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CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
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September 23, 2018 10:41 am

CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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September 23, 2018 10:41 am

Fighting the lies about Sandy Hook; Almanac: Typhoid Mary; He said, she said; Michael Ovitz: Closing old wounds; Murhpy's back!

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Our CBS Sunday morning podcast is sponsored by Edward Jones. College tours with your oldest daughter. Updating the kitchen to the appropriate decade.

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Let's partner for all of it. Learn more at Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning, the first Sunday morning of fall. The change of season reminds us that we're approaching the sixth anniversary this December of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The emotional wounds of that massacre are far from healed and made all the worse by a bizarre and ongoing battle between fact and fiction. Tony DeCopel reports our cover story.

Faith in humanity if you let it. Ahead on Sunday morning, how some families of the victims are fighting back. Murphy's back. Murphy Brown, that is, a TV news spoof from the past rebooted for our times, as Lee Cowan will show us.

It was a show that found itself at the center of the culture wars of the 90s. Primetime TV has Murphy Brown mocking the importance of fathers. Now, 20 years later, the show's called Murphy in the Morning.

They're not firing me. Murphy Brown and the gang are ready to do it all over again. Do the names Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Bill O'Reilly ring any bells? Is there a part of you that just couldn't wait to get back at this?

Yeah, I couldn't wait. Murphy in the Morning on Sunday morning, a little later. Martha Teichner looks behind the headlines in the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation fight.

Rita Braver talks with legendary Hollywood super agent Michael Ovitz. And more, all coming up when our Sunday morning podcast continues. Hi, I'm Dan Premack, business editor at Axios. Right now, you can download, subscribe and hear Pro Rata, the first podcast from Axios. We talk about the collision of politics, business and technology, things like election hacking or the battle over 3D printed guns or the Washington, D.C. blowback against big tech platforms like Facebook and Google. Listen and subscribe to Axios Pro Rata now.

It's free on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your shows to get smarter, faster. We begin this morning with a battle of fact versus fiction, a battle pitting parents mourning the shooting deaths of their children at Sandy Hook Elementary School against purveyors of the most mean spirited and outlandish of myths. Our cover story is from Tony DeCopel. Oh, hi.

Thanks to see you. Hi, welcome to the Ben Wheeler show. Benny had a bit of a cold that morning. He woke up with sniffles. What was he looking forward to in that month?

Well, Christmas, you know, every holiday was a special event for Jesse. It was December 2012 when a 20 year old man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire. They were just little babies. They were no more than babies.

They had no self-defense or knew what self-defense was. Neil Hesselen's son, Jesse, and David Wheeler's son, Benny, were both just six years old. Those are the facts of the story. And every day since the people of Newtown, especially all 26 families who lost a child or a loved one, have slowly tried to move forward. But Neil Hesselen and David Wheeler are part of a small band of Sandy Hook families that feel they have no choice but to look back, to stare down an outlandish myth and the people who spread it. Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured. For years, the online provocateur Alex Jones and others like him have argued that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary never actually happened. The official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. That they were staged with paid actors, including Neil Hesselen and David Wheeler themselves, along with dozens of others, residents, law enforcement, even journalists, all actors. It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.

And as for the children who died, well, the fiction argues they never lived in the first place. For me, personally, it has, in my more vulnerable moments, felt like a complete denial of my life. In my more vulnerable moments, it has felt like salt in the wounds.

And it can take a big chunk out of your faith in humanity if you let it. Which is why, earlier this year, both fathers, along with other Sandy Hook families, filed suit against Alex Jones, whom they feel is mainly responsible for spreading these bogus stories. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said 30 years ago, many times, repeatedly, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.

He was kind of joking back then. And we've come to this place where many, many, many millions of people feel absolutely entitled to their own facts. Kurt Anderson is the author of A History of Delusional Thinking in America. When you create a story like Sandy Hook... He says all sorts of wild ideas took hold after the freewheeling 60s.

You know, I can think what I want. You know, what you say is true isn't my truth. And then exploded with the rise of the internet. There's a good reason to question this whole narrative. Suddenly, those hundreds, and then thousands, and then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people could find each other, recruit more people, set up websites to put out legitimate looking arguments for these things. But Anderson says the Sandy Hook deniers, as they're called, are a special breed. Motivated, he thinks, by fears that a mass shooting of young children might spur stricter gun laws. If you had to point to a single reason why Sandy Hook in particular has become a focus of conspiracy theorists, what's the reason? It's guns.

If 26 people had been killed by a guy running them down with a car, it wouldn't have taken off the way this one did. David Wheeler suspects Anderson may be right. I don't remember exactly when this particular piece of mail came, but it was a simple envelope with a piece of ruled notebook paper in it. All they had done on this piece of paper was to transcribe the text of the Second Amendment. That's all they did. Still, at first, both fathers say they tried to laugh off the fake claims, even one suggesting Wheeler had not one but two roles in the massacre, playing both a grieving father and an FBI agent. Have you seen the picture of you split screen with the FBI? Congratulations, you found two middle-aged jowly white guys in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Remarkable. You dropped them off at school. Then, last year, Neil Hesselen went on television to directly address the Sandy Hook deniers. I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.

That is not possible. After which, the harassment only got worse. Folks, we've looked at all sides, but I mean, it's as phony as a $3 bill. To hear Hesselen tell it, that's because Alex Jones's falsehoods, shared with an audience in the millions, got even more personal. And that became dangerous. I've had many death threats. You know, people say, you should be the ones with the bullet hole in your head.

How'd you pick this location? Jesse's mom actually picked it. Hesselen says the lawsuit emphasizes his interest in putting an end to what's now become years of despair, made worse by the deniers labeling him a liar and his son a fake. Do you regret giving the interview that led to the most recent round of denials?

Do you regret saying you held your son with a bullet hole in his head? This is true. You know, it's part of my story. It's part of Jesse's legacy or his story or his history.

And it's a fact. David Wheeler says his lawsuit was prompted by his belief that Alex Jones is profiting from the lies and fabrications. That's when I thought this can't, I have to do something. We have to do something as a society. Collectively, we have to do something. What about people like him? There's always another. Well, if there's another like him that tries to do the same thing using the same tactics, then he'll have to go away too. We need to make sure that everyone understands that this is not okay.

There are limits. This is a very tough case for Alex Jones to win. Because the claims he has been making are so particularly... Because what he has said is so appalling. Floyd Abrams is a respected First Amendment lawyer famed for defending publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam era. Abrams says Alex Jones may have gone well beyond the protections of free speech, and he thinks the consequences could be severe. This is the sort of case in which a jury could say, we have to award vast amounts of money to punish him and to tell other people that saying such things is simply unacceptable. Do you think the outcome of these cases could put Alex Jones and Infowars out of business? Whatever money they have, and whatever the level of insurance they have, this is a deeply threatening case to persisting in their business. We asked Alex Jones's legal team to comment on this story.

We got no response. But since these lawsuits were filed, Jones seems to have changed his views on Sandy Hook. Real shootings happen. You know, I think Sandy Hook happened. Still, his rhetoric has gotten him kicked off every major social media platform.

Apple has stopped offering his show, and most recently PayPal, which handles transactions for Jones's online store, has said no more. As for the Sandy Hook families, they're still trying to heal, to go forward guided by the memory of those they lost and something else, says David Wheeler. The lasting lesson in all of this is that we are really only here for one reason. We are here to take care of each other, and that is the legacy of this town.

And now a page from our Sunday Morning Almanac. September 23rd, 1869, 149 years ago today. The day that saw the birth in rural Ireland of Mary Mallon, remembered today as Typhoid Mary. She emigrated to New York in the 1880s, where she built a career as a cook to the wealthy. In 1906, a family she cooked for on Long Island's posh Gold Coast contracted Typhoid Fever, a disease more commonly found in crowded slums.

An investigation determined that Mallon was a healthy carrier of the disease, able to pass it on to others by handling food while exhibiting no symptoms herself. Sensationally labeled by the press as Typhoid Mary, Mallon was quarantined, released, and quarantined again, living out her days at an island hospital where she died in 1938 at the age of 69. Gone for 80 years, Typhoid Mary is hardly forgotten. Her reputation as a pariah forever invoked in our popular culture, as in this exchange on the Big Bang Theory.

Come on, I don't want to sit by myself. That's what Typhoid Mary said, and clearly her friends buckled. Public health experts still debate the ethics of how their profession treated Mary Mallon, but there's no doubting the long shadow she continues to cast as Typhoid Mary. As we've told you, Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify this week about her allegation of assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Martha Teichner takes us behind the headlines.

Where I'm focused right now is doing everything that we can to make Dr. Ford comfortable. For Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Republican Charles Grassley, this past week has been all about optics. How to stage manage Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote fast before November's midterm elections, but at the same time to look like the embodiment of sensitivity toward Christine Blasey Ford. Call it Grassley's, no, the entire Judiciary Committee's Anita Hill problem. People are asking how we could have let your statement slip past us. How could we have had the committee vote without airing this matter? Grassley is one of three senators still on the committee who were there in 1991 for the spectacle of 14 white men confronting law professor Anita Hill over allegations of sexual harassment against then Supreme Court nominee, now Justice Clarence Thomas. Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex, correct? No, he did not ask me to have sex. He did continually pressure me to go out with him continually. Millions of women voters with long memories were offended.

Are you a scorned woman? They had no idea how to handle this and I have to say I don't think they took it very seriously. Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for NPR, broke the Anita Hill story and is covering the replay. This is an election year after all. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want to look insensitive, but it is a very political proceeding.

A great deal of what we see on camera will be and has been role-playing. In the New York Times last week, Hill wrote that the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to have learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent Me Too movement. So can this week's hearing be fair to either Blasey Ford or Judge Kavanaugh? Confirmation hearings are never fair.

It's the nature of the beast. It's pretty raw politics. To take a man like this and be speechless. What is this White House afraid of?

What is this president afraid of? We don't want this to be a three-ring circus. And I just want to say to the men of this country, just shut up and step up. Do the right thing. You watch the fight.

You watch the tactics. But here's what I want to tell you. In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has always been a political body, but it hasn't always been a weapon in the wars of polarization.

And that's what we're seeing. John Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and also a political author of The Soul of America. The essential thing to remember here is that ever since 1962, which was the school prayer decision, the Supreme Court has been at the center of the conservative agenda for power. This was clearly advanced as well by Roe versus Wade.

But you didn't have these kind of confirmation battles. You have them now because every seat is seen as a chess piece in the struggle for power. Republicans remember the defeat of Reagan nominee Robert Bork in 1987, a campaign so ugly that Bork became a verb meaning to kill someone politically. It is a president's constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate's constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent. Democrats were apoplectic when Senator Mitch McConnell refused for nearly 10 months even to hold hearings on nominee Merrick Garland, running out the clock on the Obama presidency. You know, ideally the Senate should be an umpire in American life.

The constitutional structure was set up so that they would be the saucer in which the milk cooled. Right now the Senate isn't doing that. So where does that leave this week's he said, she said, and the vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination that will surely follow? All these interests with an investment in the outcome are more interested in pressing ahead to rush a vote than they are in finding out the truth.

And I think that that's one of the reasons a moment like this is going to create even more division in a country that a lot of us thought couldn't be much more divided. Coming soon, Mobituaries, a podcast on matters of death and life from Mo Rocca. For many years, the biggest and often most feared power player in Hollywood was Michael Ovechts, who changed the way the business of show business is done. He has many a story to tell, and he's telling them to read a braver.

I had a goal from day one, which was to win, and I wanted us to win at all costs. Meet 71-year-old Michael Ovechts. As leader of Creative Artists Agency, known as CAA, he was once the most powerful talent agent in Hollywood. Give me a sample of the roster when you were running CAA. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Bob De Niro, Barbara Streisand, Meryl Streep. We handled directors like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, Stanley Kubrick, and Marty Scorsese. When Ovechts signed Sean Connery, the actor was in a career slump and had sworn off the role of James Bond.

But Ovechts convinced him to do the aptly named, Never Say Never Again. I made you all wet. Yes, but my martini's still dry. Do you carry a badge?

Yes. Carry a gun. But Ovechts is prouder of Cokes and Connery into playing police officer Jimmy Malone in the 1987 film, The Untouchables. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.

That's the Chicago way. Because he didn't want to be the old guy. He didn't want to be the old guy. He had to play it without a toupee, and he had to play it. He has an older, more eminence grays type of character. And he was, needless to say, brilliant in the role.

Connery won an Oscar. As Ovechts details in his new memoir, he was raised in the San Fernando Valley, the son of a liquor salesman. In 1968, he graduated from UCLA, married his college sweetheart, and applied for a job at William Morris, a prominent Hollywood talent agency. They said you're hired. Ovechts started in the mailroom and soon got his first promotions.

I got to be the assistant to the president and was put in a position that gave me an amazing overview of the company. In 1975, Ovechts decamped with a few other agents to found their own firm, CAA. And they were broke, but wanted to make a splash. And you actually at one time took out a loan and bought five Jaguars for the five principal partners?

Yes. Perception in Hollywood in those days was 99% of the law. And people noticed that we were driving Jaguars. They said, boy, those guys must be doing really good. Ovechts soon became the leader of CAA, also developing a reputation as a tough guy, driving hard bargains and poaching clients, like famed director Sidney Pollack, directly from other agents. You had almost a military mentality in how you pushed these deals forward and also how you were willing to destroy anything and everyone in your past. Well, I think that may be a bit of an overstatement. I don't think that we were willing to destroy anything and everybody.

I do think that we were willing to take on a lot of casualties and we did leave a lot of bodies in our path. It was Ovechts who spearheaded David Letterman's move from NBC to CBS. David, Mike Ovechts, please come in.

It's wonderful. The story told in HBO's film, The Late Ship, with Treat Williams playing Ovechts. Frankly, we have worked out a career plan for David and it includes securing everything for Dave that he wants.

Everything. Ovechts and his partners at CAA would also revolutionize the movie industry by frequently demanding that studios use their clients, writers, directors, actors, as a package deal in a particular film. Take Rain Man, released in 1988.

It's studded with CAA clients. Barry Levinson directed and Dustin Hoffman snores as an autistic man. You're going to have to get on a plane. Yeah, get on a plane.

Who is discovered in an asylum by his younger brother, played by Tom Cruise. All their lines have crashed at one time or another. That doesn't mean that they are not safe. Qantas. Qantas?

Qantas never crashed. And a lot of people in the industry thought that was a bad idea. Yeah, it was one of the many articles that were written about us saying that we were idiots and stupid and that Tom Cruise couldn't be Dustin Hoffman's brother.

It would never work. Rain Man, Mark Johnson, producer. Rain Man would win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. I thank my agent, Mike Ovechts.

Welcome to Jurassic Park. CAA would have a hand in a slew of films that are now considered classics. But after 20 years, Michael Ovechts' cutthroat ways, hustling clients, intimidating executives, even riding roughshod over his own partners had taken him, as he writes, from being the most powerful man in Hollywood to the most feared to the most hated. In 1995, he decided to quit being an agent and become number two at Disney to Michael Eisner, a close friend who also had a ruthless reputation. It didn't work from day one. I tried and I failed. It was one of the biggest failures of my life.

Ovechts then started a new business to manage talent and develop digital content. But when that too failed, you made headlines because you told a Vanity Fair reporter that you'd been done in by Hollywood's gay mafia. Gay mafia. Yeah. Still a debate today whether I said that or not, but I'll own up to it.

I guess I said it. But I think that I felt an enormous pressure coming from a lot of people in the business. It was a giant mistake and something that never should have been said. And as you get older, you live and learn. Today, Ovechts has a new gig advising Silicon Valley companies and a new life.

With his three children grown, he and his wife have gone their separate ways, and he now lives with Tamara Mellon, who co-founded Jimmy Choo Shoes. Today, when Michael Ovechts looks back, it is with both pride and regret. I felt that we were very kind to the people that were on our team and on our side. I feel we weren't kind to people that were on the other side of the line that we drew. Or in your way. Or in our way. Yes, we pushed them out of the way.

And we did it with a lot of skill. Because you make me feel. You make me feel. I'm Elton the painter.

You scared the hell out of me. It's Sunday morning on CBS, and here again is Jane Pauley. That's Candace Bergen and the late Robert Pastorelli in the very first episode of Murphy Brown from 1988. Now, 30 years later, Murphy's back. A new version of the hit comedy premieres Thursday night here on CBS.

Lee Cowan takes a look back and a look forward. 30 million people tune in to see me every week. It's been 20 years since Candace Bergen took her final bow as Murphy Brown. Sorry, Jim, this babe can't be bought.

All right. The fictional newswoman many real life journalists secretly wished they could be. He'd really like you to do the interview, but if not, he's going to give it to Jane Pauley. The big J? The show had a good long run. Ten seasons. The cast and crew earning their fake newsroom a slew of very real Emmys. When it finally ended in 1998, most thought it would go where most sitcoms go.

Maybe a DVD box set or reruns on cable. But then came election night 2016. We have been told that Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump to concede.

Let's just say it didn't exactly go her way. It was just grief, frankly, for till now. And so now Murphy's back on the air, hosting Murphy in the Morning just in time for the midterms. Cold and flu season is approaching.

So get your shots, pull out your heavy winter coats. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stay away from drafts, please. Is this at some level? And we're clear. Activism in a sitcom? Well, yes. We haven't really articulated that we consider ourselves the resistance, but I think that's a subtext, certainly.

At Bergen Side is a woman who created Murphy Brown, showrunner and writer Diane English. So if Hillary had one, you guys probably wouldn't be here. I don't think so.

I don't think so. We didn't feel like we should go back and revisit it unless there was a real reason to do it. And this was the reason? Well, it got us pretty close, you know, but when you look at what's going on on the front page of the newspaper every day, that's what put us over the top. It really wouldn't work, of course, unless the rest of Murphy's gang felt the same way. What a perfect time for Murphy Brown, a reporter, and Frank and Corky reporters to come back and start covering some of the madness.

I'll never meet a woman working these crazy hours. Joe Regalbudo, Faith Ford and Grant Shawd were all anxious to return. Two years on The View. They really killed me. Was it a strange thing to kind of re-inhabit a character that you hadn't really dealt with in 20 years? I was like sort of concerned about that because my character was based on being young and in over his head. And I thought, you know, if I'm sort of freaking out at my age now, is that going to be awkward? Now you're just old.

Now I'm just old and overwrought and it works fine. I love the two babies talking about being old. That's Phil's bar we're sitting in. Murphy's Washington watering hole.

It looks just like the original. I really miss Phil. He always gave the best advice.

The only difference now, though, is Time Daily, a TV veteran. Close the door. Serving the worst coffee in town. Here we go. You want to talk. And I thought cleaning the men's room was going to be the worst part of this job.

Why can't they hit a target that big? Murphy's Georgetown townhouse had to be recreated, too. So when you saw this the first time, what was that like? Well, tears came to my eyes because it's almost identical to the set that we had when we started 30 years ago. I walked in with Faith and Candace was already crying on the set. I was a heap. I was just a heap. I wasn't expecting it. We're home again and you don't go home again, but we came home again.

But what does it mean to be home again in such different times? There were tough issues in the 90s and the show dealt with them. Everything from alcoholism to cancer. Lumbectomy, mastectomy.

I mean, I like my breasts fine, but they're not worth dying over. Diane English hopes the new Murphy Brown will be even more topical. Journalists are the only real firewall between power-hungry politicians and the people they were elected to serve. Someone told me that once. Yahoo. Story lines already include gun control, immigration, and sexual harassment. Hello. The show's called Murphy in the Morning. They're not firing me. Do the names Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Bill O'Reilly ring any bells?

We have 13 episodes. We're here to make some noise. We're expecting a certain amount of backlash, yeah. But we used to get it in the old days too. Most notably back in 1992 when Murphy became a single mom. Which brought this famous rebuke.

Baring babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. From then Vice President Dan Quayle. Primetime TV has Murphy Brown mocking the importance of fathers by burying a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice. Some of the new cast members aren't even old enough to remember that backlash.

Hey, guess who's back from America's heartland? Including Jake McDormand who plays Murphy's son, now all grown up. I actually hadn't seen any of the original series. Hadn't seen anything? No, I mean I knew about it but I hadn't seen any of it so.

Did you go back and then look at the older episode? Not until after we filmed the first episode which is a smart move because it's intimidatingly good. What may be most intimidating, however, is the idea of the current White House reacting. I'm terrified. I'm terrified, yeah.

Don Rocha's character is especially timely. Can I get some more ice, please? What's that?

Ice. He plays an immigrant in constant fear of being deported. What's the problem? I'm kind of known as the tweet raider. Nick Dedani plays the newsroom's social media guru.

In real life, however, he thinks he's better off not knowing what the White House is doing. What the White House might say. Well, I deactivated my Twitter.

I deleted my Twitter and it's my message to America is delete your Twitter. With just days to go before the premiere, you might expect nerves to be a little raw. And they are. I imagine because the expectations are so high, maybe impossibly high. You had to bring that up. The last three episodes aren't even written yet by design.

So the show can be flexible enough to respond to news of the day. He invited me to his house afterward, and I assumed that there would be other people, but there weren't. And something happened. That's it.

Did you tell anybody? No. Every show night, I start getting all weepy and Faith comes in.

She says, now can do. You can do this. I know, but it's so much. So why do you get weepy? This show was so important to so many of us when we were doing it.

And you really connect on a level that's deeper. The world is perhaps more polarized than it was when Murphy was last on the air. But Candice Bergen and the rest of the cast are counting on the fact that somewhere in the middle of the left and the right, there's still a little room for humor. Murphy would cut Shannon down to size, just like she did with Jeff Sessions. He used to be six feet.

Now he sleeps in an acorn. I'm Jane Pauley. Thank you for listening.

And please join us again next Sunday morning. This is Intelligence Matters with former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell. Bridge Colby is co-founder and principal of the Marathon Initiative, a project focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition. The United States put our mind to something we can usually figure it out. What people are saying and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation, our military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing. Follow Intelligence Matters wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-26 23:27:30 / 2023-01-26 23:41:17 / 14

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