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Monday, 26 March 2018 21:42

Mort Sahl Interview with Elliot Mintz

In this remarkable Pacifica interview from the Sixties, Mort Sahl reveals how his career was ruined, as he lost two broadcast programs in Los Angeles and he was blackballed—not due to ratings, which were good, but because he would not be quiet about the JFK assassination.

Thanks to David Giglio at Our Hidden History for this transcript, which reveals more of the censorship of the JFK case by the media.



Click here for the audio


(This transcript has been edited for grammar and flow.)


Elliot Mintz:

KPFK listener-supported Pacifica Radio Los Angeles. My name is Elliot Mintz. This is Looking Out. Mort, this is just ... I can't tell you what a gas it is to have you here tonight.

Mort Sahl:

Well, we moved heaven and earth, Elliot, as you know and the listeners don't know. There's an abundance of riches, in addition to ... First, I was doing nothing. I don't know how many of the listeners know that. In addition to doing the show after you and I got together and we decided to do this, then of course, they called from New York and said they had a Johnny Carson show for me in that that way that they have of calling, it always sounds like Operation Headstart. They're going to help me ... Urban renewal. The fact is they have a lot of letters and they can't hold the audience on a chain that much longer. They want to know if I'm dead or not, so they're going to import for the show and they want to do it Monday. That would mean, of course, flying in Sunday because you have to report at noon in order to brief the producer.

So there's no way to do it. They won't let you fly in that day because they're afraid of weather delays. Then they wouldn't let me ... I said, "Well, I have a show to do in Los Angeles on Sunday."

And they said, "Cancel it."

And I said, "I can't do that." And then I said, "I'll have to cancel this."

"Well, you've been canceling a lot of shows, you know, that wouldn't look too good."

And then, of course, the singular morality ... Then I said, "What about Tuesday?"

They said, "Well, you couldn't be on because Bob Hope is on Tuesday and he has a different position than you on Vietnam." They told me that, so I couldn't be on with him. And then I finally put it off until Thursday. I'll be on the Carson show Thursday night for those of you who have a duality of purpose in listening to KPFK and watch NBC. Covering the full spectrum.

Elliot Mintz:

I think Jim Garrison once described NBC as the network who believes in the right of the people to know, right?

Mort Sahl:

He's not afraid of them, which is enough in itself. And I spoke with Mark Lane this week who was in New Orleans and I'll be down there later this week after the New York trip. And, as you know, he has a bribery, public bribery indictment against Walter Sheridan of NBC. Walter Sheridan has a strange history for a broadcaster. As a matter of fact, Bill Stout of CBS once put it this way to me, he said when it came to the Garrison case, NBC News had reported they hired a house detective. They hired one of Robert Kennedy's lawyers on the Hoffa case to operate there.

Mort Sahl:

Yes. That's who Walter Sheridan is. And he did the Frank McGee show, which was called The Case against Jim Garrison. And he went down there and Garrison has an indictment against him on the basis of trying to bribe Perry Russo; to defect to California where he would not be extradited and to discredit Garrison publicly. And Garrison also charges in that indictment that Sheridan used the phrase, "I will destroy Garrison. I'm here to destroy Garrison." He used it many times around New Orleans. Now NBC turned that show over to Sheridan not to any of its other reporters. He felt, as he said in Playboy, Garrison that Sheridan had gone too far because they gave him equal time very quickly. They kind of backtracked.

On the other hand we find Newsweek's continual bias against Garrison. And I want to tell all the good liberals out there that that's your journal. Phil Graham, the Washington Post, good social Democrat. Not Time Magazine, not a fascistic magazine, but a good liberal magazine. Newsweek hired Hugh Aynesworth to cover Garrison. They said he's an outstanding scholar having worked for the Dallas Times Herald, an outstanding scholar. For instance, in his last exchange with Mark Lane in Dallas, he told Mark Lane something to the effect that Warren was not objective about Oswald because both of them were left-wingers, extreme left-wingers.

Elliot Mintz:

Wow.

Mort Sahl:

So that's the guy that Newsweek feels is an authority on the case.

Elliot Mintz:

I want to begin at the beginning.

Mort Sahl:

All right.

Elliot Mintz:

And follow this thing very, very closely so we can really understand not only what's surrounding the suppression of what Jim Garrison was doing in New Orleans, but also what has been done against you personally.

Now, there was a time that you were appearing in nightclubs and making billions and billions of dollars and selling record albums and you were a comedian and the rest of it, and you didn't talk about the assassination. Something then happened that obviously was to lead to the change of your entire life. When did it begin for you, Mort? When did you begin to begin to-

Mort Sahl:

Well, I began to ask questions about this case. I used to ask them socially and I couldn't find anybody to answer me, but then I only mixed with liberals, you know. That's like looking for an honest man and not having a lamp. Then, of course, I ran into ... when I had the television show over at Channel 11. We had the ... Mark Lane was coming to town. He was originally scheduled on the Joe Pyne Show and some benefactor steered him toward my program instead. And he did cancel the Pyne show and they were furious as well they might be, I suppose, about a commitment. And Mark Lane came on in October of 196-

Elliot Mintz:

6.

Mort Sahl:

6. Right. He came on with me and he made five appearances. Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times agree that Rush to Judgment is a national best seller because of California and because of southern California and more specifically because of that program. And yeah, we sold a lot of books. I told people it was most important book in their lifetime. I told Lane when I met him that I thought he was the most important man in the country.

Elliot Mintz:

Rush to Judgment?

Mort Sahl:

Absolutely. And I think Garrison now has replaced him as the most important man in the country. Mark and I got along very well and the shows were good. We found we didn't need the, you know, actors or fun and games or anything. We just have to talk and the people cared about it. We really got a storm going and because the people responded, I kept going with it. Then, of course, the KLAC show was in the works and I kept going with that. And when the KLAC show began to roll, of course, I got the first national interview with Garrison. I got 90 minutes on tape with Garrison and Lane, which I paid for my own trip to New Orleans because the station didn't think it was worth it. After all, it was only a man investigating the murder of the President.

Elliot Mintz:

This is radio station KLAC?

Mort Sahl:

KLAC. And I went down there and I came back and I played that. Of course, there was great suppression. KTTV, the program director, Jim Gates kept saying to me, "Well, if theatrically ..." So he would say he wasn't suppressing me, it wasn't a matter of censorship. It was a matter of showmanship and he said, "Theatrically, it's boring. It just hearing you talk about Kennedy." And even when I was finally fired at KTTV the first time, which was a year ago December, he came to my house and gave me my notice and said, "Your ratings are very bad and you're going off." And instead of leaving well enough alone, he then got nervous and said, "I think it's because you just talked about the same thing all the time. Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy. We're sick of hearing about Kennedy." And I'm excising the profanity.

You know, as we always say, speak for yourself. I haven't found too many people in the American electorate who are really sick of talking about Kennedy. I find people who were cowed and who are fearful. Anything that happens other than having your head blown off in Dealey Plaza is somewhat anticlimactic. Sane men have grown insane on this subject. For Robert Vaughn to be quizzed by Senator Robert Kennedy, to be pursued around Senator Kennedy's mansion, "Why was Mort Sahl fired? Why does he claim he was fired?"

And for Robert Vaughn to say, "I was fearful of the interrogation, so I said I didn't know." And then for Robert Vaughn publicly to declaim , "As a matter of fact Senator Kennedy is a very busy man. He has the world on his shoulders and he doesn't have time to even know who Mort Sahl is." I know what makes people move this way, but I have found some continuity of integrity on the part of people in any issue but this issue.

Now I'm skipping here chronologically, which I don't mean to do on you, but-

Elliot Mintz:

Let me raise a question.

Mort Sahl:

Yes.

Elliot Mintz:

At its peak, your KLAC telephone talk show and the KTTV television show. What were the ratings like? What was the audience response?

Mort Sahl:

The ratings on the television show were good and healthy and I think that it's important for the audience to know that we presented 30 to 40 minutes of sketches every week and I wrote them and I produced the program myself and I was in the office seven days a week and I did all the monologues in between and I booked the guests and I was on there for two hours. I spent seven days in that office and I made $600 a week gross.

Now that's a pretty cheap way to bring the show, which is sold out on sponsorship. No sponsors complained and you must be very guarded about that. When you hear remarks like KLAC made about our biggest goal is to have no sponsors. It has become a device in our society because there is an argument of the new left that capitalism will censure people it sponsors. It very seldom is the sponsors.

Elliot Mintz:

How were your sponsors on the program?

Mort Sahl:

I never had any trouble in television. We were sold out and they never complained. We even kidded them, especially the used car people. We were sold out. Gates himself said at the end of his show that when he finally discharged me for something he called insubordination, he said, "the ratings were healthy and the show was a good entertaining show, but this guy can't follow direction". That said many times, and of course that may be said with a gleam toward heading you off at the pass so that no one else will hire you because it is a limited industry to begin with. Limited in courage, limited in perspective, limited in goals.

When the radio program was on at the same time, of course, I had Harold Weisberg on, I had Lane on, and we rang up tremendous ratings. Jack Thayer, who was the potentate at KLAC, brought their ratings by in the evening shift at KLAC, had a 17.7 the last time he brought them by, which meant that we passed KHJ. People were really listening. Why were they listening? Because I was talking about their President, whom they love. I was talking about the draft, which is every young man's stake, and I was talking about where I thought it was at because I was taking their pulse. Now, because, so they ... Of course, in the superstate, to paraphrase Garrison, they must drop you for not communicating.

The fact is they dropped you because you do communicate. That's the real grind. To reach other people. I was never such an extraordinary man until I became an ordinary man and joined the people. When I began to express really what was on their minds, but I took a different course of action. I took a course of action that satisfied me. Now when they dropped the radio program, they gave me no notice. The night they chose, I said to the audience, "Should I disappear it is not voluntary. I'll stay here as long as you need me and you want to talk to me. And if I disappear, you must rise as an army. It is non-voluntary." I played Kennedy's inauguration, Roosevelt's inauguration and a Garrison speech for 20 minutes. And the next day I was told not to report. The agency that represented me at that time did not contest this. We’re to gather they're not interested in money in a capitalistic society?

Elliot Mintz:

Which agency was this?

Mort Sahl:

Creative Management Associates. They did not rise as an army. In fact, one of the executives up there quoted me a story by Jill Sharing in the [Los Angeles] Free Press. It's good to know they read the Free Press, isn't it? It's amazing, huh? They don't quote it when it's not convenient though. It's got to be the Free Press on their terms.

Elliot Mintz:

They've got to figure out some way, you know, of bringing it back home on a personal level.

Mort Sahl:

That's right. Document it, bring it back home. Very well put. They dropped the show and somebody ... I guess I shouldn't betray the confidence. Somebody who's influential here in town said to me, "You're going to be dropped on television now. The only difference is the first time you were fired," and a lot of you remember this. When I was fired on television, I talked about it on the radio.

Elliot Mintz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Sahl:

The station got 31,000 letters and reinstated me. This time-

Elliot Mintz:

31,000?

Mort Sahl:

31,000 in three days at one source, Jim Gates. I got a couple of thousand myself up in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace and other people at the station got letters. That was the core of them in three days. This time they cut the live show, the radio show.

Elliot Mintz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Sahl:

And then the television show was controlled by tape. So I immediately received a letter saying, "You've been fired on radio. That is regrettable. Do not discuss it on television. If you do, this will be insubordination." And then I got a series of letters for record that would come every day, special delivery from Jim Gates at KTTV, and they would say, "Do not discuss this." KLAC maintained that "Mort is gone but anybody's free to ... He has his platform at KTTV".

So Mark Lane then directed one of the young men on the Citizens Committee of Inquiry, which I want to talk about later, to call the station and say that it is obvious I'm the only public platform for the district attorney in New Orleans and therefore it is his opinion that that contributed to my being fired. They wouldn't let the young man on the air. So since they had said I had my own platform on television, I put him on television. So they erased him from the television tape. They sent me another letter and said, "You cannot bring this up. You're not to discuss the radio station."

So I checked with an attorney and the attorney said, "That means that in their interpretation for them to beat you with chains and for you to go on the air and if someone in the audience says, 'What is that scar?' And you said, 'They hit me with a chain,' that's termed 'disparaging' by them. You have a right to express yourself under an FCC license granted to Channel 11 as long as you don't disparage them."

So I went on the next week and I said, "That tape was erased." The young man was on there, so they erased that tape.

And they sent me another letter and they said, "If you mention anyone at this station by name or by title or refer to the fact that you have a radio program, you will be fired."

That day I was in the office and Garrison called me from New Orleans and he said, "I have an exclusive for you to break on the air. I have eyewitnesses placing Ruby, Oswald, and Shaw together in Baton Rouge. Eyeball witnesses."

So I went on the air and I told that on the air. And I mentioned for about three minutes, about the radio program that I isolated so that if it was cut out they could see the rest of the show, which was funny. It was a good show. Biff Rose was on. Phil Ochs was on. Hamilton Camp, Joyce Jamison. They erased the entire tape and sent me a letter the next morning firing me for insubordination in mid-contract at a time when they owed me $83,000. So that's a capricious form of behavior you might think for a large organization.

But they saw fit to do that over this issue. They saw fit not even to call me in, and I want to make a point here that this is not capitalism. You know, "shape up or ship out. This is the way we do things." This is a different form. No one came to me and said shape up. It was just over. No one spoke to me. Nobody. Just the vast silence.

Elliot Mintz:

My guest is Mort Sahl and we'll continue with much more.

All right, so here you are at KTTV and KLAC with incredibly high ratings, 31,000 letters received in a period of three days, and having turned Los Angeles on to obviously the most important issue of the day. And you were fired you were through. What was it like after that, Mort. Did you start to go around and look for other jobs right away?

Mort Sahl:

See, KTTV, this pending legal action, I'm going to the union for arbitration through AFTRA, which I'm a member and have been for 15 years to settle this. So I'm not saying there's a correlation between what I said about the assassination and what happened there, but the assassination is not my first experience at twisting the arm of the establishment and it's not my first experience at being threatened or paying for it. I'm the same guy who was on the cover of Time Magazine August 8, 1960. I'm the same guy who emceed the Academy Awards with Laurence Olivier, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and Tony Randall in 1960. And I'm the same guy that had my own show on NBC a few years ago. I'm the same guy that's been under contract to all three networks.

Now, what was the attitude? You know, we have to use a very broad canvas, not a broad brush here, to see what the attitude is here. I am submitted to network shows at the same time because I have a national reputation. When I was submitted to the Dean Martin Show, the agent said, "Oh no, not that guy. Never. Because he's making speeches and he's gone crazy on that subject." I've gone crazy. It's only a couple of years that they were selling Kennedy to me. They thought I was for Stevenson. That's because I like to know who I'm voting for. And I confess, when I meet a stranger, I don't condemn them, but I ask who he is before I vote for him. That happened to me repeatedly. And of course, you know, I saw the whole liberal syndrome.

I tried to call it the way I saw it in Los Angeles and there were many subjects on that program. And while I want to stay with the assassination tonight, I just briefly want to point out that everybody knows who they are and that since god put me into the role of holding the mirror up to Dracula, who knows very well what he looks like anyway. They didn't stand up to be counted when they were needed. I made the appeal. I stood up there and I said, "You know who you are and you know the fight I'm in. What's at stake is America." That's the reason that when Budd Schulberg went to Watts and sold the television show off it or two of the articles to Playboy, I pointed out that Bud Schulberg knows better. Before he knew the history of the Negro people, he knew the history of the Jewish people, and he knew the history of the Un-American Activities Committee and that we must all face ourselves.

Now that wasn't pleasant for everybody, but we have to say it on the air. I talked about all the ex-left in Hollywood and what they have become since they joined the establishment. They haven't become right, they haven't become anything. They had become eunuchs and I wanted to remind them and ask them if it was worth the price. Because as Garrison says, in the Faust legend, the price is you. I pointed that out. I pointed out that the country is going down the tube because we're not ... We have no hope. We have no optimism as we had under Kennedy and we're trying to rationalize the war. I pointed out, as unpopular as it may sound, that there's a vast store of Jewish people in this city who have turned their back on their commitment, which is survival, who have gone the other way, and who will give Ronald Reagan, a standing ovation in the Hollywood Bowl because he says the right things about Israel.

Well, I suppose everybody will, including Omar Sharif and Danny Thomas, the only two Arabs in the show business community. But as hard as it is going down, again we have to point out that the Jewish people--and I know some here who even fled from Hitler--come full circle now and not only rationalize the war in Vietnam, but make the same error they made in Germany: that if they have enough money, they will buy out. Garrison is painting a picture of a neo-Nazi group and as Jack Ruby raved on toward the end in the jail: I helped them because it was a money deal, but I see I'm helping people who will burn my people.

There are Jewish elements, Jewish liberal elements, that turn their back on the President and they know better. And I know some people out here and they're in this industry and their answer to me is a large blue pencil drawn through my name in case I can get a job. And imagine that all they think they can do to a man in America is take away his right to make a living. In between, of course you've got the all the liberals with their knees knocking, looking the other way. I'd tell you something about the issue if I knew anything about it, but I don't know. Well, I'm sure that they do. In fact, those who are most fearful are those who come up with the worst conjecture. Yes, I found myself completely unemployable. Completely.

Elliot Mintz:

You couldn't get a job anywhere.

Mort Sahl:

Yeah, nowhere. You know-

Elliot Mintz:

What would happen when your agents would call the nightclubs, TV stations, or-

Mort Sahl:

What would happen is - America's not Germany and it's not well enough organized. So sometimes guys fall in the trap and a guy would call you and offer you a job on Friday and by the time I get back to him on Tuesday, he would've changed in his mind.

Elliot Mintz:

What happened in the interim, Mort? Who would make the telephone calls to the booking agents?

Mort Sahl:

Well, I did. Then after a while, I didn't.

Elliot Mintz:

No, I mean, who spoke with the booking agents and the people who could give you employment and say, "Don't touch Sahl?"

Mort Sahl:

Oh, you mean from the other end?

Elliot Mintz:

Yeah.

Mort Sahl:

Well, several people. A vice president of a network here in this city, and there are only three, said to my agent, "If I try to use Mort," he said, "whom I respect, I'll lose my job." That's a man with seniority I might add at the network.

Vice president of a leading motion picture and television studio here said, "Don't ever mention his name in this office." That offended. That offended by it.

Elliot Mintz:

Were they functioning independently, Mort, because of their own hang-ups or with somebody ... like who threatened the vice president of the network?

Mort Sahl:

Well, you don't know... It's hard to be both, as I told you the other night, a corpse and a detective too. 15% of this puzzle is missing because people won't come out of the bushes and say ... They will come out of the shadows and say, "We are conspirators." I don't believe that the government calls everybody. I think that people are sufficiently corrupt and enjoy a mutuality of interests that they will behave as they do.

One of the leading television commentators said to me when I said, "What are you going to do about the Garrison case?"

He said, "Oh, I'm going to stay away from him." He told me that openly, but that would be his course. That would be his fearless course of informing the American people of who killed our President.

The best way, of course, was for everybody to call me paranoiac and to look the other way. And I've had some pretty important people tell me that, because what can they do? Can they admit, again, that this is not the best of all possible worlds? Because then they might have to do a patch and we'll have to do a repair job. But they're not prepared sufficiently to even sweep the room and take care of it, be custodians of the room hygienically, let alone re-paper the walls and make some improvements on the property. They are all by and large a gutless breed. There are several levels here in Hollywood. There's the level of "I'm not talented. He's having bad luck. It might rub off on me and I'll really be in trouble. I better keep away.” The straight opportunism. But there are some remarks that are hard to answer. There's Bill Cosby who said, "I have a wife and kids. I can't be seen with him."

Elliot Mintz:

Wow.

Mort Sahl:

How's that? How's that? A wife and kids and I addressed my remarks to him one week. I said, "I'd like to know what you're going to leave your wife and kids. What are you going to leave your kids in America?" We have America. That's all we have. And the signs are that we are losing her.

Elliot Mintz:

Mort, what about your friends? What happened with them?

Mort Sahl:

My friends?

Elliot Mintz:

Your close friends, people who-

Mort Sahl:

Well, they vanished. I know they're around because I go to see them in pictures all the time. But I'm glad that they're still available to me on film as my memories are treasured.

Elliot Mintz:

Really? Was it really like that? I mean, right now-

Mort Sahl:

There was a social ostracism. What friends do I have now?

Elliot Mintz:

Yeah. How many people could you call now and say, "Hey man, I'd like to get together with you and rap," you know?

Mort Sahl:

Well, you're the newest. I would say Mark Lane, Jim Garrison, Maggie Field and Enrico Banducci at the hungry i.

Elliot Mintz:

I'm in pretty good company.

Mort Sahl:

Man. I wouldn't go back for anything. Last week I was here negotiating for something and I had to go out to dinner. It was very interesting. I walked into a restaurant in Beverly Hills and you only have to, you know, take a flight of fancy with me now. You got to remember the breed which I was, I came down the pike and I was a great threat in 1956, '57 and they denied me and then, of course, I made it stick with the people. So then they tried to absorb you and I was everywhere, you know, and put his footprints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese. I emceed for television. I'm that guy, I'm the guy, I made pictures and I did television shows and I addressed people at campuses. Okay.

So I went to the dinner and I walked into a Beverly Hills restaurant and my former manager was there, who still handles the affairs of Peter Lawford. He's the guy who once threatened me with never working again in America.

Elliot Mintz:

Peter Lawford?

Mort Sahl:

Both of them. If I didn't stop kidding President Kennedy. They loved him, you see. They also, these same people, then changed gloves from the left hand to the right hand and see that you continue not to work for asking who killed him. President Kennedy is very lucky that I can be objective, at least his memory is, that I can be objective about it. I didn't love him so I can give full time to finding out who did him in. Fantastic.

Elliot Mintz:

You knew him, didn't you?

Mort Sahl:

Yes, I did. And I wrote for him for 19 months. I said that on KLAC. Senator Kennedy, as I understand it asked Mr. Vaughn if I ever claimed that and Mr. Vaughn said, with the customary courage, "I don't know what he said." Well, I said it. In fact, Senator Kennedy's had the opportunity to ask me. And for those of you who can't get a framework on this, you must remember that I go into the White House at will. I repeat: at will. I ate with Senator Kennedy last May and I ate with Lyndon Johnson the May before that. I was in Washington for five days in July. I went to the White House. I walked through the gate. They know me, they know me and I refuse to go away. I'm like a very persistent epidemic.

Now back to the point. So I walked into ... Well, it's interesting in light of having that access and then doing a local television show and having people running for Congress using me in the most opportunistic vein. If nothing else, they should not think that I'm a fool and they should not think I'm ambitious on the level of the House of Representatives. I've rejected the best, you know, so if I'm a neurotic, I'm neurotic A1. Zero cool. But anyway, back to back to the ... Yeah, and I forgot to mention I used to sit in with Senator Fulbright in the afternoon at will, who I really dig. Although I'm sure that a lot of liberals out there think he's a racist. That's their way. At any rate.

So I walked into Stefanino's and I walked in with a good guy to talk some business and there sits a Mr. Evans, who doesn't say anything to me. I've openly accused him on the air.

Elliot Mintz:

Who is Mr. Evans?

Mort Sahl:

Mr. Evans is Mr. Lawford's manager, used to be my manager.

Elliot Mintz:

I see.

Mort Sahl:

Confidant to the President at a certain recreational level and who now thinks, "That guy's killing himself by discussing the subject, the assassination. He's doing himself in. He's self-destructive. It's a terrible thing to watch." But they watched it every Friday night as long as it was on. He's sitting in that restaurant. When people came through the door, actors who know me and know him and they refuse to speak to me during the evening. They averted their heads. There's that much terror. And then a manager came over to me, he used to handle Georgia Harris and he said to me, "Hey, listen, I'm not with the hate group."

And I said, "The hate group?"

She said, "I don't care what anybody says, I'll use you. I'm going to do a picture, there might be a part for you. I don't care what anybody says." That's in reference to paranoia.

The next night I was in a restaurant called Dominic's to further conduct business, which is great in restaurants. Jim Arness came in, very jovial, good guy, but then he's a conservative. You have nothing to fear. He couldn't get near you because he couldn't find your body beneath the liberals pounding it. There was a George Axelrod, who used to be my friend, who two years ago asked me to direct a film for him. He now says, "You used to be America's conscience and now you're America's insanity." That's his reply to my plea to clean up the Kennedy case. Because it started as a toothache. It is now an abscess and eventually the patient is going to die. You have no way to get away from Jack Kennedy. You chose him and you rise with him as the phoenix or you go down in flames with him. Sorry folks. But that's the deal.

Now I watched all that last week. Those are all small examples, but they're the microcosm of the whole thing. The people who are fearful to talk to you, who ask you questions and who run away from you. It goes all the way down to the actors who would run into me in Carl's Market or the Mayfair on Santa Monica at two in the morning. It was open that late, and they'd say to me, "Hey, what's with your friend Garrison? He better get his head examined."

And I'd say, "In essence, this is what's with my friend Garrison," because the Playboy thing was in the works, the interview was coming. I'd say, "The president reached an agreement with the Soviet Union about Cuba among other things. And he's sent the FBI in to bust the anti-Castro Cuban exile groups’ training. And the next day the CIA gave them a blank check to go ahead and countermand his order. And that conflict is what brought the government down."

People say, "You're preaching rebellion."

I say, "We had rebellion. The government was overthrown in Dallas for all we know."

And then they run off into the woods and I've got them coming and going, man. I got them boxed in both ways. If they accuse Johnson, which a lot of them want to do because they want to help Robert into the chair, then I say, "There's no evidence connecting Johnson to the case and if there is, why are you nominating him and rationalizing the war in Vietnam?"

Or then they come up to me and they say, "Well, if all of this is true, aren't you afraid?"

And then I say, "No, because a lone gunman did it in Dallas and he's long gone."

I've got them coming and going because they have no position. But I tell you that I knew everybody in this town or know just that I don't see them. And there is no studio open, there is no television, there is just a vast uneasiness because they have to meet you. They have to meet you because the plan isn't complete. Eventually you're going to get an invitation to a screening or a premier and you've got to meet them in the lobby. And that's when they got to begin tugging at their collars. When Garrison came out here the last time to set up this thing on Eugene Bradley, everybody thought all he was doing was sitting in the Daisy. That's what he was doing. I took him into Daisy, and we sat in there and all the actors who said I was crazy, and all the comedians, three or four of them in rebellion could have turned the tide, ran up to me and asked to meet him. They're all on his side because he's here.

Can you imagine what's going to happen if he wins? I'll tell you all out there, and you all know who you are, what's going to happen if he wins. First of all, we're going to get the country back. I like that part.

Elliot Mintz:

Yeah.

Mort Sahl:

But there's going to be a terrible retribution for those of you who denied him and think that your liberal credentials will let you change hats. You know, General Smedley Butler, the Marine Corps, talked about the revolution in Nicaragua. The vast majority of peasants had no political belief and they used to wear ... the rebels had a red hatband and the fascists had a blue hatband. And most people who are smart had a hatband that was reversible.

Garrison has charged that all the attorneys defending all the people in this case are retained by the CIA. And he stands flatly on that charge.

Elliot Mintz:

Now the cat defending Edgar Eugene Bradley was a former FBI man wasn't he?

Mort Sahl:

I noticed that. Yeah, yeah, as a matter of fact, I noticed that too. Also the New Orleans States-Item pointed out this week, which our papers missed here, that Dr. McIntyre, Bradley's associate there, has been active in a draft "J. Edgar Hoover for the Presidency" movement. I haven't heard anybody bring that up since Walter Winchell. I'd hate to see Hoover step down to the presidency. But you know if that's the will of the people let it be heard. Anyway, as Garrison always says to Mark Lane, he says, "Your sarcastic remarks about the director have made my job insufferably difficult." But at any rate-

Elliot Mintz:

Let me interrupt for a second.

Mort Sahl:

Yeah.

Elliot Mintz:

Tell us just about J. Edgar Hoover.

Mort Sahl:

Hoover. Well, Hoover's now 73. The mandatory federal retirement age, I should say, is 70. Johnson waived it for him. Well, of course everybody says ... I mean the folklore is that he has so much on everybody that nobody can throw them out. He's been in office 44 years.

Elliot Mintz:

44 years?

Mort Sahl:

44 years, which means that he looks upon the President as transient, for one thing, and as Garrison has said "he's the finest director the Bureau has ever had", and also the only director that the Bureau has ever had. So that's fantastic. Of course the Bureau, who Mark Lane says is run, and most people agree, as a Gestapo like organization; because it reflects the views of that one man who runs it and nobody messes with him. No one ever has. All the Attorney Generals walk down the hall to his office. He doesn't report to them. The only one to tangle with him was Bob Kennedy. That was about the only one.

Elliot Mintz:

What is the relationship like between Bobby Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover.

Mort Sahl:

It isn't very good. As reported in Look Magazine, when the president was killed, Hoover informed Bobby Kennedy; called him at Hickory Hill and he said, "Your brother's dead,. He then hung up. Bobby Kennedy wanted to make certain that he realized that he was the boss; which is certainly right along with being Attorney General. By the way, as Garrison's pointed out. Robert Kennedy had the right to arrest the members of the Warren Commission as accessories after the fact, and ask that they be hanged, which I do not believe he did, although I haven't gone into the record.

Elliot Mintz:

Why? Why is Bobby Kennedy walking around with his mouth shut?

Mort Sahl:

I don't know. There are several answers. One is that, of course, the best source would be him. We would have to ask him. The second is that the elements are so terror ridden that they would kill him if he said anything. The third is that it was a fait accompli and all the people in the government were then told, "It'll be anarchy. You must go along for the good of your country." In other words, it'll bring the country down if they know what happened. Although ironically enough, the way they brought the country up, they brought the country down. We now not only doubt the CIA, we doubt everybody. There are people who say he has a deal with the President to carry on in 1972.

But I will say that he has an amazing lack of inquiry about this case. When I was interviewed in Washington by Jeremy Campbell for the London Observer, funny how you're heard in America. I was interviewed in Washington by the London Observer and the San Francisco Chronicle picked up the story and ran it on the front page on Sunday. The front page it says, "I know who killed Kennedy says Sahl,"; front page three columns with a photo headline.

I never heard from Robert Kennedy about that even to admonish me for being irresponsible. Mark Lane has never heard from him, and certainly Garrison has never heard from him. In fact, there's evidence that he's tried to bulldoze the Garrison investigation. It was reported to me last May when Robert Kennedy was out here, was a dinner at which were present, Pierre Salinger, Andy Williams, Milton Berle, Robert Vaughn, and Ed Guthman, who used to be an administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy. He is now the national editor of the LA Times. And you know their view on Garrison.

Elliot Mintz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mort Sahl:

The only time they give up that cartoon section, they let Johnson offer it, is to go after Garrison. Guthman got up and said, "Gee, Mort's through in the business and it's a shame. He committed suicide by hanging out with Garrison and Lane." First of all, I appreciate their concern for the postmortem about me and I appreciate the judgment that I'm through. And I wonder what would make them say that. I wonder why Garrison and Lane would be the enemy. They're only acting as patriots. They're proving that they love their president. Not because he's a dead president. He's not a remembered president or a spirit in this country.

Elliot Mintz:

Mort, so you believe Bobby Kennedy right now has a pretty good idea who killed his brother?

Mort Sahl:

I don't know. I don't have any idea. Garrison has said that there is no way that the President would not know what's going on here, which is not to say he's a conspirator. No way. I don't know how Robert Kennedy, I don't know what he knows. I have no idea. He's quite enigmatic about it all.

Elliot Mintz:

You believe right now that President Johnson has a pretty good idea who killed Kennedy?

Mort Sahl:

President Johnson, of course, he must know. Just from an overlap of information, he must have some information. He must know that Lee Oswald did not do it. He has to know that. In order for this immense cover up to go on. So does the Vice President.

Elliot Mintz:

You're listening to KPFK, listener supported Pacifica Radio, Los Angeles.

Mort Sahl:

So we walk up to the house, there's a tricycle in the driveway, and we knock on a door and Garrison comes to the door in his bathrobe because he had the flu. And I put my hand out, I said, "I just came down to shake your hand."

And he said, "I hope you're going to do more than that."

That was the beginning. And we sat down and we talked to him until about 4:00 in the morning, and we talked to him about everything. He's got a great oratorical style, you know, and he's a true believer. He really is in the liberal tradition of this country, which some people would call a liberal-conservative tradition, but prizing the individual against federalism. We went there on successive nights and he brought the detectives over to meet us, the guys working, among whom was Bill Gurvich, who later defected. You recall, he made a statement to the press defecting after he left Robert Kennedy's office.

Bill Gurvich who said, "Clay Shaw's being railroaded and Garrison has no case," was in the office and he told me with great relish how they got Clay Shaw. How Clay Shaw had come in. I asked him to come in and Garrison said, "I'm charging you with conspiracy to murder John F. Kennedy," and Shaw said nothing. The perspiration broke out on his upper lip.

And he said, "I'd like to go home and consider this."

And Garrison said, "I don't think so." After looking at Andy Sciambra, his assistant, because he knew that the guy wanted to clean out his apartment, they always know that. So they went to the apartment. Of course they got the whips and chains and the executioner's gown and the shoes in the shape of coffins, which he said was a Mardi Gras costume. But of course the shoes had never touched the sidewalk. Nothing but a carpeted floor.

Elliot Mintz:

The shoes and the shapes of coffins?

Mort Sahl:

Of coffins. Then Gurvich told me that he was going to get Sergio Arcacha-Smith, another one of the Cubans who was in Dallas, but Governor Connally had not extradited. He was going to go down there. He said, "If we get the extradition, I want to go get him." He said with great relish.

I said, "How much is involved in going into Dallas to bring a guy back?"

And he said, "There's nothing involved." He said, "I go down there and I knock on the door and he comes to the door and I say, "I got you Arcacha.'" And he said, "Then we come back."

And I said, "What if he resists?

He said, "I hope so," and we all laughed a lot.

The detectives would come in Garrison's den, which has a bust of Bertrand Russell up there, which the press doesn't tell you. The press says to you Garrison has a picture of Napoleon. Yes he does, but he also has a bust of Bertrand Russell. And he quotes from Hamlet a lot. We found out a lot of things about him. We found out that when the Doubleday stores in New Orleans had James Baldwin's book, Another Country, they censored it on the basis of pornography and were going to close the stores. And they asked the district attorney to prosecute the case. Garrison called the guys that had the store and he said, "What are you going to do? You're going to fight this?"

They said, "No, we'll just pay the fine and reopen."

He said, "You can't do that."

And they said, "Why?"

And he said, "Because next time they'll burn your books." And he helped them win, even though he's a prosecuting attorney.

So we found out a good deal about him and his character. And the guys were walking in and out, a lot of the guys were voluntary because he only has a staff really of four.

Elliot Mintz:

Four people-

Mort Sahl:

Yeah, in the office. He's got the greatest DAs office in the country before this case. I mean, he says he has no gray mice. They're all lawyers who fight, who are very hard to come by, because if I wanted to name a profession that's the lowest I would have to say the legal profession.

Elliot Mintz:

Why do you say that?

Mort Sahl:

Well, they really are the prostitutes of our time because their passion can be purchased. And because the ones I've met are all star struck. They talk about the scales of justice, but boy, it's no accident that she's blindfolded and that her dress is tattered. They are unbelievable. Anything goes.

I had a lawyer out here for 10 years when the President was killed. He used to give presents to his clients at the end of the year. I mean, he'd send you a picture or plastic glasses. And when the President was killed, he sent a card out. It said, "Because of our great loss this year, we're going to send the money to a donation and some of the gift to a clinic for mental health because it was a deranged person that took the life of our President." Perfect liberalism. All looking the other way.

There wasn't one member of the American Bar Association who said anything about defending Lee Harvey Oswald. There wasn't one member of the American Civil Liberties Union that went in to defend Lee Harvey Oswald. And because, as Garrison said to me in the den that night, we lost an adversary proceeding because the law wasn't protected by lawmen. Then we not only lost our President, we lost our justice too.

Elliot Mintz:

Mort, we come to the point, I guess, in any discussion about this particular subject. The inevitable reality that we must confront ourselves with, however difficult that might be. Who killed John F. Kennedy?

Mort Sahl:

Well, as far as we can tell ... I must tell you that Garrison has every confidence he's going into court February 14th, which is a month away. I expect he will. But the scenario points toward a coalition of anti-Castro, Cuban exiles, oil rich psychotics, according to the district attorney in Texas, retired militarists, various voices of the right. That is at an operational level of the conspiracy and at the planning level. The Cubans were a good setup up because they were disenchanted with the Kennedy administration and also they were lawless. You've got to remember that these informants who worked for the CIA along the way, if you have government by hoodlum, what are you spawning? Every cop we know in LA has his contacts on Main Street or East 5th Street. He's got junkies and pimps and peddlers, et cetera. But he knows what they are and he keeps them within perspective to work for the greater good as they say.

The CIA keeps them on staff for 20 years and gives them a watch at the end of their service and that's the difference. This undercover thing of doing what you want to, and countermanding orders of the President, and writing blank checks, and not being checked by the Congress, spawns a government by hoodlums. That is not to say that the government subsidized the assassination. We don't know that and Garrison denies it. I said, "Why do you say ex-CIA men?"

He says, "Because I can't conceive of anybody in my government wanting to harm the President."

But the point is somewhere along the line we gave up. We gave in when the government said, "We know better what's good for you than you know for yourself."

That's why the liberalism of today, whether it's Lawrence Sherman in the 28th District saying, "I'm going into the convention with a B-slate," or Robert Vaughn saying, "The wars, the aberration of Lyndon Johnson and not Robert Kennedy is puny," or Carl Reiner saying, "Dick Van Dyke and I are going to host a black tie party at the Daisy for Eugene McCarthy or dissenting Democrats."

This is 20 years too late, man. They've been drafting people like you for 20 years. So that eventually 435 honorable men in the Congress don't even object, and nobody votes against the Un-American Activities Committee, and nobody says anything about the war, and nobody says anything about anything, and nobody says anything about murder in the streets. I've been crying fascism, fascism. How much success, how heady was the sensation, and how intoxicated with the fascists in this country to get to a point where they thought they could go ahead with this boldest stroke as killing him in the street? Well, obviously what makes them think they can get away with it? The experience of getting away with it over the years! They tend to get power drunk because they've been successful. It gets crazier and crazier. They've extended fascism without challenge for so long in this country, a generation since 1945, the dark days, this long night started with Roosevelt's death. You can chart the whole thing and it gets to a point where a whole generation doesn't know any better.

Robert Kennedy talks about a massive retaliation and communism and capitalism and vehicular capability. You're brought up on those terms, man. You can't even tell when somebody is jiving you anymore because it's 20 years of madness.

As much as my Jewish friends aren't going to like it, the German people weren't born crazy. They were made so by their government. They were made in the form which is most convenient to that government, which is fascistic, which broke the backs of the unions and used the anti-Semitism as a dodge. Same thing is happening here. They're trying to drive the American people crazy. I'll tell you something: I think they're succeeding. There's great evidence in the barbarism of day-to-day life and in the lack of direction and the degree of a lack of mental health in this country.

I'm not suggesting going to a psychiatrist because most of them are sellouts too. Sad to say because they know better, but all they want to do is to repair you and get you back on the line to keep punching out Mustang frames. That's the trouble.

Look what you have here. FDR dies. What was the plan? To make Germany an occupied agricultural state. But what happens afterwards? Truman goes into office and he forms the Defense Department, the Marshall Plan, he aids the fascists in the hills of Greece to "stop communism". He founds the CIA in 1947. He gives J. Edgar Hoover a blank check, and they go ahead with the Un-American Activities Committee and they start the witch-hunts. And McCarthy comes on and bombs and the Japanese people, civilian areas, atomic bombs. And the Korean War, the bold stroke, anti-communism. We will not tolerate it anywhere. The Truman Doctrine outside the Western hemisphere. And Russia and Korea and China and Vietnam and Santa Domingo. You can see it step for step. 22 years of fascism. So that the country becomes a colonial power.

Now, of course we're not made for that because that's not our tradition. So that's the conflict. That's why everybody's hung up. And they say, "Well, why do the kids look so weird?" Because you're driving their body in one direction, their head is going in another. They're being pulled apart. We're not made for it. We weren't measured for an SS suit. Man, if I was going to form a fascist state, I would go to the Germans. They're set up for it. It's like Sinatra told me, "Buy a record company, don't found one." He bought one that was set up already.

You have to be efficient. He had a commitment too, by the way.

Elliot Mintz:

Sinatra?

Mort Sahl:

I don't hear from him anymore. I don't hear from anybody anymore. Where are all of you or don't you care? Because I don't know where you're going live. You only go to make a movie in England for three months. That's almost closed. Where are you going to go? You can't hide in Switzerland. You know you are an American. You're not going to feel that good. Everybody says, "Well, if you've got enough money, you'll feel good anywhere." It's really not true. There isn't anything quite like America, and especially if you're an American, you're really going to miss it. I know you take it for granted, but you're going to miss it. You're going to miss the sun coming up in the morning. You don't think so until you're in the Holocaust and of course it's too late.

But to get back to your question, to stop theorizing for awhile, this group of neo-Nazis who have brought us fascism in the name of "National Security". The facts on who shot the President are in the archives because of national security. Everything is national security. The CIA's national security. The FBI is national security. And meanwhile you don't recognize your own country. Look at what we have. Think of America as a body and think of the pressure points in a first aid class. Mark Lane is saying to you, "I've got his pulse in the left arm and it has an accelerated pulse."

And Jim Garrison has got the right arm and he says it. Mario Savio is up there by his right temple and he says it, and Stokely Carmichael is down by his left ankle and he says it. Adam Powell says it in his own way. Everybody tells him, and [Bob] Dylan tells them and none of these guys know each other. They don't hang out together, as the saying goes. They say the same thing. They have that in common. The patient has a high fever and an accelerated pulse, and I can't find anybody who cares about this guy.

They talk about heart transplants. They don't care what happened to America. That's what it's all about. You don't have to love your parents. I'm not demanding that. Miss Liberty. What about it? What about the pursuit of the American dream? An awful lot of good men died so that a good many of you can sit out there and think about whether you want to sell out or not.

I'm worried that it's too late for you to sell in. That's what really terrifies me. I don't know whether we're over the hill or not. Naturally, I'm going to get up tomorrow and go after it the same way. The bell rings, you come out of your corner swinging because we've got to keep trying because this is all we have. But it is evident, you know, nobody has to be naïve about the elements in this country. Why did I indict liberals earlier, the so-called Social Democrats in my routines when I say the far right? Because there aren't enough evil men in this country. Their army, they are the generals, but the privates in their army, the vast ranks of the unwashed, are the liberals. In other words, evil men can only do evil because of the indifference of good men, to paraphrase a philosopher.

And that's what it is. The road to fascism was paved with those liberal bricks. Every young man who was headed for the left was castrated by a good liberal who wants him to fit in. And when you cock a gun and put it at the temple of a liberal, he signs the petition on the right, not on the left. There is no left in America. There is no dissension. A few university professors. How many people came up to you and said, "It's a terrible thing what happened to Dr. Spock?" They're just glad it didn't happen to them. Right? The only reason I'm talking about Vietnam is because we're talking about Kennedy. I know where they're at. They have sold us out. That's really what they've done. They've sold out a generation. Every time you meet a guy of 40, you have a right to spit in his face because he's cast a shadow over your future.


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