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2005-01-24

John Hess 1917-2005: Veteran Journalist and Radio Commentator Dies at 87

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Longtime journalist and radio commentator John Hess also died at the age of 87. For 24 years he worked at the New York Times. He was best known for his 1968 coverage of the Paris Peace talks, a major expose on nursing home corruption and for his writings as a food critic. We hear one of his radio commentaries on Pacifica station WBAI. [includes rush transcript]

Longtime journalist and radio commentator John Hess also died at the age of 87. For 24 years he worked at the New York Times. He was best known for his 1968 coverage of the Paris Peace talks, a major expose on nursing home corruption and for his writings as a food critic.

In 1977, he co-wrote a book with his wife Karen Hess titled "The Taste of America." In it they wrote "How shall we tell our fellow Americans that our palates have been ravaged, that our food is awful, and that our most respected authorities on cookery are poseurs?"

Last year Seven Stories published his autobiography titled My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. In it he criticized his former employer, the New York Times. He wrote "muckraking...tended to make the Times brass nervous...Truly investigating, questioning, skeptical reporting was practically unTimesian."

After retiring from the Times, John Hess became a regular on Pacifica station WBAI providing daily commentaries to end the WBAI evening news. He continued writing and recording commentaries up until his death.

On the website Counterpunch Alexander Cockburn wrote "John Hess grew old the way journalists are meant to, but almost never do. He never stopped stamping on the toes of the powers-that-be, never lost his edge, never got out of harness."

We go now to a commentary John Hess recorded for WBAI on June 4th of last year upon the resignation of CIA Director George Tenet.

  • John Hess, WBAI commentary, June 4, 2004.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to a commentary John Hess recorded for WBAI on June 4 of last year, upon the resignation of the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet.

JOHN HESS: It was embarrassing to watch our director of Central Intelligence sniveling that he had to go home early to care for his darling wife and kiddies. And to see his boss let him go, and say, what a good boy he had been. Just think of it. The man has been in charge of the gathering and analysis of information about the American world empire, and that the espionage eavesdropping, bribery and all of the dirty tricks. Tuning in, you might find it hard to believe that our nation got along without a C.I.A. from the time it was born to beyond World War II. We even had a Secretary of State who said gentlemen did not read each other’s mail. Then the Cold War set in. A task force reported to President Eisenhower, quote, "Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the U.S. is to survive, long-standing American concepts of fair play must be reconsidered. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand, and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy," unquote. The American public were never made fully acquainted with this fundamentally repugnant philosophy. Most were shocked when bits of it leaked out. When President Ford blurted that our dirty tricks included attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, it was seriously proposed that we disband the C.I.A. Its excuse disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the monster lives on, as repugnant as ever. Scandals every day. Yet our media have been so conditioned to it that there’s been no suggestion that it be disbanded or even cut back, except in alternate media like ours, remain loyal to longstanding American concepts of fair play.

AMY GOODMAN: John Hess, WBAI evening news commentator, died this weekend. Also former New York Times writer. He died at the age of 87.

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