Media Trail to the Phil Donahue Show

Published: 1993-05-01

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When the Museum ad ran on 7 December at Brandeis University, where the student body is about 75% Jewish, the resulting fuss got the attention of the prestige press and network media. That press led directly to my being interviewed by Time magazine and the full-page article on the Campus Project and Brandeis that ran in the issue of 27 December. While the Time article was amateurish and uninformed, it did introduce revisionism and CODOH to a national audience of tens of millions of readers!

The Time article convinced the producers for Mike Wallace that the Campus Project should play a significant part in a 60 Minutes segment. When the segment did air, Wallace featured the Campus Project—he had to say that Bradley Smith had "declined to be interviewed on camera"—and Ernst Zuendel.

60 Minutes used archival footage from an old 48 Hours interview to include me briefly in the segment, and used other archival material from an old Montel Williams interview to include David Cole (who had walked away from the segment with me) and Mark Weber. The archival footage was pretty well chosen and did not attempt to mislead the viewer, which rather surprised me. Nevertheless, when the full segment was aired (on 13 February), I was happy with our decision to walk away from the interview.

Ernst told me that, while he had hoped for more, he had gotten about what he'd expected from 60 Minutes. Three or four minutes air time culled from a 100-minute interview, camera work that was intended to make him appear menacing and untrustworthy, and a cut-and-paste job that denigrated his extensive knowledge of revisionist scholarship while presenting his point of view in an unflattering light. He wasn't complaining. "I knew I was going to be the sacrificial lamb," he told me. "I was prepared for it. But I have my own plan. We'll see who gets sacriticed in the end."

While the Mike Wallace people were getting background for their segment on "revisionism," the editorial staff of the Queens College Quad on Long Island NY was wrestling with its conscience over whether to run the Museum ad or not. It's possible that the attention they were getting from the 60 Minutes camera team, which filmed the open debate by The Quad editors, influenced them to stand on principle. When The Quad ran the ad, it was the first time I had broken through into print in the belly of the beast itself—New York City!

After walking away from the Wallace interview, we were apprehensive about getting another shot at network TV. Behind the scenes, however, the news of our having turned down Mike Wallace was flashing from one TV producer's office to another. Within ten days people for The Phil Donahue Show were on the horn to me. Brandeis, Time magazine, Queens College and the Mike Wallace affair, all tied into the Campus Project and the growing controversy over the Holocaust Museum, was just too scandalous a story for Donahue to overlook.

David and I did the Donahue interview on 14 February, a Monday afternoon. It was aired in some markets on one-hour delay, in secondary markets during the rest of that week, and on the 21st it was aired in major markets including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.

On balance, it was a very successful interview for revisionism. Donahue noted at the outset that the Holocaust Museum and Simon Wiesenthal Center people all refused to participate. He screened several minutes' footage from David Cole's upcoming new video, "The Gas Chambers: A Look at the Physical Evidence," while David did a voice-over to explain what was being viewed. The Zyklon-B staining in the disinfestation chambers showed up as a brilliant blue, while scenes from the interior of a Mauthausen "homicidal" gassing chamber were shown to be a pristine white. Many of the 8 to 13 million viewers may not have understood the significance of this footage, but tens and maybe hundreds of thousands did.

David grew frustrated with Donahue for allowing a photograph of a Dachau shower room to represent a homicidal gas chamber, and frustrated with professor Michael Shermer for trivializing the significance of revisionist research, and during the half-hour commercial break he walked off the show. David had pressed Donahue hard on air, the audience was largely Jewish, and when Donahue came on stage after the commercial and announced "we have lost David Cole," the audience cheered and clapped. When you see it on screen, it's comic.

While I thought David had completed an interesting maneuver when he walked off the set, afterwards he apologized for leaving me on stage alone to face a hostile audience. In his frustration he hadn't thought about that part of it. But it was all the same to me. Events were moving fast, and I had my hands full with six or eight women (some had their bad-tempered daughters with them) in the front row who were in my face on camera and especially off, showing me their tattoos and castigating me as only some of those old harridans can. But most everything I've done with this work in public I've done alone. I'm used to it. In that sense it was just another day for me.

Dr Shermer felt differently. He was sweating like a lathered horse. Everyone was attacking me, but Shermer was doing the sweating. It must be agony for a man like that when his wife is having a baby. Every time a commercial was aired, the make-up woman had to run out, mop Shermer's brow and make him up again.

Now that David was backstage, he could report to me afterwards a little of what was going on off-camera. Donahue was shouting at his producer to prod Shermer into action to destroy the revisionists, which was the role he had been assigned to play in our little drama, but the producer couldn't get Shermer to act. On the one hand he was sweating and on the other he was frozen. Even the make-up woman was encouraging Shermer to "get" us. The professor did manage to say on air that the Jewish soap story is not true (in spite of the survivor in the front row who hadn't wanted to wash during her stay at Auschwitz because she hadn't wanted to risk using the remains of her mommy that way).

In the final minute, of what had become a raucous program, Donahue stated on network television that the revisionists can no longer be ignored and that their arguments must be addressed. Let's give credit where credit's due. Donahue is the first nationally recognized figure to have said it on network TV. Back home in Visalia I wrote him making that observation, and noting that he had stood on firm liberal principle—intellectual freedom—and that he should feel some satisfaction with that. I can only imagine some of the guff he was taking behind the scenes. It must have been spectacular.

When the show ended, the producer suggested that David and I stay around and chat up the audience, but I said I didn't think so. We left immediately, following our guide through a back passageway and outside to the waiting limousines. David and I barely had time to say goodbye before he was off to the airport.

I was to stay another night. When I was dropped off at my hotel, I walked over to First Avenue, then started north toward Elaine's restaurant and bar. I was happy. I was laughing. I had just pulled off a real coup. A revisionist breakthrough at the national level. The interview had gone well enough. It could have been a disaster and it hadn't been—it had gone off really quite well. Moreover it had confirmed for me that I had been right about the audience. At this stage of the game the audience is in the way. We don't need to do anymore shouting at that collective brute. We need to find a way to get the other side to argue the evidence.

No more media interviews then that are not live. No media interviews with audience participation. Take it or leave it.

The Mike Wallace segment aired the night of 13 February. The Donahue Show with David and me ran the afternoon of the 14th. It was a one-two revisionist punch. When I contemplate what our friends with the ADL, Hillel, the AJC, WJC, SWC, etc. etc. were talking about Monday night, I can't keep a grin off my face. When I think about what they were saying about revisionism's Mr. Donahue, the grin does an evil jig.

Editor's remark: The Phil Donahue Show featuring B. Smith, D. Cole and Dr. M. Shermer can be watch on YouTube, for instance plain at (42 min.) or with comments by Denier Bud at (1hr 3 min).

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: Media Trail to the Phil Donahue Show
Sources: Smith's Report, no. 17, Spring 1994, pp. 1f.
Published: 1993-05-01
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 2, 2015, 8:25 a.m.
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