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Kennedy Memo Proposed 'Brainwashing' Journalists

By Geoffrey D. Garin and The CRIMSON Staff, (The fourth in a four part series)s

Documents from the personal files of President John F. Kennedy '40 indicate that Kennedy used his friendly relations with the press to keep information about the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis from being reported by the news media.

In a note written in Kennedy's hand during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis Kennedy asked, "Is there a plan to brief and brainwash key press within 12 hours or so?"

According to Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy's personal secretary, the note was written by the president on the day Kennedy delivered his first public address on the crisis.

Kennedy listed a series of candidates for the proposed "brainwashing." The list included The New York Times, Walter Lippmann '10, Marcus Childs and Joseph Alsop. The fifth entry on the list was "key bureau chiefs."

On October 25, 1962, Kennedy wrote a letter to Orvil Dryfoos, the late president and publisher of The New York Times, thanking him for agreeing not to print certain information about the confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba.

Kennedy wrote Dryfoos, "An important service to the national interest was performed by your agreement to withhold information that was available to you on Sunday afternoon."

Kennedy also persuaded Times columnist James Reston from printing a story about plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion just prior to the actual assault.

A memorandum from presidential adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. '38 to Kennedy shows that Schlesinger convinced The New Republic not to publish an article on the group that would attack Cuba in April 1961.

The article, "Our Men in Miami," was written by Gilbert B. Harrison and was scheduled to appear in the magazine the week of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

When an article critical of the April invasion appeared in Fortune magazine, Kennedy sent Gen. Maxwell Taylor to deliver a personal report on the invasion to a group of Time executives.

After the meeting, Kennedy sent a personal letter to Henry Luce, the late publisher of Time, Life and Fortune magazines, to "emphasize the need for keeping the fact that this discussion has even taken place completely in the bosom of your official family."

"If it should become known that General Taylor has discussed the Cuban affair with you, the press as well as the Congress will immediately descent on us en masse demanding equal treatment," Kennedy wrote. "This would be extremely embarrassing as the position to date even with the Congress has been that the facts relating to the Cuban affair are limited to the executive branch."

In a letter to Kennedy written just after the 1960 election, Schlesinger proposed Lippmann, a liberal journalist, for the post of U.S. ambassador to France.

Near the end of the letter Schlesinger concluded that Lippman "might do us more good" as a columnist than as an ambassador.

Walt W. Rostow wrote Kennedy a letter in December 1960 recommending Derek C. Bok, who was then on the Law School Faculty, as a key adviser on Berlin

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