ed Koppel will become a regular
voice on National Public Radio. He recently ended 25 years with
ABC’s show, “Nightline,” amid profuse media accolades.
NPR has announced that Koppel will do several commentaries per month
on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
The Associated Press reported, “He also will serve as an analyst
during breaking news and special events.”
There’s some grim irony in the subsequent statement issued
by NPR’s senior vice president for programming: “Ted and
NPR are a natural fit, with curiosity about the world and commitment
to getting to the heart of the story. The role of news analyst has
been a tradition on NPR newsmagazines and there is no one better
qualified to uphold and grow that tradition than Ted.”
But “the heart of the story” about U.S. foreign policy
has often involved deceptions from Washington. Since Koppel became
a prominent journalist, he has been a fervent booster of one of
the most prodigious and murderous deceivers in U.S. history. “Henry
Kissinger is, plain and simply, the best secretary of state we have
had in 20, maybe 30 years—certainly one of the two or three
great secretaries of state of our century,” Koppel said in
an interview (quoted in
Columbia Journalism Review
1989). Koppel added: “I’m proud to be a friend of Henry
Kissinger. He is an extraordinary man. This country has lost a lot
by not having him in a position of influence and authority.”
was heaping praise on someone who served as a key architect of foreign
policy throughout the Nixon presidency. Kissinger— whose record
as an inveterate liar was thoroughly documented in Seymour Hersh’s
The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House
bloody foreign-policy deceptions from Southeast Asia to Chile to
Kissinger was the smart guy behind the bombing strategy that killed
hundreds of thousands of civilians in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Kissinger was the smart guy who colluded with General Augusto Pinochet
for the September 1973 coup and subsequent years of torture and
murder in Chile. Kissinger was the smart guy who, in his continuing
role as secretary of state after Gerald Ford became president, gave
Washington’s blessing for Indonesian troops to invade and occupy
East Timor—with mass-murderous results.
Kissinger was a frequent guest on “Nightline,” so reverentially
treated by Ted Koppel that in the summer of 1989 the host turned
the moderating role over to the “extraordinary” man so
he could direct the panel discussion. A few years later, in April
1992, Koppel was telling viewers: “If you want a clear foreign-policy
vision, someone who will take you beyond the conventional wisdom
of the moment, it’s hard to do any better than Henry Kissinger.”
Koppel’s fervent promotion of Kissinger was no anomaly. The
longtime ABC newsperson amassed a notable record of banging the
drum for U.S. foreign policy when it counted the most, when a crisis
was underway. Asked by
magazine in 1988 if he’d
like to be secretary of state, Koppel responded affirmatively and
touted his qualifications: “Part of the job is to sell American
foreign policy, not only to Congress, but to the American public.
I know I could do that.” Koppel made the comment while U.S.
foreign policy in Central America included Reagan administration
support for a Contra terrorist army in Nicaragua along with backing
for death-squad aligned governments in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Meanwhile, his “Nightline” program regularly gave aid
and comfort to policymakers in Washington.
During the late 1980s, researchers at the media watch group FAIR
conducted a 40-month study of “Nightline,” 865 programs
in all. The two most frequent guests were Kissinger and another
former secretary of state, Alexander Haig. On shows about international
affairs, U.S. government policymakers and ex-officials dominated
the “Nightline” guest list. U.S. critics of foreign policy
were almost invisible.
But Koppel, the program’s anchor and managing editor, didn’t
see a problem. “We are governed by the president and his cabinet
and their people,” he fired back. “And they are the ones
who are responsible for our foreign policy and they are the ones
I want to talk to.” Instead of wide-ranging public discourse,
Koppel’s show was primarily a conveyor belt for elite opinion
at crucial junctures. Later, if he got around to exposing official
deception, he was apt to debunk propaganda that he helped to spread
in the first place.
noted a basic disparity between the image
and function of Ted Koppel. “The anchor who makes viewers feel
that he is challenging the powers that be on their behalf is in
fact the quintessential establishment journalist.” In that
light—considering the overall coverage of Washington’s
foreign-policy establishment by NPR News—Ted Koppel does seem
like a natural fit.
Solomon’s latest book is
War Made Easy:
How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.