THE SILENT PRESS
"For those who govern, the first thing required is indifference to newspapers."
The sudden death of our book deal, we reasoned, was the first sure sign that our efforts and instigations had made waves outside the Miami area.
The fourteen months between April 23, 1971, when we sent the telegram to President Nixon, and June 17, 1972, when President Nixon's "plumbers" were captured in the Watergate, was a period in Miami when a good deal of noise was made about the vote fraud issue.
The first above-ground story about rigged elections in Miami appeared on August 29, 1971 in the Miami Beach Reporter under the byline of its old and respected editor-publisher, Paul M. Bruun.
Bruun was the last independent editor in Dade County. He didn't owe much to anybody. His word was respected and his opinion carried weight among both Jews and Gentiles on Miami Beach. He was tall, elegant, in his seventies, a man with snowy white hair and moustache. He flourished a cane, had a rich, deep, rumbling voice, and a big Basset hound named Caesar led him about on a leash. He was a world-class gossip and a bon vivant. Most important, he was wealthy and hard to corrupt. His column titled "Bruun Over Miami" was famous among the postwar settlers, especially on the Beach.
We ghostwrote "The Great Dade Election Rig Continues" story for him as a factual account of the voting controversy based on the Channel 7 computer readouts. He told us that he would put his byline on the story only if his own independent checking verified every fact and allegation.
As a hedge against libel suits, Bruun sent a copy of the story to all whose names were mentioned. He advised them that they could "exercise veto power over the story" if they could demonstrate a fault in its factual underpinning. When no objections were raised, the following story appeared in the Reporter beneath a headline which read:
THE GREAT VOTE-FORECASTING MYSTERY AND SOME QUESTIONS...
by Paul M. Bruun, Publisher
For months I have hoped that some, whom I am willing to admit know far more about such electronic computations than I do, would answer some very pertinent questions.
Nothing has been printed or broadcast by anybody which in any manner answered any of the questions that have been really bugging me. Read this carefully and see whether you agree there are many that bother you.
Though this is basically a story about Channels 4 and 7, I have sought in vain to find out exactly why television station WPLG, Channel 10, did not broadcast this all-important election, though I understand that elaborate plans had been made by the Post-Newsweek subsidiary to do so. What happened that two out of three supposedly competing TV news departments had the broadcasting of projected election results all to themselves?
In all fairness, I sent a copy of this story to Channels 4, 7 and 10, to the Miami News, to the Miami Herald, to Professors Beiler, Shipley and Wood of the University of Miami Political Science Department with a copy to U. M. President, Dr. Henry King Stanford.
In my vault I have the material from which this story was written. I think it is news. The daily press in Miami obviously doesn't think this is news. Why? Here goes, with all the facts that I can present..."
The story then went on to recount the election night TV coverage on Channels 4 and 7 featuring the "miracle" projections. It asked the question:
"Was the election rigged?"
Bruun also interviewed Dr. Beiler, who said:
"Oh, let's say even at this point I've had very little experience with computers. You see, what I've always done is simply write the specifications and the programmer programs."
When Bruun questioned the computer-programmer employed by Channel 7 to provide computerized "projections based on results phoned in from so-called sample precincts" he was told:
"...ask Dr. Beiler about it. I only put in those machines whatever he tells me."
Paul Bruun expressed his amazement in the article which continues:
"So here we have the two men responsible for the odds-defying feat of projecting with near-perfect accuracy the detailed outcome of a lengthy election ballot on the basis of phoned-in unofficial returns from the solitary voting machine and yet each man denies any detailed knowledge of how it was done.
"Radio station WKAT revealed that an investigation is now underway, conducted by one of the losing candidates, to determine if the election itself could have been rigged "by a Dade County Machine in absolute control of local establishment mass media." The U.S. Justice Department has been engaged in accepting information pertinent to this case through the Miami field office of the FBI.
"Martin Braterman, Dade County elections supervisor at the time of the election, resigned in November 1970 after serving for five years. His resignation came just after Dr. Beiler provided our investigations with the Channel 7 computer read-outs. Braterman told this newspaper's publisher: 'Whatever happens at the TV stations on election night has nothing to do with the results of the election. How could it?'
Following are some examples of the amazing accuracy of the 7:24 p.m. projections.
|TOTAL VOTES CAST||TOTAL VOTES CAST|
The Big Three television stations are network affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC. The ownership of Channels 4 and 7 has been based in Dade County since the advent of television in 1949. Washington-based Post-Newsweek has owned and operated Channel 10 (whose call-letters WPLG stand for the late Phillip L. Graham, husband of Katharine Graham of the Washington Post communications empire) for less than two years.
Both Miami-based stations televised continuous coverage from the moment the polls dosed. But Washington Post-controlled Channel 10, WPLG, suddenly cancelled elaborately planned coverage which was to have featured the polling techniques of Irwin Premack Associates, a Tampa firm which had been paid $27,000 to provide commentary. At the last minute WPLG's rented computer at its location in the First National Bank Building "broke down," according to WPLG news director Carl Zedell. A movie was run instead. The so-called "blackout" on reports to the public of ACTUAL OFFICIAL VOTES from the Dade County Courthouse is evidenced by two documented facts:
1. The computer read-outs used as the on-air script for Dr. Beiler at Channel 7 show that no actual votes had been received by the station until 11:15 p.m., four hours and fifteen minutes after the beginning of televised election coverage.
2. After the supposed computer breakdown, newscasters Ralph Renick, V.P. News Department, Channel 4 and George Crolius, of Channel 7, repeatedly told the public they would use a high-speed computer analysis to project the outcome based on returns from phoned-in sample precincts. The "condition" of the Dade County computer, however, was at all times contrary to what the public was being told by TV newspeople.
According to an official press release from Dade data processing chief Leonard White, "The county computer at the courthouse was never down and it was never slow."
Professor Tom Wood, Beiler's associate on Channel 7 election analysis offered the Reporter this comment: "It looks like we hit the lucky machine. I guess it was right in the middle of things."
This newspaper challenges both Miami TV stations (4 and 7) and/or the political science professors at the University of Miami to demonstrate the manner in which all of the foregoing was accomplished.
And where exactly is the single voting machine which served as bellwether for the balance of 1,647 voting machines active that night?
Are we to seriously believe that any relative handful of votes can be "projected" to be "typical" of us all? Would the people who voted on that single machine be Black, White, Hispanic, Jewish, Italian, Irish, Blue collar, White-collar, Upper-Middle-Lower class models of the way an entire county thinks? Or is the existence of that mystery voting machine a myth?
If, as seems indicated by the foregoing, the election should turn out to have been rigged, then this story will be a catalyst in bringing about its ultimate exposure."
Paul was the kind of man who chortled about stories like this. He knew damned well how uncomfortable he was going to make some very pretentious people, and he loved it. They might be able to say that Jim and Ken Collier were something near to crackpots, or dangerous, or full of misinformation, but they did not dare to say that about Paul Bruun, who was the elder statesman, whose paper was second echelon but who could rake them over some very hot coals if he wanted it to.
Paul Bruun was not about to back off any issue he agreed to start, and any press person worth a quarter knew it. So the immediate letters of denial were pained and defensive, but not insulting.
Here is Channel 7's Corporate reply:
Dear Me Bruun:
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 13, 1971, with a draft of the story that you plan to publish on Sunday August 29.
It appears to me that your primary contention is that by 7:24 p.m. on September 8, 1970, the local television stations accurately projected all races based "solely on the returns from one solitary voting machine."
I wish to assure you that the premise is untrue and preposterous.
Further, the implication of wrong doing and conspiracy is ridiculous.
Edmund N. Ansin,
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Sunbeam Television Corporation Channel 7
Channel 4's Corporate reply:
I am happy you have given us the opportunity to comment on the story you planned to run in the Reporter concerning election coverage by the Miami TV stations. From my own knowledge, I know a great deal of the information which has been given to you on this subject is incorrect and I want to put forth the facts as I know them for you to be able to make a responsible journalistic judgement.
... The implication that there was collaboration between the two stations in the projecting of results and the "withholding" of actual information is completely erroneous. I think you know, Paul, that the various Miami TV operations are, on the contrary quite competitive.
... There is no secrecy with respect to the readouts which our computer produced during the course of the evening or such data which we have retained concerning the actual information transferred from the Courthouse. You are welcome to look at this material, although anyone not familiar with computers would need some substantial interpretation to understand the data. (Emphasis added.)
... This station does not claim to have projected perfect percentages on each candidate in every race by 7:04 p.m.; in fact, in several of the races we were unable to "call" a winner by the end of our election coverage because our projections showed the races to be too close to declare one man definitely the winner.
... It is clear that computers employed by television stations do not decide on an election. They merely provide a means by which actual votes cast in selected representative precincts may be projected in order to give an estimate of the winner. The winning candidate obviously is decided by the voter at the ballot box.
... Ralph Renick (v.p. News) and I will be pleased to go over this matter with you in person. The story as presently written, at least as pertains to this station, contains a great deal of erroneous information and presents a totally misleading picture of the procedures which we employ in reporting election results.
... Being in the news business ourselves, we realize that it is sometimes difficult to track down the true facts; I hope that the information I have outlined above goes some distance in providing you with the data concerning the tight standards of WTVJ practices.
... We are quite proud of the competence which we have developed in the projection of election results through the utilization of sample precincts and we have no desire to hide from you or anyone else the care with which we program our computers to achieve reliable estimates at the earliest moment.
WR. Brazzil, V.P. in Charge
WTVJ Channel 4
Next, one of the University of Miami professors who appeared on Channel 7 the night of the elections:,
Dear Mr. Bruun:
Thank you for your recent letter enclosing a copy of the story you propose to publish. To my mind, there is no need to comment on a tale so preposterous.
Dr. Thomas J. Wood
Department of Politics and Public Affairs
University of Miami
Also, a letter from the editor of the Miami News.
I am interested largely by the accuracy of the computer... The votes had already been cast and the election decided before the computer results were broadcast. While the accuracy of the projections was amazing, I do not see what effect they had on the outcome of the elections. Nor do I see what the stations have to gain with anything other than accuracy. If indeed, they used only one voting machine to make the projections, the risk of being wrong was theirs.
I do not know of a "Dade County Machine" in absolute control of local mass media. Nobody is in control of me. I don't see any evidence that anybody but you is in control of you.
Editor, The Miami News
Finally, a letter from the chief executive of the University of Miami.
Your note and a copy of the article regarding those voting machine projections arrived yesterday I simply have not had time to read it carefully enough to comment. I will look it over within the next few days and let you have my comments, if any. I have great confidence in these professors.
Henry King Stanford
U. of M. President
We needed more answers to questions like: How was the fraud accomplished in the field where votes were tallied by 4,000 precinct officials countywide? Who was in a position to do it? How many people would have had to be in on the scheme? Why would any plotters go to the trouble? What part, if any, did the League of Women Voters play?
"We've got to keep up the pressure," Jim kept repeating.
And we did.
On September 24, 1971, the University of Miami student newspaper, The Hurricane, chose an eye-opening headline to debut its version of the story:
PROFESSORS IMPLICATED IN LOCAL ELECTION RIGGING
We were pleased with the pugnacious tone of the headline, though purists suggested it was libelous. The Hurricane's editor-in-chief, Scott Bressler, stood by the story and wrote the following editorial that accompanied it:
ELECTION RIGGING QUESTIONS MUST HAVE ANSWERS
The alleged rigging of last year's Dade County election as presented by the Miami Beach Reporter... has been written off by most as totally absurd. Indeed the charges leveled are fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. Charges of countywide election fraud sound like they belong in a Humphrey Bogart movie. The only catch, however, is that too many questions have been left unanswered.
One voting machine (out of 1,648) was used to accurately project the entire election involving some 40 races and more than 250 candidates. Which machine was it?
What was the formula used by the TV stations to accurately project the entire election at 7:24 p.m. before any official votes had been reported?
Why were there no actual votes reported until 11:15? Some say the computer broke down. Others say it didn't. What is the correct answer?
Why have the three television stations and the Miami Herald and the Miami News completely ignored this story? They may claim that it's not true, but can they deny its news value?
We feel that these questions must be answered. The Hurricane certainly does not feel that three of its professors were involved in an election fraud but we do feel the necessity to find the answers and restore the public's faith in Dade County's electoral process.
Within a week, on October 1, 1971, The Hurricane revived the issue once again by printing a Letter to the Editor from Miami News editor Sylvan Meyer, who steadfastly refused to use his own columns in Miami's second largest daily to air the controversy he was helping to create.
NEWS EDITOR COMMENTS ON ELECTION STORY
To the Editor:
Permit me to make a few comments about your news story and editorial.
I concede the vote projection was remarkably accurate. Unfortunately, computers are reflecting this sort of accuracy all over the country. The question of computer projections is not a new one and has been the subject of national debate for several years.
There is no way to prevent people from projecting, by guess or by computer, the results of elections and I am not sure I would try to prevent them from doing so if it were within my power.
The Miami News did not run a story when shown this material because we do not feel it is a story. It was an issue originally raised by the Collier brothers, two men I would not trust under any circumstances. They have their own political thing and that's okay, but their information in this matter is not news, it is a "so what?"
I do not believe the story to be true, in that it certainly does not establish either a motive nor a result contrary to the public interest. (Emphasis added.) I do not believe it has news value because it is entirely speculative and maligns the reputation of otherwise honorable men without cause and without justification.
Your editorial implies that there has been a loss of faith in the integrity of Dade County's electoral process. If this is true, I am not aware of it and I certainly do not believe that the information gathered by Paul Bruun, the Colliers, et al, has resulted in such a loss of faith.
On October 29, 1971, Bressler reported:
CONCERNED DEMOCRATS INVESTIGATE ALLEGED DADE ELECTION RIGGING
The story of an alleged election rigging involving three UM professors will be investigated by the Concerned Democrats, a coalition of liberal groups in Dade County and statewide. The group, after listening to the evidence presented by one of its own members in a closed-door session last Tuesday night, voted to go ahead with the inquiry.
Presentation of pertinent evidence in the case was made by Alvin Entin, a lawyer in the Miami area, who told the Hurricane, "I'm not saying that any of the charges are true, but there was found to be enough probable cause to look into it further. From what we've seen there are questions which have to be answered. A lot of people are saying the Colliers are crazy, but you cannot dismiss the evidence just by calling names.
Why won't Dr. Beiler clear this up or tell us anything? If he did, I would be willing to believe him since I don't think he's crazy.
The Concerned Democrats plan to send letters to the three professors, the three TV networks, the two Miami daily newspapers and the local TV news departments to help get to the bottom of this. "We have a responsibility to look into this. Personally, I'm scared to death. I believe in the system and all I can say is. God forbid that this is true," Entin said.
In October, this letter appeared in The Hurricane:
BEILER SCOLDS 'CANE EDITOR FOR IRRESPONSIBILITY
To the Editor:
To determine whether election results are real or fraudulent is fairly easy. Some 340 precincts returned reports called Canvass Sheets signed by at least ten election officials in each precinct. These and the physical counting-wheels in the voting machines themselves which were available for re-checking within a certain time period prescribed by law, constitute the guarantee that any dishonesty would have to be at the individual polling places themselves. Do you honestly believe that 3,400 election officials were in on the so-called "rigging"?
I am amazed at your ignorance and your lack of investigating enterprise when faced with the products of totally irresponsible journalism. You merely copy it. You are fully as bad at The Planet and the Reporter. You should learn now, so that you do not get sued if you ever go into journalism on a responsible paper or channel.
Of course, I have no interest in
"laying to rest" such hare-brained "journalism," which
condemns itself on its face. The Colliers wasted a great deal of my time with
this nonsense. I am certainly not going to let you do the same. As little as I
think of your behavior in this matter, I don't think you have their problem.
Ross C. Beiler
On November 11, 1971, The Daily Planet, Miami's underground newspaper, ran the following treatment by editor Buzz Kilman:
THE SILENT PRESS (THE ELECTION NOBODY EVER HEARD OF...)
When is a story not a story?
Several weeks ago the Miami Beach Reporter broke with a story that the 1970 Dade County election was rigged.
Maybe, but a lot of impossible things happened on the night of September 8, 1970 that either have not or cannot be explained by those who accomplished them.
Since Publisher Bruun printed the story in the Reporter, The Daily Planet, the South Miami News, the Hialeah Home News and the UM Hurricane have run followups.
Throughout the local media uproar, not a word of the mess has been printed in Miami's two dailys, the News and the Herald.
As time goes on, this question becomes almost as interesting as the original charge that the elections were rigged. Although both of Miami's dailies have privately dismissed the notion that an election rigging took place, they have failed to explain, privately or in their own newspapers, why they are ignoring what is obviously an outrageously intriguing story.
The Colliers devoutly believe that some sort of conspiracy was culminated on the evening of September 8, 1970 and this is a line of thought too overwhelming for even the most enthusiastic reporter... and yet, it's not inconceivable as it wouldn't be the first election to be rigged.
Privately, however, the Colliers' obsession has been considered more carefully and has been the object of much off-the-record discussion among area newsmen. I have personally talked with several, among them Bill Byer of Channel 10, the Post-Newsweek subsidiary, and Pat Murphy, editor of the Coral Gables Times, a Herald-owned newspaper, who have expressed at least a degree of bewilderment on the subject, although they have not been moved to inquire further. In a telephone conversation, Byer termed the issue "serious" and added that it was and I quote "a sick, sad, sorry situation."
Every newsperson in the city and probably the state knows about the charges. A great many of them, responsible, establishment reporters, have expressed to me concern over the implications for future elections if computers and the media ever do take over the election system. The most chilling aspect of the entire affair is the ominous and unexplainable silence of the Establishment media in the face of undeniable controversy. What is so special about this case?
And that was that.
It wasn't as if the press was entirely a pussycat then. In 1971 there was a maelstrom of "investigative reporting" going on all over the country, to the extent that one investigation (with many dubious and unanswered motives) eventually resulted in the resignation of Richard Nixon and a new balance of power between the government and the press. To recall history:
In the autumn of 1971 President Nixon was enraged by Daniel Ellsberg's activities in the "Pentagon Papers" affair.
To Nixon, the fact that Ellsberg, a low-level, very wealthy civilian in the Defense Department, turned over Pentagon secrets to The New York Times and The Washington Post was deeply disturbing: unpatriotic, perhaps traitorous. Worse, was the US. Supreme Court's refusal to issue a restraining order preventing the Ellsberg information from becoming public.
The primary revelation Nixon felt ought to be kept secret was the material that proved the "Gulf of Tonkin" incident was a total ruse concocted by the Executive Branch to stampede the U.S. Congress into voting the President unrestricted war powers in Southeast Asia.
Apparently, the 1964 naval encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin, where a U.S. cruiser was supposedly fired on by North Vietnamese boats, simply never occurred.
Championing Ellsberg, however, was Nixon's harshest critic, Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, whose First Amendment rights to publish the information were upheld by the high court. Smarting from the Ellsberg case, Nixon, through his Attorney General, John Mitchell, started investigating Mrs. Graham and all her holdings in an effort to find evidence that could jeopardize her empire, including her newly-acquired FCC license for television station WPLG, Miami. WPLG was purchased in 1969 for $20 million. (By 1989 it was estimated to be worth just under $900 million).
In the heirarchy [sic] of Miami's press barons, "Kate" Graham was a queen and her family held imperial power in Florida, as well as in and around Washington. Her brother-in-law, Robert, was elected to the Florida legislature on September 8, 1970. He went on to serve two elected terms as Florida governor and then rose to fill a US. Senate seat.
Whenever the media leaders of Miami called a conference, Mrs. Graham would chair the function. Such meetings took place at the University of Miami. Channel 7 was owned by the university itself. Channel 4 was owned by Wometco Enterprises, an entertainment and vending machine company.
When Katharine Graham took her place at the head of the conference table, she was flanked by Miami Herald lawyer Dan Paul and UM president Henry King Stanford. Further along the table in a prescribed order of rank were the president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV); .the Dade County Manager; the chief circuit court judge; the liaison from the Chamber of Commerce; assorted lawyers representing Channels 4 and 7.
Mrs. Graham, as she was to prove during the Watergate revelations of the Washington Post, had the balls of a Picasso goat. If she had to take on Richard Nixon to get his attention and respect, she would risk her realm to do it. In the Miami area, her power over the press and politicians was unchallenged.
Freedom of the press was a battle cry at the time, and Richard Nixon was on one side and Mrs. Graham and occasionally the Sulzbergers of the New York Times were on the other.
That was the political atmosphere we were operating in, and it seemed that most things were possible and that corruption was being rooted out by crusading, gutsy publishers and editors even at the highest levels.
Then why we wondered, was vote fraud such a special case?
In a private conversation with Jim, Henry King Stanford, the University of Miami's president, gave his perspective on the problem.
"It's such an explosive issue," he said, "that your proof must be incontrovertable [sic]. Frankly, there are holes in the story that you've got to close before you can demand that the big papers take you seriously If you don't come up with a plausible way to explain how 4,000 poll workers' signatures could be circumvented in such a conspiracy, then your theory will die of its own weight."
That was a tall, tall order and we knew he was right. But how the hell could we go about explaining those thousands of corroborating signatures?
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