Much has been made of the decision by Sinclair broadcasting to preempt regular programming to air an anti-Kerry documentary in 25% of the nation just before the election in a couple weeks. Democrats are predictably up in arms about it and want the FCC to step in; Republicans are predictably just fine with it. If the tables were turned, and a network or TV chain was showing Farenheit 911 just before the election, the argument would naturally be reversed, with each side taking the opposite position and pretending to be objectively right regardless; such is the nature of partisan politics. Personally, I think Sinclair broadcasting has a right to air or not air whatever they choose, so I hadn’t taken much interest in this issue at all. Until I found out who made this documentary to be aired – Carlton Sherwood.
Now, most people don’t have a clue who Carlton Sherwood is. But anyone who has followed the Reverend Moon over the last 20 years will recognize the name. Sherwood was the author of a book called Inquisition: The Prosecution and Persecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a book which claimed that Moon was the target of a left-wing conspiracy. In the late 70s and early 80s, Congressional investigators built a case against Moon for widespread financial irregularities, and a Federal prosecutor ended up convicting Moon of tax evasion; Moon served a 13 month sentence in 1982. Sherwood, who was a reporter for the Moon-owned Washington Times, claimed in his book that Moon had done nothing wrong and that he was targeted because of racial and religious bias, claiming that Moon was a victim of “the worst kind of religious prejudice and racial bigotry this country has witnessed in over a century.” I’ll take nonsensical hyperbole for $1000, Alex.
The truth, it appears, is that Sherwood was Moon’s hired gun and that Moon was behind this supposedly objective book right from the get go, along with several conservatives in government. As Robert Parry points out in this article, not only was it published by friends in high places, but Moon covered the cost of the publishing by promising to buy copies of it in bulk:
Inquisition was originally put out by a little-known publisher called Andromeda, which apparently operated out of the house of Roger Fontaine, a former member of Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff who later worked as a reporter for Moon’s Washington Times. In 1991, the book was republished by Regnery-Gateway, which was run by conservative operative Alfred Regnery, who worked in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department.
Beyond the conservative allegiances of Sherwood’s backers, there also was evidence that Moon himself subsidized the book. A PBS Frontline documentary in 1992 reported that former Washington Times editor James Whelan said Sherwood told Regnery that Moon’s organization would buy 100,000 copies of Inquisition, which would assure Regnery a handsome profit. Frontline reported that Regnery denied Whelan’s statement, as has Sherwood.
However, a week after interviewing Regnery, Frontline said it obtained a copy of a letter that corroborated claims of a secret Moon role in the production of Sherwood’s book. The letter, addressed to Moon from his aide James Gavin, stated that Gavin had reviewed the “overall tone and factual contents” of Inquisition before publication and had suggested revisions.
“Mr. Sherwood has assured me that all this will be done when the manuscript is sent to the publisher,” Gavin wrote. “When all of our suggestions have been incorporated, the book will be complete and in my opinion will make a significant impact. … In addition to silencing our critics now, the book should be invaluable in persuading others of our legitimacy for many years to come.”
So not only did Moon have one of his own employees write the book, he got it published by promising to buy 100,000 copies of it, thus ensuring profitability, and then hired the publisher to work for him as well. Plus, his aides got to edit the book before it was published. This is the furthest thing from journalism, this is simply public relations. But Sherwood was not alone. To Moon’s defense came several prominent conservatives, including Terry Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee and Grover Nordquist.
Moon isn’t stupid. He pays millions of dollars in speaking fees to prominent conservatives, including even former president Bush; he gives out literally hundreds of millions of dollars to various conservative groups; he bails out prominent but financially troubled leaders like Jerry Falwell and Richard Vigurie; he spends millions on their favorite projects, like helping fund the Contras in Nicaragua during the 80s; he buys a newspaper that pushes conservative views and publishes hagiographic pieces on those same leaders. And lo and behold, they come to his defense whenever the public gets wind of his criminal behavior. What a surprise.
Does this mean that whatever is in the documentary that he made about Kerry is false? Of course not. I haven’t seen it and probably never will, so I don’t have any idea what is in it or whether it’s true. I’m far more interested in what Sherwood had to say about Moon than what he has to say about Kerry. I think the Moon story is the one that needs to be given more attention. We have a fascist theocrat with ties to North Korea spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy influence in our political system, and that influence is getting him not only government contracts but virtual immunity due to his high connections. And the very people who should be most opposed to him – the Christian right – is climbing into bed with him in a hundred different ways. We can’t afford to let this story slip below the radar. And as always, we have to give enormous credit to John Gorenfeld for keeping it in the spotlight.