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Drew Pearson

Drew Pearson, syndicated columnist, talks to Wallace about Sputnik, a third world war, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, and about being called a vicious liar by prominent politicians.

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Guest: Drew Pearson

WALLACE: Good evening. Tonight, on the sixteenth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we bring you a special interview from Washington D.C. We shall examine the dangers of another Pearl Harbor, a Third World War, with the most controversial correspondent in Washington, Drew Pearson. Drew in a moment I shall ask you whether you think there's going to be a Third World War, we'll get your view on President Eisenhower's uncertain future, and I shall confront you with the charge made by two past Presidents of the United States, that you are a chronic and a vicious liar. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris.


WALLACE: I'll talk with Drew Pearson in just a minute.


WALLACE: And now to our story. During the Second World War, Washington... (LOSS OF AUDIO)... with pipelines in the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House, Mr. Pearson has raised storms of controversy by disclosing secret government information and by openly attacking government officials. He not only reports the news, he makes it. Drew first of all, do you have any late, inside information, news, either as to the Russian Sputnik, the rocket part, that has reputedly fallen either in Alaska or someplace in the West Coast of the North American Continent, according to Moscow. Or about our vanguard fizzle at Cape Canaveral down in Florida?

PEARSON: Mike, to the best of my knowledge the Sputnik did not fall in Alaska or the North American Continent, and Kruschev is wrong, I am fairly sure of that. On the second point, our recent failure in Cape Canaveral, one important point. I am not sure about this latest test, but in three other secret attempts, there was trouble over the mechanism and a lot of rivalry between General Electric which made the engine and Martin which made the rocket. Each one claimed the other was to blame, a complicated business including heat spots in the engine.

WALLACE: Uh-huh. You mentioned three secret tests prior to this last one. How do you account for the tremendous publicity given this last test down at Cape Canaveral?

PEARSON: Because in the first place President Eisenhower in his October ninth press conference said that the test would take place the first week in December.

WALLACE: Uh-hum.

PEARSON: And because the newspapermen were a little eager about highlighting it, and the Pentagon went along with it.

WALLACE: Drew, this is the sixteenth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and not since that December 7th, has there been so much anxiety in the United States about our being destroyed in a war. You say that your predictions are eighty-percent accurate. How do you weigh the danger of a Third World War?

PEARSON: Mike... (CLEARS THROAT) At the moment I don't think there is too great a danger, because I think that the Russians and we both realize that another war would be catastrophic, and that no side would win. Furthermore, I think the Russians figure that they can get what they want without a war, by the Cold War, by psychological warfare, by economic warfare, but there is a danger that some trigger-happy person outside Russia, outside the United States, possibly in the Near East, might start a brushfire war, which would start a World War. But I am fairly optimistic; maybe I am optimistic by nature, but I don't think there is going to be a war.

WALLACE: Well, if what you say is true, why is everyone so worried about Sputnik, the ICBM. Just last week you told our reporter "America has become a second class military power" This apparently gives you considerable concern; why should it if you believe that there is no real danger of war?

PEARSON: Because the United States can't bargain with Russia, except from strength. We are in a position to gradually lose the Cold War, lose our allies in Western Europe. President Eisenhower has wanted to go over to Paris, to hold our allies. We can lose piece-by-piece a war, without having a shot fired. So, the only, the psychological effects of Sputnik, are more important, the diplomatic effects. This Sputnik isn't too important militarily at the moment, it may be later on. But the effect on our allies is terrific, that's why...

WALLACE: And on the uncommitted countries.

PEARSON: That's why... yes. Throughout the world. I was... the British, the French, our best friends, are just worried for fear the NATO Alliance is falling apart.

WALLACE: The cause of this crisis of course has been a good deal of talk that the President, in view of his failing health, should resign. Last week the Vice President said, "I would like to scotch once and for all rumors that the President is in such a condition as to make it necessary for him to resign," and he referred to the convalescent President as, "Acting like a caged lion and champing at the bit" direct quote. This would seem to be the official administration position, how does it strike you?

PEARSON: Er... as to whether it's true or not, that he should not resign, or that he doesn't want to resign, I don't think Eisenhower does want to resign for the moment. I think he's had it in the back of his mind. And, Nixon naturally is not going to make a faux pas such as he was reported as making after the Denver heart attack. Denv... Nixon is much more qualified today, than he was before. He is quite able...

WALLACE: Well, wait just a second, we'll get to that in a moment. First of all, you say that the faux pas he was reported to have made... he was reported to have made that by Drew Pearson all by himself, and I gather that was later found to be untrue. They've not tried to take over the reins the way Mr. Pearson suggested.

PEARSON: Not entirely Mike, I was not the only one who reported that. Mr. Nixon behaved as if he was just ready and anxious. He denied it very categorically; you are quite right about that. But, he had the lawyers looking up the laws to whether he could temporarily take over, not completely, but temporarily take over. There has been a lot of argument all through American History, as to whether the Vice President can take-over in case of the indisposition of the President.

WALLACE: Drew, do you think the President should resign?


WALLACE: Because he is not, instead of my stating it... for what reason?

PEARSON: Because, he's bound to have more illnesses. He's had three difficult illnesses, more, other minor illnesses. He has been out of the White House, a total of about seven hundred and twenty-five days, which is approximately two years, out of five years in office. And you simply cannot run the Presidency, unless you're a full-time President. Now it's quite true that he said when he was running for election that he could not work as a full-time President. The people, a lot of people don't remember that; he was honest with the people. But, the fact is that he can't be a full-time President, and at this time of crisis, and at any time, you've got to have a full-time President.

WALLACE: Prediction, will he resign?

PEARSON: Well, my prediction is... that, er... and this is a little bit not quite the way you stated it, but I predict that Mr. Nixon will become President of the United States, within approximately a year.

WALLACE: Within approximately a year. And I gather, from what you started to say, and from conversations, er... with you, that you don't think it is a bad idea.... er... not that you don't think it's a bad idea, it's inevitable that if the President resign, that Nixon will be the President. Take over. Uh... but that you think that Nixon will make a good President.

PEARSON: I think Mr. Nixon will make a better President than Mr. Eisenhower. Now the reason I say that... is, that Mr. Nixon has trained for this job. Very few Vice Presidents have ever trained for the job. Harry Truman complained publicly that it was difficult for him, when he first got in there, to take over. It's an extremely difficult job as I don't need to tell anyone. And this man, Nixon, has gone out, and worked at foreign affairs, and has been pretty good at it. He's worked on the Hill, and, er... he's worked on atomic energy and missiles.

WALLACE: And of that we are all aware of. On this program two weeks ago though, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt said that in her opinion, while Mr. Nixon had ability, she questioned his conviction. She described him pretty much the way you have described him numerous times in your columns. She, in a sense, didn't trust his conviction.

PEARSON: Well, I think, that she has a point there. And you asked me whether I thought he would be a good President, and I said he would be a better President than Eisenhower. Because Eisenhower is not making decisions, he doesn't know what is going on in the White House on many, many things. I would describe Mr. Nixon as a young man, with a wet finger in the wind, to see which way the wind is blowing. Though in the last year, I do give him credit for being right on many, many things that are of importance.

WALLACE: The December 6th issue of United States News and World Report says that in Washington, quote "Mr. Nixon often is called the man that nobody really knows. Mr. Nixon has never sought to cultivate a circle of close friends. Members of the White House staff refer to the Vice President as an enigma" end quote. How do you, Drew, dope out this so-called enigma?

PEARSON: Well, eh... a very ambitious young man, who has been on every side of every political fence. He started out as New Dealer, a member of OPA under Roosevelt. He became a member of the extreme right wing, the Taft wing of the Republican Party, all his votes in the House and in the Senate were against Labor, against the farmer, with big business. Recently he has become a semi-liberal, a member of the Eisenhower wing of the Republican Party.

WALLACE: Do you think these changes have come from conviction or rather going...

PEARSON: I am not sure. I agree with Mrs. Roosevelt. I don't know about his convictions. When a young fellow, and he is relatively young, changes that fast, I just don't know. But I do know, that in time of crisis, or at least I believe that in time of crisis, he would be a pretty good president for this reason: That most of his life he's played for his ambition; now he's realized that ambition, or at least would if he became President, and he would be playing for the history books, to make his name in history and to make this country a great country.

WALLACE: We hear about power struggles going on, inside the White House, Drew, among Nixon, Sherman Adams, Jim Heagerty, Secretary Dulles's name is sometimes mentioned. What do you know about that?

PEARSON: My best knowledge is that there is a definite power struggle, that Nixon and Dulles are on one side that Heagerty and Sherman Adams are on the other. They have definitely not wanted Nixon in there.

WALLACE: For what reason?

PEARSON: Well, they feel that perhaps that Nixon is pushing the President, I don't think he is at the present time. They don't like Nixon. They probably share the view that Mrs. Roosevelt has held, that perhaps he isn't a man of conviction. I know that there is a lot of feeling against Nixon inside the White House but not by the President.

WALLACE: But how do they feel about... how does the President feel about Nixon personally, do you know?

PEARSON: I believe I know. The Nixon... Mr. President feels very kindly towards... the President feels kindly towards Nixon. Whenever Nixon has had a break, given any assignment, it's been through largely the President. Sometimes through Mr. Dulles on his trips abroad, but with the President's blessing.

WALLACE: Mr. Nixon would seem to be the glamour boy of the Republican Party, the Democratic glamour boy would seem to be Senator Jack Kennedy. In your column on October 27th, you wrote that Senator Kennedy's, and I quote, "Millionaire McCarthy-ite father, crusty old Joseph P. Kennedy...is spending a fortune on a publicity machine to make Jack's name well known. "No candidate in history" you wrote, "Has ever had so much money spent on a public relations advance buildup" end quote. What significance do you see in this aside from the fact, that Joe Kennedy would like to see Jack Kennedy President of the United States?

PEARSON: Well, I don't know exactly what other significance other than the fact that I don't believe he should have a synthetic public relations buildup for any job of that kind. Jack Kennedy is a fine young fellow, a very personable fellow, but he isn't as good as that public relations campaign makes him out to be. He is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize on a book which was ghost-written for him, which indicates the kind of public relations buildup he's had.

WALLACE: Who wrote the book for him?

PEARSON: I don't recall at the present moment, I...

WALLACE: You know for a fact Drew...?


WALLACE: That the book?

PEARSON: I do know.

WALLACE: Profiles in Courage was written for Senator Kennedy, by somebody else?


WALLACE: And he got a Pulitzer Prize for it, and...

PEARSON: He did.

WALLACE: And, and he has never acknowledged the fact?

PEARSON: No, he has not. There's a little wisecrack around the Senate about Jack who is a very handsome young man as you know, who some of his colleagues say, "Jack, I wish you had a little bit... uh... less profile and more courage" And they refer to some of his voting records.

WALLACE: Drew, the last time I interviewed you, which was about a year ago, you charged that the President's Press Secretary, Jim Heagarty, was muzzling White House reporters. You said that newsman wouldn't write stories that would reflect badly on the President because they were afraid to antagonize Jim Heagarty. Why should, sensibly now, why should White House reporters be afraid of Jim Heagarty?

PEARSON: Mike, have you ever covered the White House?

WALLACE: No, I have not.

PEARSON: Well, it wouldn't be very hard to. You wouldn't ask that question. When you are covering a place like the White House, where you have to get certain...or you are trying to get inside news, and certain special privileges and so on and so on... Jim Heagarty is a very powerful gentleman. I think I may have given you in that other interview, I've forgotten whether I did or not, did I, tell how the President got... No, I did not because it hadn't happened at that time, but as an illustration...Down at, er... Secretary of the Treasury Humphrey's ranch or farm in Georgia, Mr. Eisenhower lost his temper with a golf shot, took his golf club and threw it against the golf mobile, right across the room or right across the putting sward, or whatever you call it -- I am not a golfer as you can see!--


PEARSON: (CHUCKLE) And, there was only one newspaperman, now that was, that was important... the newspapermen were all there watching. Here is a man who has heart trouble and is inclined... er... he has had high blood pressure and when he loses his temper it can be symptomatic, and at that time he had not made up his mind whether to run again.

WALLACE: Uh-huh.

PEARSON: This was in February, '56.

WALLACE: Uh-huh.

PEARSON: Only one newspaperman wrote that story.

WALLACE: That man was Merriman Smith.

PEARSON: No, that was Andy Tulley.

WALLACE: Oh, I thought it was Merriman Smith.

PEARSON: Who works for the same general chain, as Scripps Howard papers, which owns the United Press. I've called Andy Tulley, and I asked him whether this appeared, whether this took place in front of the other newspapermen. He said, "Yes, it did" I said "Why didn't the others write it?" Well, his only answer was... one I when I knew myself...well, Jim Heagarty wouldn't like it.

WALLACE: You know Merriman Smith, he's the Dean of the White House news

PEARSON: An excellent man.

WALLACE: We spoke about the same thing with him last week, and here is what he told us. He said, "Some people are upset by the fact that they have to work to get their stories. You can't just call the President up on the phone, you have to work to find news. If you're willing to work, there's plenty of stories to be gotten at the White House. Nobody stops you from going after them. It's up to the individual and his skill" So could it be, Drew, that your complaint is just sour grapes?

PEARSON: No, I don't think so. I have no trouble getting stories from the White House. But, Merriman Smith is, in large part, correct. And Merriman Smith, is a very fine newspaperman. But the general tendency up until recently, has been exactly as I have described it before. And it was not only true in this Administration, it was true with Steve Early, it was true under, under, er... Roosevelt, less true under Truman. It depends somewhat, of course, on the newspaper that a man is working for, and his publisher, what his political views are. But, believe me that the Press Secretary, and particularly Jim Heagarty, is a very powerful person. Don't make any mistake about it.

WALLACE: Drew, I think that you'll agree that you have a rather remarkable record for being called names.

PEARSON: That's right.

WALLACE: President Roosevelt once called you a chronic liar; President Truman called you an S.O.B. at one time, and a vicious liar at another time; the late Tennessee Senator Kenneth McKellar called you, "An ignorant liar, a pusillanimous liar, a peewee liar, a liar during his manhood, a liar by profession, a liar in the day time, and a liar in the night time" end quote.

PEARSON: He used up six pages of the Congressional Record calling me different types of liar.

WALLACE: What is there about Drew Pearson that inspires such bitterness, in Presidents and other statesmen?

PEARSON: Well, Mike, I can't give an objective answer on that. You don't really expect me to, do you?

WALLACE: Well, I...

PEARSON: You want me to give a self-serving answer?

WALLACE: Is there, a... obviously you'd almost have to give a self-serving answer. Could it be that you are a liar?

PEARSON: I... hope I'm not. I don't believe that I've ever knowingly told a lie, but I have made some mistakes. In the case of McKellar I made no mistake. I did make a mistake once in regard to Harry Truman, which I was very sorry for, and for which I apologized. I'd forgotten frankly that he'd ever called me a vicious liar, because I remembered the other one so vividly.

WALLACE: Uh-hum.

PEARSON: The S.O.B. that I'd forgotten, that Mr. Truman... was... is... has a pretty good vocabulary, let me say.

WALLACE: It was after you reported that Truman allegedly accused New York Jews of disloyalty to the United States that he called you a vicious liar.

PEARSON: Well, you are correct. I had forgotten that. Thank you for refreshing me. But I was, I was, I was correct on that. He changed his mind about that, he never really felt that I am sure, because he was a great friend of Israel, and a great friend of the Jewish people, but he did lose his temper frequently and sometimes he said things that he regretted. Now, to come back to your question though. It's an important and a legitimate one. Why do people call me a liar? Well, for one reason, when you hit the truth, sometimes it hurts most. I made mistakes. But, look at some of the fellows who called me a liar, Parnell Thomas, Congressman and went to jail; Congressman Andy May of Kentucky and went to jail; Congressman Bramblett of California, later convicted; Congressman Brandt -- I am not putting them in the same class with Roosevelt -- I dearly love Roosevelt, and it hurt me deeply when he called me a chronic liar, which he did. And I didn't particularly enjoy being called that by Truman either, but er... Truman... Truman, after all... he had a vocabulary.

WALLACE: Drew, I'd like to ask you about another grave charge made against you, and that is that you wantonly publish top secret government information, when you can get your hands on it through devious means. And that you thereby endanger the National Security. In a moment I'd like to know where you get such classified information; why you publish it against governments orders; and what you think of the recently proposed legislation that would clap you in jail should you do it again. We'll go after the answer to that question in just sixty seconds.


WALLACE: Drew, the next session of Congress will consider legislation that would impose jail sentences on any person who discloses or news-leaks secret government information. This legislation is being proposed by the Commission on Government Security whose chairman Lloyd Wright has accused you specifically of disclosing such information in your columns. Have you disclosed such information?

PEARSON: I have.

WALLACE: And will you news-leak secret government information in the future when you get your hands on it?

PEARSON: Only if I am sure it will not upset the security of the United States.

WALLACE: How can you tell?

PEARSON: I can tell in two ways. Number one: The former head of the Censorship Bureau in Washington during the war described me as, publicly, as knowing more about the rules of censorship and what would affect the security of the United States than any other newspaperman in Washington. He's Nat Howard, now the editor of Cleveland News.

WALLACE: Uh-hum.

PEARSON: Second, I go, if I have any doubts to the Pentagon or any qualified agency. For instance, the Nickerson document which told certain things that never should have been published, and I never did publish it. It told the date when our Thor missile would be fired, so the Russians could've come right off the Atlantic coast and watched it in submarines if I had published that. I took it down to the Pentagon, they confiscated the document, later I published certain parts of it, but not those sensitive parts.

WALLACE: What do you think of proposed legislation, Drew, that would make you or any person liable to five years in jail for doing this kind of thing in the future?

PEARSON: No, well, I am against it. And the American Society of Newspaper Editors and every other responsible newspaperman is against it because, take right now, the missile race, we are behind Russia. Why has Eisenhower suddenly spurred this up? He knew, three months ago, that we were behind Russia in the ICBM, but only when the public began to put pressure on him, has he really begun to produce a missile. The press has got to serve as a goad, as an impetus, as a spur to the public.

WALLACE: Drew, it's been said "Look for the men Pearson praises in his column, they are his news-leaks, the men who furnish him with information" How do you plead?

PEARSON: I plead not guilty. I have praised a lot of people that I never get any information from, Charles Wilson the former Secretary of Defense. I have, on occasion, praised Vice President Nixon, and he has never given me any news, believe me. I sometimes praise people and sometimes the opposite.

WALLACE: Drew, I thank you for spending this time with us, this evening, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. And I congratulate you on your twenty-fifth anniversary as a columnist which comes up next Friday, when you will have, I am told, some six hundred newspapers across the world as regular subscribers to the Drew Pearson Column. Drew Pearson has written exposés that have helped send men to jail. He has stepped on toes in high places, and as he himself puts it, "I have been sued more times than I can remember" But especially at this time, when, as he says, "The country needs an aggressive, fearless press" Mr. Pearson is a good man to have in the Fourth Estate. In a minute I'll bring you a rundown on one of the most controversial lawyers in the United States, a man whose clients have included Jimmy Hoffa, gambler Frank Costello, United States Senator Joe McCarthy. First of all I'd like to have you hear about another fine Philip Morris product, this one for the pipe smokers on your Christmas shopping lists.


WALLACE: Next week, on the eve of Bill of Rights Day, our guest will be perhaps the most fearless controversial lawyer in the United States, you see him behind me, he's Edward Bennett Williams, whose clients have included, Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Costello, and the late Senator Joe McCarthy. If you are curious to know why Ed Williams is convinced that our civil liberties as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights are being threatened by our own government, why he feels that the FBI sometimes acts illegally, and that some congressional investigating committees are undermining the Bill of Rights, we'll go after those stories next week. Till then, for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace. Good night.

ANNCR: The Mike Wallace Interview is brought to you by Philip Morris Incorporated, The Quality House.

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