Center for Public Integrity founder Charles “Chuck” Lewis has just published a new book with the provocative title, “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity.” I can highly recommend this work.
Chuck tells the story of the founding of The Center for Public Integrity in 1989, after he had worked in television with ABC News and then CBS News, including producing investigative reports for the late Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes.
“My dream was a kind of journalistic utopia,” he writes, in explaining the original idea for the Center. It was to be “an investigative milieu in which no one would tell me who or what not to investigate and in which the final story would be unfettered by time and space limitations, and untrammeled by the power of corporate or government interests bent on burying the truth.”
With that founding vision, The Center for Public Integrity was born and so it has continued for 25 years to its Pulitzer-Prize-winning prominence today.
The book’s title comes from a major series of reports Chuck produced and the Center published in January 2008, five years after the start of the war with Iraq. It was called Iraq: The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War. Working with a staff of reporters and researchers over three years, Chuck sought to document the misinformation coming from top government officials leading up to the start of the Iraq war in March of 2003. The project overview is called False Pretenses.
Chuck writes in the prologue to the book that “as a professional truth-seeker, I have always been skeptical of statements by those in power, preferring to ignore the official versions of events in my quest for the (sometimes ugly) underlying realities.”
The realities he found in regard to misinformation on Iraq were stunning. “Our report found that in the two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials made at least 935 false statements about the national security threat posed by Iraq. The carefully orchestrated campaign of untruths about Iraq’s alleged threat to U.S. national security from its WMDs or links to al Qaeda (also specious) galvanized public opinion and led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”
“Their shameless manipulations and misrepresentations,” Chuck writes, “ … were a crucial element in the tragedy of that dubious war of choice, and therefore deserving of investigation and analysis in their own right.”
In his new book, Chuck asks, “Could the Iraq War have been prevented if the public had been better informed before the invasion about the specious official statements, faulty logic, and breathtaking manipulations of public opinion and governmental decision-making processes?”
He responds this way: “I believe the answer to that grim question is very possibly yes, and it will haunt me and others in my profession for years to come.”
With approval of the publisher, Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group, we are publishing an excerpt from the chapter of “935 Lies” that describes the founding of The Center for Public Integrity.
Until next week,