one percent but whatever it is, they definitely…
Tim Dillon: Who would you describe “these people”? If you had to, and I know we talk about the ruling elites and I think one of the things that’s interesting about Family of Secrets is you talk a little bit about this nexus of the extraction of natural resources, banking and sort of the defense industry and how they all meet at some point. So these people, this industry of removing leaders, can you just tell us a little bit about them?
Russ Baker: Yeah. I mean a lot of people want to believe that it is shape shifting lizards who run society or people who are members of a small secret society who meet and have various incantations or what have you. It’s not that neat. Really what it is, it’s society at the highest levels perpetuating itself. It’s the same people who will sue each other in a second and send private investigators after each other also able to break bread and come together when they share a common enemy. And so it’s the system. It is the military; it is the intelligence apparatus. It is a lot of these different elements, banking and so on but you can’t point to somebody. A lot of people like to say it’s a person, it doesn’t work like that. It’s a constant attempt to create a consensus among the wealthiest, most powerful people. All of these things that people think are so sinister, like the Bilderberg Gathering, the World Economic Forum and so forth, they’re not as sinister as people say. They’re really just people hanging out who have a common interest and talking about them, which is what everybody does. Working class people do it in a bar near a construction site, they just don’t have any power. So it doesn’t matter what they talk about, ain’t nothing going to happen. But these people, when they talk and they say you know, this guy Kennedy, he really seems like a loose cannon, I think he’s dangerous. And somebody else says, I agree with you, and then things begin to happen.
Ray Kump: Murder does seem to be the one step where – when you say the Bilderberg, people that are essentially the highest level of networking, but the idea that you would remove a democratically elected leader, which I know shouldn’t shock me because this group of people has done it all over the world, but the idea that they would do something like that or the idea that they would harass, intimidate or murder journalists, that is where people I think would be on some level, even the cynical people, shocked.
Russ Baker: Yeah, the way I would explain it is this. Most of the people, even in the elite circles have clean hands in the sense they don’t know and they don’t want to know, and they don’t need to know. We have apparatuses like the military special forces where people are trained to kill somebody with their bare hands and stuff, what do they do when they leave the military or they need to take in some extra income? What are you going to do? They’re not comedians and they don’t deliver newspapers. So they have tools of their trade, and I’ve interviewed these people and they tell me: my job is to follow orders and I never ask questions. When you’re in the military, you’re trained, never ask questions. And it’s not that hard to understand that if somebody’s told to go to a particular location and fire at a car, that is what they will do.
Ray Kump: What I love about your stuff is that there’s meat on the bone. When you hear conversations about whether what Donald Trump said was or wasn’t racist, do you ever get frustrated when you hear people, what average people discuss? You’re out, you’re at a barbeque, wherever you are and you hear people talking, do you ever just check out and go, I just can’t even participate?
Russ Baker: This is a continuation of the sort of distraction of the public from what actually matters or what actually affects them and I see this. When people say to me, I hope you’re for Hillary because this Donald Trump is dangerous and they’re just shaking and they’re red in their face and they don’t really understand the extent to which this is sort of an entertainment, a spectacle, you know, bread and circuses. Yes, these things matter in certain ways on certain levels but the fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, they would never be allowed to deviate substantively from the course of American policy over the course of decades on the biggest issues affecting the wealthiest people. You’re talking about resource extraction, you’re talking about the constant use of the military to control much of the world, you’re talking about the dominance of the financial sector. These things are inviolable. Where they differ, at least in the way they talk about hot button issues that get people riled up, but there’s even limits in what they could do in those areas. So yes, it’s important, should it suck all the air out of the room and make us be so exhausted that come November, we stop paying attention right when the real work begins? No.
Tim Dillon: You do have these stuff. You write about very powerful people. I don’t know much about it, but a death of a journalist, Michael Hastings, it would seem questionable. Are you ever worried? Do you ever say to yourself, I’m really putting stuff out there? Is that something that crosses your mind at all?
Russ Baker: It does. I think you have to be realistic. I think any human being should be careful in any case and I try to take reasonable precautions but at the same time, you have to live your life. One of the reasons I started WhowWhatWhy.org, our news website, is because I thought well, let’s build something big and deep and let’s train a whole new generation of investigative reporters. Let’s make it all funded by readers and not take any ads and have no corporations in there and build something that’s sort of protected so that nobody can easily cut the head off of it.
Ray Kump: The interesting thing about Michael Hastings who, we can’t say for sure, who most likely was murdered. Most of the situations I seem to read, there’s a lot of information just out there for anyone to find and the powers that be seem to be content to be… the people are too apathetic to care…
Tim Dillon: What makes someone a threat?
Russ Baker: Yeah. Well by the way, I’m proud of the fact that WhoWhatWhy was, I believe, the first news organization on that story. We’ve done that again and again. We’ve raised questions about the FBI’s foreknowledge and relationships with the Boston Marathon bombers, we’ve taken a look at they had a prior relationship with the Orlando shooter. These things, you know, people start hearing and now the scales come down over their eyes because it’s uncomfortable but these are things that need to be looked into and understood. The Hastings thing, again there was an FBI angle, there was a CIA angle, he had angered the military.
Tim Dillon: It could have been any… it’s like Kennedy, it could have been anybody. Right. Well, let me ask you a question now. The Boston Marathon bombing seems to be one of the most emotional things and I’ve tried to broach this because I’ve been on WhoWhatWhy and I have read a lot of what you’ve written, I’ve watched some of the talks, I’ve listened to some of podcasts, it seems to be something where when I bring it up, people get very upset with me, I can only imagine how upset people get with you. Just for a minute or two, talk about a few of the things as a journalist that bothered you about that event and the way it was covered.
Russ Baker: Well the first thing was how quickly the authorities concluded that they had solved it. Whenever they announce they have solved something so fast, especially where it’s a violent thing and it’s kind of complicated, I want to know more about it. Again, this is my business. I saw certain things falling in place that looked to me too neat and they didn’t look properly verified and I said, the fix is in. That’s the same exact thing, that exactly – was it 50 years before? – they did with Lee Harvey Oswald. And in fact there are eerie echoes because the Tsarnaev in Boston had been to Russia. Lee Harvey Oswald had been to Russia. The Tsarnaev had family members who were connected to the CIA. Lee Harvey Oswald had family members who were connected in with intelligence.
Tim Dillon: Have you tried to speak to their family, the mother? Anything? Or is that completely…That’s the type of stuff where you start to get in trouble.
Russ Baker: I can’t talk too much about that. I’ll just tell you this: there is a real clampdown on that subject. Whatever really happened there is so problematical for the state that they have put tremendous resources in making sure that nobody will ever figure it out because you know, listen it’s very, very simple. When you have a government, the only way that you keep calm and you keep people focused on their productive work and so forth is they need to feel that things are under control. If it turns out that the government screws up horribly maybe by accident, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, gave some guy a bomb making kit because they wanted to catch some other guys but then oops, the bomb went off, they have to cover this stuff up.
Tim Dillon: Because that would look horrible.
Russ Baker: Well they’d all lose their jobs and you know, that’s the bottom line: is that in any institution, it’s about self-protection.
Tim Dillon: And you know this trial of – I was in a party with the actor who’s playing Tsarnaev in the new movie, okay by accident. I was just there and I spoke to him and I kind of brought up some of your stuff and he was kind of like, well you know, I met everybody and the police chief gave us a tour and this Danny, this carjacking victim, I don’t know if the kid’s speaking on the level, supposedly they met and spoke to this guy. Danny, this mysterious carjacking victim, never had a last name, we don’t know who he is. You know, Kato Kaelin from O.J. Simpson was on TV every night when I grew up and you would think, is anyone shy? Does anyone not want fame?
Ray Kump: This guy’s story changed radically over the course of a few interviews.
Russ Baker: Right. I’m proud of the fact that we went into great detail about that. The media has not done… nothing on any of this. Even when I went to them and I said, well he told you one thing and now how he escaped from the carjackers and in later versions, it’s a completely different story. Obviously, he’s lying and he’s a main witness in this whole thing and they said, “I can’t talk to you, the guy’s no longer at our station.” People are scared and this Danny guy, all these characters are rolled out. This professor from Northeastern University who pops up all the time, is like the expert who’s standing next to whoever’s being interviewed on TV. This is a stage managed production and this is what they call PSYOPS at its finest. People don’t even know anything about PSYOPS. Most journalists don’t even know about it. You know, the military, the CIA, whole departments where all they do – this story now about Syria with this little girl who was killed by a bomb, you know how many children have been killed by bombs? By the way, many of them are our bombs. But when you take one child and you put the spotlight on it, you use Twitter and Facebook and everything, you get everybody angry at one person who’s responsible for that particular atrocity and all the others don’t exist at all. There’s no context, it’s all about controlling the emotions.
Tim Dillon: Now there’s something very interesting about this. Omar Mateen and James Holmes. A lot of these guys that flip out, that shoot up movie theaters and nightclubs, at one time had tried to get into the United States Military. That’s something that you’ve raised on WhoWhatWhy.
Russ Baker: They’ve tried to get in the military, they’ve tried to get into police departments. They were very, almost all of them were very gung-ho about this society and the system.
Tim Dillon: If we’re very cynical people, are we thinking there’s some angle where they don’t get into the official military but they get into some black ops program, some mind control thing that doesn’t go well, it goes wrong or they’re guinea pigs or what?
Russ Baker: The problem with any of these topics is they begin to sound crazy unless you know and you happen to Google something called MKUltra and you find out that there was a program, maybe still is a program. All governments do this thing – test people’s minds to see what they are capable of doing. The CIA did this for decades. It was discovered by the Senator Frank Church’s committee in the ‘70s and the CIA people were forced to testify. They admitted they were trying to see if you could create a Manchurian Candidate. Could you get somebody against their will to go and kill somebody? And so when we look at all of these things like Hinckley shooting Ronald Reagan and then it turns out the Hinckleys were friends with the Bush family. It’s too weird and so people don’t want to hear and go this has got to be just a weird coincidence. When you look at Sirhan Sirhan and how the L.A. Coroner actually said that Robert Kennedy was killed with a shot from behind his head and you can see in the pictures that Sirhan is in front of him. None of these things get investigated. Let me put it this way: what we do, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel because nobody else, even the so called edgy, kind of progressive, youth-oriented news organizations won’t touch any of this stuff. It’s all off the table.
Tim Dillon: Does WikiLeaks change the dynamic at all in a meaningful way?
Russ Baker: Probably not. It certainly had an impact and will have an impact but I think that it was one where the New York Times and all of them were eager to get a piece of that because first they struggled, they didn’t want to do it, they were afraid and then everybody also, The Guardian’s doing it, see that’s what I’m talking about. And then they’re all in, and then they’re all safe. So now they’re doing it, so that was for what? But then they turned on him and on them later on and you know of course he himself has some issues with his personality and the things he says, and so he doesn’t help himself but that was a revolutionary moment, more less them to be honest than the one who took the documents: Chelsea Manning. That’s the person who really took the biggest risk and you see that her life is destroyed. They’re humiliating her, keeping her in horrible conditions, worse than they do with a mass murderer.
Tim Dillon: What about that guy, Barrett Brown too?
Russ Baker: Barret Brown. All of this is designed to send a message, and it does. It says: don’t do this.
Ray Kump: One big objection a lot of supposedly rational people will say when you bring up stuff like Kennedy’s assassination, 9/11, they go I don’t believe the government’s competent enough to keep this secret for so long. But then you see, with any of the numerous CIA coups in the ‘50s and ‘60s with Iran, Guatemala, the Gulf of Tonkin, staging, these things were kept under wraps 30, 40, 50 years plus. Do you think the CIA and the intelligence apparatus tries to portray themselves in a somewhat incompetent fashion?
Russ Baker: Yes, and in fact there are books that have won the Pulitzer Prize and so on about the CIA and while they’re good books, they also portray the CIA as somewhat incompetent and they always try to say that – I just heard the New York Times Magazine had a very long piece where a guy went all over the Arab world interviewing people, and I heard him interviewed on the radio and he said, what was his conclusion? His conclusion was the U.S. goes in trying to do good stuff and screws it up. And I think oh my god, see, that’s the disinformation that they’re necessarily trying to do good stuff. The whole thing is as you put it, I think very aptly, that these things are kept secret because the consequences of speaking about them, I mean we were just talking about Chelsea Manning, and so the consequences of sticking your neck out are great and people don’t do it. Very few people in any situation, in a company or anywhere else, people see wrongdoing going on all the time. Very few people within a police department, wherever it is, will people prisoners. They’re told, don’t be rat, so they’re not going to do it. They’re not going to do it and these things are preserved. Now, if you really look hard, you will always find a few people who know something and are saying something but they’re always dismissed as kooks or being disgruntled or seeking fortune or something like that.
Tim Dillon: Now even great writers, people like Jane Mayer, Seymour Hersh, these are really good investigative reporters. They write serious books about serious issues but even they shy away. Do you think it’s fear of their professional reputation being injured?
Russ Baker: Absolutely. And another example of a very fine writer is Robert Caro with his whole series on LBJ, but he comes right up, he basically says LBJ was kind of a murderous psychopath, incredibly corrupt individual. He comes right up and then he kind of stops with the Kennedy assassination because he couldn’t do it. He could not do it.
Tim Dillon: What is it about you that just pushes forward? I mean there’s got to be something about guys like you where, and thank god we have them, that just ignore the warnings, go and just do it.
Russ Baker: It just seems to me a life well lived, to go for it, to do the right thing.
Tim Dillon: This is the story, this is the real story, I think.
Russ Baker: I wouldn’t want to be a journalist if I wasn’t just going for the truth.
Tim Dillon: Yeah, yeah. And the new book, and I know that you still got some time to really do some research, is it a book where you think it’s going to have some really startling material or it will?
Russ Baker: Yeah, I mean I’m startled every single day by things I’m putting together. I think that the Kennedy assassination story is really the key to unlocking what happened to America and really explains what I think now was the sort of the death of real democracy half a century ago and that we’ve never recovered from that.
Ray Kump: Right. Oliver Stone for instance, I feel like his directions are good but then he goes to this point where Kennedy was an almost savior figure. It’s not so much that he was so good, more like these other forces, he was disrupting. Is that what you’re getting at?
Russ Baker: Well, I mean I also will have a lot about him and what he was doing and much to my astonishment, but it’s entirely consistent with everything else, somebody with Family of Secrets said you really got to call it ‘everything you thought you knew is wrong’. Well it turns out it’s logical; it’s totally consistent. The same people who are able to shape public perceptions try to do it on everything, so almost everything is wrong to some extent, and the Kennedy thing is wrong too. They tried to paint him as being pro-war, not really wanting to do much about civil rights and so on and it turns out not to be true. He actually was quite an admirable and even a very courageous figure who had all these ideas of things he wanted to do and he was doing as many of them as he could while also trying to make the right decisions about how to get reelected and not alienate the ruling class too much. It was a very, very difficult act.
Tim Dillon: Do you think George H.W. Bush shares some culpability for the assassination?
Russ Baker: Well, if you read Family of Secrets, you’ll know that I figured out where he was that day, so I think the answer would be in some way, yes.
Ray Kump: Now the interesting thing about a guy like George H.W. Bush is he spent the substantive part of his life, I mean he’s a politician but he’s doing little stuff behind the scenes for some ulterior motive and then he becomes the president. Do you look at his presidency, does it seem to be any boon to this gold that they have? Is it particularly effective for their ends?
Russ Baker: He doesn’t seem to have been that effective as a policy maker because that’s that vision thing he wasn’t so good at. He was like one of the key architects of this whole, sort of Iran-Contra thing. I don’t know that he was smart enough, somebody else created it. But he bought into these things and he’s a networking guy. He knows who knows who and who you could bring on board that will work with so and so.
Ray Kump: Comparatively speaking, where do you put Bill and Hillary Clinton because they seem to be shrewd political operators?
Russ Baker: I think they made their peace with the ruling cliques and I think they understood. If you look at Bill Clinton’s presidency, he made no efforts to take on the national security state at all. Jimmy Carter did and Jimmy Carter was kept to a single term. Bill Clinton did not. Bill Clinton also was really quite friendly with Wall Street. He passed many of the things that the wealthy wanted, all these so called reforms like welfare reform, banking reform and so on. So he really was quite, in many ways a loyal cooperator with the system and then on other things, he was a little bit more adventurous and maybe a little bit more conscientious.
Ray Kump: Yeah. I think people are very reticent to believe a lot of this because at the end of the day, everybody’s got to believe something that kind of gets them up in the morning. Somebody told me the other day, I said what do you think the biggest problem in the country is? And this is a guy that I love and respect, and he was like “special interest.” But that’s like the beginning of… it’s such a saccharin way to phrase what’s really going on when you look at some of these issues where you have really questionable problematic events like the Boston Marathon bombing that aren’t fully investigated, that we don’t know much about. 9/11, while it, probably from the information out there, wasn’t what these people are saying, you know a lot of the 9/11 Truth Movement says it is, but the official narrative is well as you documented on Whowhatwhy, doesn’t hold up either. So the truth lives somewhere in between the lizard people and the official narrative but it’s still quite unsettling for most people. Do you have a way to kind of pull people out of their comfort zone in a way that you find to be effective because a lot of this stuff is very troubling?
Russ Baker: Yes, I’ve spent years studying how you do this. How do you deal with people’s cognitive dissonance? I do a lot of public speaking. There’s invariably one or two people in the room who I can see becoming traumatized and they’re losing control of themselves. They’re becoming very, very angry at me and they do want to kill the messenger because you see, we live very good lives here in America. Most of us, we are very comfortable, we always have enough to eat, even if you are struggling in certain ways, it’s really not that hard compared to the vast majority of the people in the world. And we really have sort of artificially subsidized good lives and we don’t want to hear too much about how the sausage is made and so we block it out. The liberals, the ones who love Hillary Clinton and so on, they’re part of the problem too because they think they’re virtuous and they tell their kids they’re virtuous and they shop at Whole Foods and they compost and whatever they do, but they have no acknowledgement, I mean most of the lawyers for the corporate world are liberals. They all vote for Hillary or whatever, and there’s no sense of their own culpability and propping up this very, very corrupt system. And so nobody wants to hear about it, but I have to say there is a growing demand for this kind of truthfulness. People really do want it; they feel liberated by it. The example I give is I say that you know people say I don’t want to hear, and then I say well let me ask you this: if you’re in your house and suddenly you smell smoke or there’s flames licking under the door, do you say I’m not really in the mood to deal with that? You don’t do that. And I say, we’re talking about the flames and the smoke that’s licking at our doors all the time, so we better pay attention to it. And there are more and more people who get it, and they get that even as sort of daunting as this all is in some ways, it’s all so weirdly sort of electrifying because you suddenly discover this holy grail and suddenly everything makes sense. One of the reasons a lot of us are depressed, or our society is depressed is because nothing makes any sense and we therefore don’t know what to do. When it all starts making sense, suddenly you know what to do. You know who’s responsible and you know what can be done to fix it.
Tim Dillon: Are some of the people at the top terrified of any type of accountability?
Russ Baker: Sure, and they are hoping and are doing what they can to promote competing journalistic brands, other people’s books; don’t read Family of Secrets, read such and such instead. Don’t have Russ Baker on Meet the Press, have so and so instead, he’s maybe a little better. This is how they do it, it’s all very, very subtle.
Ray Kump: And going forward, if you do start to gain more traction, more success, do you think that they’ll make an attempt to co-opt you?
Russ Baker: I think that’s when things get dangerous because they’ll come at you with everything.
Tim Dillon: Well that’s the thing. I know you don’t do gut feelings because you’re a good reporter and stuff like that so you could just wink, but when you read the Hastings thing, do you have a gut feeling that he really stepped on the wrong toes or do you think that just out of nowhere, a Mercedes, which seems to be a relatively responsible mode of transportation, malfunctioned in an odd way?
Russ Baker: I look at that stuff in a forensic way. That’s how we do all of our work. I know that he had enemies but some people who have enemies – he also had a volatile personality. Could he have been drinking or distracting and his car jumped off the street and rode up and hit a tree? Yes. My question would be: does a car that hits a tree explode in that manner? Is an engine of a Mercedes ejected violently in that fashion? The people I’ve spoken to tell me no and so I’m interested in that. The fact that his neighbor said that he told her that he thought that somebody had been tampering with his car. These are not nothing. And so I feel like we are the responsible ones and the others are the irresponsible ones because we’re asking reasonable questions and we’re asking them of people who have expertise. Our handicap with WhoWhatWhy and the work I do is funding because this is a lot of work and really to do it, I need teams of people, I need to be able to get off other things that I’m doing in order to focus on the difficult aspects of this. What we find is that even people who love what we do, they don’t necessarily step up. We haven’t trained ourselves that if we want the right thing, we have to get behind it in every possible way.
Tim Dillon: And can people go and donate on your website?
Russ Baker: They can, yeah.
Tim Dillon: WhoWhatWhy.org. Again, visit, donate five bucks, whatever you can do.
Russ Baker: Whatever you can do. We’ve got a Twitter@whowhatwhy, Facebook, all of these things. They all make a difference. Pick up a copy of Family of Secrets and tell your friends, give copies to your friends.
Tim Dillon: I’m telling you right now, pick up a copy. We’re going to get out of here in a few minutes, but the Barbara Bush memo in that book, to me, is my favorite part of the book. That’s when I got chills. The memo that was reproduced that she said she wrote, it started when Kennedy was shot, ended when he was dead, she’s writing it from a hair salon in Texas, to me, Russ, is one of the most fascinating things in the book. Could you just tell us a little bit about that before we get you out of here?
Russ Baker: Even though it is substantive and sometimes disturbing material, I also try to write it in a really entertaining way. And it’s got things like that section, I put these sub-ins like Barbara’s Big Hair Day – or Bad Hair day.
Tim Dillon: And it’s this crazy memo that I think – she’s writing it to her children who aren’t old enough, they’re ten.
Russ Baker: In a nutshell, this is a letter they produced decades later when they have to explain where Poppy was the day Kennedy was shot and it’s a letter that’s providing him like the Parrott phone call, more cover that he was somewhere other than Dallas and yet when I studied that letter and I would invite everyone when you read Family of Secrets, read that chapter carefully and you decide for yourself. Does that read to you like a real letter that Barbara Bush really wrote under a hair dryer or does it read like something that was written later by somebody else?
Tim Dillon: Before we go, you seem hopeful, you seem optimistic, you seem to be someone who’s in love with their work. I don’t know that we have any of these people in our audience, I mean we might, if somebody’s in an investigative journalist out there, if they’re at Columbia, if they’re at NYU, what is your advice to people like that, that want to go out there, even though it’s such a daunting task, what do you say to them?
Russ Baker: I would say get a day job delivering pizza and then volunteer for Whowhatwhy. I’m only half joking because our model is largely pro bono and we have now a very large number of people coming in and volunteering, not as reporters, as editors, as people who are going to do a video for us, accounting, PR, marketing. We are a rapidly growing organization and we need all kinds of stuff.
Tim Dillon: We should do a comedy show fundraiser for WhoWhatWhy.org. We should get big comedians to do it because there are big comics that are fans and that might be something to think about. So the website is WhoWhatWhy.org, Twitter is WhoWhatWhy,org. Facebook is WhoWhatWhy.org. It’s pretty easy, that’s very good. The book is Family of Secrets. It’s available everywhere. The new book, we got to wait, what do you think?
Russ Baker: A year, a year and a half.
Tim Dillon: Him and his research, I want it tomorrow. Can I get an advance chapter, we’ll see but listen, I really appreciate you coming by. Some of this stuff is so amazing that it keeps you up at night, but in a good way.
Russ Baker: We keep you up at night, but in a good way. I like that, that’s my new slogan.
Tim Dillon: There you go, and that’s how we’ll end it. Thanks to Russ Baker, go check him out, go donate on WhoWhatWhy,org. We’ll be back next week with someone far less interesting. Thank You.
Russ Baker: Thank you.
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