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Bill Moyers Responds

With a rejoinder from Stephen F. Hayes.

11:01 PM, Feb 21, 2002 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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BILL MOYERS responds to Stephen F. Hayes's piece "PBS's Televangelist":

Stephen Hayes opens his attack on me ("PBS's Televangelist," Feb. 25) by claiming that in the PBS specials following September 11 I interviewed, among others, "Cornel West, O.J. attorney Alan Dershowitz, and 'Vagina Monologues' playwright Eve Ensler." He gets it right only once. I have never met or interviewed Alan Dershowitz or Eve Ensler.

Two errors on the opening pitch: Not a promising start. But it's the standard (no pun intended). Mr. Hayes maintains for the remainder of his game. For example, by garbling the record, he tries to score points on comments I once made about interviewing right-wingers who want to "hit first and ask questions later." But he says nothing about all the interviews I have conducted over the years with such widely admired conservatives as Ronald Reagan (for a full hour on PBS, from his ranch--the first such interview he had permitted there), George H. W. Bush (also a full PBS hour), Sandra Day O'Connor (another hour), Edwin Meese, Robert Bork, Leon Kass, Thomas Wolfe, Mary Ann Glendon, John Lukacs, etc. To have included such information, of course, would have spoiled Mr. Hayes's polemic.

Another example: Mr. Hayes bravely quotes an anonymous "Republican adviser" as saying that "the only qualification for Moyers [in hosting the new PBS series "NOW with Bill Moyers"] is that he keeps comparing conservative Republicans to the Taliban." I asked Mr. Hayes to provide chapter-and-verse for his source's allegation. He didn't because he couldn't. Check the transcripts yourself: I used that description once in a broadcast to describe Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell when they piously agreed with bin Laden that "what happened on 9/11 was God's judgment on a decadent America."

So it goes: Paragraph after paragraph, replete with willful misrepresentation, deceitful juxtaposition, and outright error, with a little hypocrisy thrown in for flavor. Mr. Hayes makes a big to-do out of the fact that I wouldn't disclose to him what my income is, but as a journalist I am no more obligated to publish my earnings than is Weekly Standard editor William Kristol--less so, in fact, since I took no money from Enron. Furthermore, as I told him, I follow the same proprietary rules as every other independent production company in the field--from Ken Burns and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions to productions of "Firing Line" and McLaughlin and Company.

Mr. Hayes seems to think he was being spun when he called my office seeking an interview and was told my doctor had advised me not to talk "on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays." But that was a real case of severe laryngitis and the doctor had indeed said that I shouldn't talk if I wanted to broadcast later in the week, a point I would have shared with Mr. Hayes if he had asked. (The laryngitis mysteriously struck, by the way, soon after a rumor circulated that a voodoo doll bearing my likeness had been delivered to the office of Richard Armey from the Heritage Foundation, where Mr. Hayes served his apprenticeship in polemics; I have been unable to confirm that rumor, but because of the credibility of the source--an anonymous "Republican adviser"--I have decided to publish it.)

You get the drift. Mr. Hayes had a job to do, and he did it. His assignment was not to get it right but to get it Right. Periodically for twenty years now the right-wing complex in Washington has come after me in order to get at PBS (always--surprise, surprise!--just before the appropriations process in Congress.) It's not a pretty sight--Reed Irvine wielding a bludgeon or David Horowitz an axe--but as Mr. Hayes so patently demonstrates, since when do Tony Soprano's boys concern themselves with aesthetics in dispatching their quarry?

What raised the ideological ire this time is the recent Middleton Lecture at the LBJ Library, where I talked once again about how the nexus of corporate power, market fundamentalism, and money in politics is transforming democracy, undermining capitalism, and polarizing America. I was tempted to take out an advertisement to reprint it here to demonstrate just how grossly Mr. Hayes distorts my meaning, but I hate to think I'd be subsidizing Rupert Murdoch. So I will just recommend that your more fair-minded readers check it out for themselves at the LBJ library.

Bill Moyers

Stephen F. Hayes replies: Bill Moyers writes that my article on him features "paragraph after paragraph" of "willful misrepresentation, deceitful juxtaposition, and outright error." He comes up with just two examples.