|From The File
CBS Nixes Ron Brown Death Docudrama
Airs Story with Name Change Instead
by Carl of Oyster Bay
For The Washington Weekly
June 15, 1998
OYSTER BAY -- On Monday, June 8, CBS became the first of the big three television networks to address key facts about Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's death, a story first reported by Christopher Ruddy in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review last December. The account was offered in the season's concluding episode of "Michael Hayes", a prime time series starring David Caruso (formerly of "NYPD Blue"). The episode so closely paralleled Ruddy's report that it could have been a virtual docu-drama had not CBS decided to drop Brown's name from the production. A CBS source said writers for "Michael Hayes" recently began drawing on real life news events for its plot lines.
Though the episode centered around the plane crash death of fictional Under Secretary of State Margaret Wells, a "Michael Hayes" production assistant told the Washington Weekly that the original script named Brown specifically - but that the name was changed when CBS higher ups "negated" the idea.
Last December, Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a senior pathologist with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that Ron Brown had sustained a suspicious headwound, an inwardly beveling .45 caliber hole which resembled a gunshot wound. Cogswell had photographs of x-rays to support his observations. He revealed that Ron Brown's body was never autopsied despite the unexplained wound.
In his first report, Ruddy named Kathleen Janoski, who at the time was chief of forensic photography for the AFIP, as the first to notice Brown's wound. "Wow", she reportedly exclaimed while photographing the body, "That looks like a bullet hole." Janoski later alleged that x-rays of Brown's head were purposely destroyed, though not before she had photographed them while testing out her new camera. Cogswell and Janoski were soon joined by two more senior military doctors, both of whom echoed their recommendation that Ron Brown should have been autopsied.
Janoski and Cogswell have suffered job related retaliation as a result of their efforts to blow the whistle on the Ron Brown cover-up. Network news divisions have embargoed the facts of the case thus far, leaving the public in the dark about what could be the most explosive scandal in American history.
In the CBS version, U.S. Attorney Michael Hayes becomes suspicious about Under Secretary Wells' death after his brother dies in a cult suicide along with two other people peripherally connected to Wells' plane crash. He summons his staff to discuss the case. The Ron Brown parallel becomes apparent as one aide observes, "It's no secret that Wells was being investigated for raising campaign funds illegally, for bribery." Another notes, "There was an election around the corner. Her death could help a lot of people - save a lot of embarrassment." At this point Hayes orders his staff to begin digging into Wells' death.
One source of information turns out to be a woman military officer who is debriefed by investigators in Hayes' office. The dialogue re-traces key aspects of Ruddy's reports point for point:
INVESTIGATOR: Thank you very much for coming.
OFFICER: Hey, I'm probably better off away from the hospital anyway. I heard they shipped that forensic photographer off to Timbuktu.
INVESTIGATOR: Why would they do that?
OFFICER: Because she found what she called an unusual wound in Margaret Wells' head.
INVESTIGATOR: What kind of wound?
OFFICER: A half inch circular hole beveling inwards.
INVESTIGATOR: A bullet?
OFFICER: Sounds like it.
INVESTIGATOR: Well, what did the autopsy say?
OFFICER: What autopsy? They didn't do one. They did, however, take x-rays of her skull.
INVESTIGATOR: Well - was she shot?
OFFICER: Turns out those little suckers were misplaced. And no one seems to know - or care what happened to them.
The Ron Brown parallel grows even more stark as another investigator with Hayes' office interviews one government source familiar with the "Wells" crash investigation.
SOURCE: Air Force Boeing 737's just don't go down.... The pilot of the Wells plane had over 3,000 flight hours. His co-pilot had more - in the same plane. Do they sound like the kind of people who commit gross pilot error?
INVESTIGATOR: Is that how the NTSB classified it?
SOURCE: No - the Air Force (did). Curious, eh? And in all the reports after the crash they said that the aircraft attempted to land in extremely poor weather: heavy rains, wind, lightning, yada, yada, yada. Hell, the Six O'Clock News reported it was the worst storm in a decade. The problem is, we checked the satellite data. Winds were at 14 mph with only a light to moderate rain....Another potential C.O.C., Cause of Crash, was malfunctioning navigation beacons. Problem is, in the minutes before Wells plane crashed, five other planes landed without difficulty.
INVESTIGATOR: Did they check the beacon?
SOURCE: Of course. The airport maintenance chief (did). Turns out, he died by gunshot wound three days after the crash - before investigators had a chance to question him.
INVESTIGATOR: He was murdered?
SOURCE: Officially it was a suicide. The guy was broken up because his hundred year old mother died.
INVESTIGATOR: What do you think happened?
SOURCE: I think somebody intentionally screwed with the beacons and the airport maintenance chief knew it.
Those familiar with subsequent revelations about the Brown crash investigation will recognize this account as almost 100% accurate. Suspicious details like maintenance chief Niko Jerkic's well timed "suicide," or even the way our government deliberately mislead the public about the severity of the weather at the time of Brown's crash, never caused so much as a raised eyebrow amongst the prestige press. The real-life failure to do a crash safety investigation was never mentioned in mainstream accounts, though now Ron Brown's daughter, Tracey, openly complains that the crash probe was inadequate.
While newsrooms pretend that any evidence of a real-life Brown cover-up is too bizarre to be taken seriously, CBS's "fictional" presentation of the same information made for some devastatingly plausible drama. And lest anyone missed the Clinton connection, "Hayes" writers had this line delivered by David Caruso himself: "It's one thing to dodge the accusations of a kiss and tell intern. It's quite another to have corruption in your Cabinet and commit murder to cover it up."
How did the producers of "Michael Hayes" get away with airing so much embargoed information about the Brown case? "Hayes" production assistant Dave Rapp told the Washington Weekly that everyone on the set, including Caruso, well understood that the story they were telling was Ron Brown's. Says Rapp:
"I knew because our original version, our original drafts did refer specifically to Ron Brown. I'm sure, though I don't know specifically, that the first version was negated by CBS people who fictionalized it."
Even though "Michael Hayes" producers had to pretend they were dealing in fiction to do it, they managed to get more of the Ron Brown story broadcast on television than any network newsroom has dared to try. Then again, network newsrooms have never been much interested in investigating strange and mysterious Clinton administration deaths.
The "Michael Hayes" show ends as the central character comes to the conclusion that a high ranking government official--a Cabinet member--was murdered for political reasons. Hayes turns to a bust of Lincoln that he keeps in his office and laments: "It's not our country anymore, Mr. President." This is a sentiment not unfamiliar to those who have witnessed six years worth of White House criminality with no justice in sight. Hayes finally resigns from his job under pressure. In the final scene, Michael Hayes is viewed through the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
CBS has canceled "Michael Hayes." One more new episode, filmed before this season ender, will be broadcast in the weeks to come.
Published in the Jun. 15, 1998 issue of The Washington Weekly
Copyright 1998 The Washington Weekly (http://www.federal.com)
Reposting permitted with this message intact.
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