Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Does the U.S. Government Truly Represent the American People? | Main | Guest Blogger: GlobalPost's Tom Mucha on the Global Economic Crisis »

Bill Moyers Answers Viewer Questions

Last week, Bill Moyers answered questions in a live chat on PBS.ORG. Click here to read a transcript of the discussion. Below, he answers more questions from the chat and the MOYERS BLOG.

Q. Dear Mr. Moyers, other than voting and writing to their congress people, what can citizens do to have influence over Washington policy?
Eva Marie Willis

Q. What can we as concerned citizens do to ensure that the necessary reforms in media, the economy, etc. that you've long advocated are actually enacted?
Suzanne Reymer

A. Find one group close by that needs your help. One organization, one cause. Affordable housing. Advocating the cleanup of a toxic site. Agitating for transparency in local government. Seek a chapter with national links — Common Cause, Public Citizen, Institute for America's Future. Study the example of Beverly Eckert, whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/ll and who herself died in the Continental crash near Buffalo last week. After 9/ll she and other relatives of the victims organized the 9/11 Family Steering Committee and kept the pressure on until they got some answers — including standing down Henry Kissinger after it was announced he would head the 9/ll Commission. See her obituary in the NYT of Saturday February 14. There are many, many such groups, causes, and needs. Find one, join it, serve it, and stay with it.

As for media reform, check out the site

Q. What is the selection process for deciding which guests to feature on your program?

A. My staff and I follow the news trying to assess which voices can add a dimension to it that you won't find elsewhere. We read books looking for people who know something unique on a subject. Magazines, too — on science, nature, history, the arts — and scores of online sites. We're looking for people who usually wouldn't have a mainstream venue, who add a fresh take on a subject, and who don't have a cause or ideology to push but instead are trying to tell the truth as they see it. It's a constant process that calls on our collective journalistic instincts. At some point, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I'll make the call. There are always far more possibilities than we have time to feature.

Q. Did you ever consider entering politics, and, what would you be if you were not a journalist?
Mary M.

A. When I left the White House in January 1967 to publish NEWSDAY, I made my choice about journalism and never looked back, even when people urged me to run. The two don't mix, and if I had pursued journalism with an eye toward political office, I couldn't have trusted myself, much less earn the trust of the people who followed my journalism. Three times I turned down opportunities for appointed positions in Washington that came my way through no effort of my own; it was easy to say no, on the grounds that I belong on this, the journalistic, side of the fence.

Q. Do you think through a rigid recitation of facts journalists can convey the absolute truth of a story? Can journalists fulfill their duty to their community by only reporting verifiable facts or must they go further? If they go further how do they know they are pursuing something truthful and not just their own personal viewpoint?
Kelly Stephens

A. I'm not sure what you mean by a "rigid recitation of facts" or even the "absolute truth of a story." We're not meant to be stenographers -- simply transcribing what officials tell us — but there is always more information about just about any story than we can gather in a limited time and with limited resources. Our job as journalists is to gather as much as we can, weigh it (what appears to be more significant than others), organize what we can verify, and present it as our best-effort account. The "truth of the matter" usually lies beyond the mere presentation of facts, but without the facts, the truth can't be grounded. I see our work as trying to ground our conclusions in solid fact-gathering.

Q. As I admire you and your extraordinary (and desperately needed) work greatly, I was wondering if you could share with us the people that you admire and learn from. I would be very interested to hear what historical and contemporary journalists, political figures, and especially, knowing of your interest in the arts, artists (literary, visual, or musical) you admire.
Chris Ulrich

A. I wish I had more time for this one. I've learned from almost all the people whom I have interviewed over the years. We journalists are licensed, so to speak, to explain things we don't understand. That means talking to as many people as we can, because we don't on our own know very much. I honestly don't have favorites — any more than I favor one of my three children or five grandchildren — but some had more impact than others. Obviously the series with Joseph Campbell on THE POWER OF MYTH. My WORLD OF IDEAS interviews in l988 (see the book.) THE WISDOM OF FAITH with Huston Smith. And the interviews in FAITH AND REASON in 2006. On the other hand, I found last week's interviews on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL with Simon Johnson and Nikki Giovanni remarkably revealing. And on it goes.

Q. Have you read Howard Zinn's book, A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES? If you have, I would appreciate your comments. I would also enjoy seeing him on your program, if he accepts public invitations.
Thank you for your program. I look forward to it every Friday on my local PBS station.
Stephanie Rogstad

I have read it — at least twice. And I interviewed him on my series NOW WITH BILL MOYERS a few years back. You can check it out online here.

Thanks for watching and writing.

-Bill Moyers


TrackBack URL for this entry:


To me, it looks like the Tea Party is being taken advantage of by some of the same people they claim to be against. Rebranding politicians and media as "Tea Partiers" sounds like political business as usual.
Washington is at the mercy of and under the control of the biggest bucks in America. This is proved by how powerful the banking lobby is ( because they still wield power) and how powerless the auto industry is ( because they no long wield power).
If those who believe in and promote the Tea Party movement allow what used to be pro-republican and pro-democrat politicans and media to simply rebrand themselves as "Tea Party" and don't address the root problem ( the fact that wealth , not citizens, govern this nation ) . All you will acheive is a short-lived politcal tailgate party, nothing in the game will change.

One of the guests stated credit is the oxygen of the economy but in reality it's savings. It's SAVINGS.

You are one of my idols and I would not miss a show. How to we cure the ills of the political machinery, as they unfold on your show? I don't understand why once the "dirty laundry" is aired on a respected show like yours, things don't change. When "the gig is up" why are the moral wrongs allowed to continue? I am nearing the point of not ever voting again because the monster in Washington D.C. can't be contained. But thank you for working so hard and bringing us the truth each week. Your advice of finding a cause to be of help one person at a time will be given serious contemplation.

One thing I have not heard much about is how the international community regards our impending decisions on Afghanistan. I know troops from our various allies are in country and they appear to be following our lead, but what about the rest of the world? Are they just sort of watching Obama as he ponders all the depressing variables the former administration left him? It seems to me that with Pakistan packin' nukes and unstable and the obvious link to events in Afghanistan that the world should be somewhat concerned. Maybe they are and I just missed it. Can we ask for help here? If we did would we get it?

I saw the show with the actress who spoke like Meredith Viera, but is from the Baltimore area. She has a show in New York where she talks about doctors or patients or ministers? She is wonderful, enchanting, delightful, Anna Deardra? Smith? Poor people are hated. Don't tell people they are poor. Don't tell people they are sick, but tell them they are getting better. Great accents, imitations, showing impressions. Great chat. wish I could go to your show. Linguist, Danger, False accusation, Circumstances? tone? word choice? Sentence length? Confident you are, but not self rightous.

Bill you totally blew me away on Bill Maher, and the above questionaire establishes yet another very symbolic representation of you; Little people with integral integrity in a time of the self destructive giants. You need to be "tweeting" from @billmoyers, someone is holding the account for you. Your voice could be heard a thousand times louder through the power of social media. @reply me or direct message me @gizmopunk when you start tweeting. As info share gets faster and smaller, it's little blurbs and micro blogs like yours that will keep our nation hopeful. P.S. I have no agenda outside of living as an influential and moral American and I'd love to be a raw insighful guest on your show. Cheers! (I'm writing this on my iPod forgive me for grammer and spelling errors)

I, too, am a reluctant twitterer, but I dare not let technology race ahead of me for practical and promotional reasons. Though I still prefer my newspapers on the front porch and PBS programs with a straight forward approach to important issues.
Dennis Bounds
KING5 News
Seattle, WA

Dear Bill Moyers,

We can't thank you enough for your Deep Probing into some extremely challenging issues.
I just have a simple question, Have you approached President Obama for a Thought Provoking interview with you?

Obama IS President no matter what you say. If he was born in Africa then maybe he id president of Africa too. If he was born in Asia, or if we can't determine where he was born or who his parents really were that's all good too. Law should be a result of democratic choice, not an impediment to it. Hell, if he's illegal that's a good sign. Maybe the people have spoken. maybe he's "king of the world." And the people (not the pinhead racists) will put Obama out if he can't do the job.(White supremacy is over no matter how you crackers cut the pie.)

Sent: Mon 3/23/09 4:28 PM

NOTE: This message went to selected news outlets and to selected diplomatic missions and religious leaders of African countries, and others as addressed.

It is sometimes a mistake for a politican to trust his publicist.

One wonders who talked the producers of the TV game show JEOPARDY into making "Where was Obama born?" into a JEOPARDY question, and making "Hawaii" the correct answer. It must be the same publicist who talked the publishers of the TV GUIDE magazine into putting the smiling heads of 'President' Obama and his wife Michelle on their magazine cover.

No matter how big they smile on the cover of TV GUIDE, no one will take Obama & Michelle for Ken & Barbie: And by now every hoi poloi or head of state knows that Obama was born in Mombasa. But of course, "No person except a natural born Citizen ... is eligible to hold the office of President," according to the U.S. Constitution, so it is not surprising that 'President' Obama wants us to forget his African birthplace.

The 'President's publicist should remember the words of the 'President's predecessor from his home state of Illinois:

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

That predecessor from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, also said: "I would rather be right than President."

African-born author and 20th-century contemporary of 'President' Obama, Alexander McCall Smith, said in one of his novels:

"Mma Romatswe …. would not be anything but African, never, even if somebody came up to her and said 'Here is a pill, the very latest thing. Take it and it will make you into an American.' She would say no. Never. No thank you."

History will record, and his father's family relations will remember, even if he will not, the U.S. 'President's African roots.


Since you said you believe that the key to everything is Leadership, should you not have discovered the qualifications of Obama, including his constitutional eligibility to hold the office, BEFORE you endorsed him for President? Care to set the record straight NOW? Is he the proper role model for the African children at the school you established--or for the school children of America or the world? Are they to pass through life any which way they can, believing that the end justifies the means?

The Bilderburg Group may not be the worst membership for a TV commentator to hold. What about the Federalist Society? the Masonic Lodge? the Chamber of Commerce? the National Association of Broadcasters? the National Mining Association? the Republican or Democratic Party (almost the same)? If Moyers spoke at the chess club someone would find something negative to say. Judge the man by recent deeds: That might be indicative. And push him to do more. (Even the President claims he wants that, to go with his swing set, Portuguese Waterdog and Uncle Ben hair.)

I'm scared by all the corruption & greed & after reading "Truth About the Bilderberg Group" I see a developing pattern. You were invited to one of their mtgs. & yet no word of their ability of control of what is going on. Will you please ease my mind.

James Hester: I didn't want you to think you were talking into space, so I looked up the shooting in Maine. Yep, the guy was a millionaire white supremacist who habitually abused his wife until she shot him dead. The FBI found the makings and plans for a dirty bomb. I can see your point that domestic terrorism is a bigger danger than infiltrators.

Sometimes I think our governmental secret agencies maintain terrorists just as they do through the ISI in Pakistan. We never deconstructed Tim McVeigh's network, and the 9/11 Commission barely scraped the surface, glossing over some major mysteries. I am presently convinced 9/11 was an inside job. What's your position, James Hester? What do you read and watch?
(I like to think I'm a Moyers' Little Helper, like a Santa's Little Helper, or maybe a Mommy's Little Helper {but not the qualudes Keith Richards recommends})

Have you seen the news item about a white supremacist man shot by his wife in Bangalore Maine (Dec 8, 2008). He was trying to make a radiological dirty bomb. I wonder why such an important item was ignored by fear mongering media. Of course the guy’s name was James Cumming and not any Middle Eastern name. Originally mentioned in Wikileaks ( ) on page 11 ) and

I agree with Jill H.
The unbiased realize it is better to answer twenty questions to get to the truth then to say I have the truth and avoid any question; thus the elimination of third or twentieth party questions for decades is why we now reside in this depression of fallacy. Clarity and recalibration are the criterions of accuracy for all administrators of morality. It is when one is waving their arms, struggling (warring) for control that the reality or the product of economic inequality should be obvious.

Bobby Kennedy when he was young used to help hunt communists, but he turned out OK before he was killed, although he probably lost some fascist buddies. Not fearing your fascist buddies can get you killed. Fascists like J. Edgar Hoover could even be gay in the old days if they were discreet and loyal to the wealthy elite.
It's funny to see fascists bashing Moyers now for hunting gays in the bygone days when they too might have had a homosexual's pants seat clamped in their jaws. How does one answer the question'"Are you still persecuting gay and lesbian public servants?" The Bush administration apparently did so up until its last days. In fascist evaluation Bill is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

You're in their crosshairs anyway Moyers, just for questioning global corporate capitalism, and criticizing the deposed Fuhrer. So you might as well tackle the 9/11 conspiracy and the engineering of the Meltdown just as bebe, beecham, Foresta, my crew, and so many others (some silently) are so fervently requesting. Media openly threatens to assassinate Obama should he misstep with Massa's money (Police/Chimpanzee cartoon- New York Post). The people would be better off knowing the truth before the fascist endgame proceeds covertly. I think it's OK for a 74 year old to tell. The crippling lies have gone on long enough. Capitalism has been discredited, so why not superpatriotism? You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, and the truth leaves a better taste in your mouth.

Sanctimony, thy name is MOYERS! BILL MOYERS!

Why don't you have Yvette Vega interview you for Charlie Rose's time slot like she did about your heart attack?

"So, Bill, you didn't REALLY do those awful things, did you?"


Dear Bill, There's a powerful rumour that you are planning a round-table discussion with Alex Jones, Dr. Chossudovsky, Allan Watt, and Webster Tarpley regarding the truth about 911 and the present engineered global financial meltdown? If this is true then lots of people will do what they never do, that is, tune in. B

You voted for Change
and got what

I voted for change
and got naught

You vote for Obama has tested the meaning of change

My vote for Nader
would be seen as wasted

Your vote for Change
brought in Biden, Clinton, Delahney

My vote for Nader
would later
be the only for change

There is no change
unless you count your
conservative savings paying
for my speculative needs

Billy Bob, from out in left field

Mr. Moyers,

What say you?

"Even Bill Moyers, a White House aide now best known as a liberal television commentator, is described in the records as seeking information on the sexual preferences of White House staff members. Moyers said by e-mail yesterday that his memory is unclear after so many years but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover."
- Washington Post, Feb 19, 2009


Given that J. Edgar Hoover was apparently gay himself, why was
this not a powerful weapon in the Washington DC political battles?
Surely the major political figures
such as JFK & LBJ were well aware
of Hoover's preferences. Is it simply
power used is power lost?
Dennis Johnston

A reform policy that makes sense from (
includes the following 3 ideas:
1)Nationalize the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks
2)The Monetary Control Board will redefine bank lending rules and procedures to end the privilege banks now have to create money when they extend their credit
3)The new money that must be regularly added to the system as population and commerce grow will be created and spent into circulation by the U.S. Government on infrastructure, including the “human infrastructure” of Education and Health Care.

We need to remember that the monetary system is a tool we define for creating the society we'd like to see - not a fixed law of nature to which we all must be enslaved.

Currency in a society is like blood in an organism - it must circulate & nourish all the parts of the body, or you wind up with gangrenous tissue (which is much like we have allowed our inner cities to become). As an organism grows the volume of the blood supply must be increased - but this is not a catastrophic event. If you wake up one morning to find your child in a coma because half of his blood supply is unavailable to sustain his organs - then it's not enough to simply double the blood volume & go on like nothing happened. You must also understand what went wrong.

When suddenly half the volume of our monetary system has gone missing & all we talk about is whether to reinfuse the system through the arm or the leg then we set ourselves up for long term failure. It IS important how we reinfuse the system - but we must also address the underlying problem.

Regarding the interview with Simon Johnson:
I think it's ok to go on say it..YES the "bankers" are more powerful than our President!
At least just for now, I hope!
In ALL of history when the largest amounts of wealth are manipulated from the many and diverted into the hands of the fewest the power shifts to the fewest! Accordingly corruption sets in and the decline of that once "great Society" begins! As was the case prior to the Great Depression!
I believe History is doing as it always does when we forget, and boy did we forget quickly this time...its repeating itself right in front of our eyes.

FYI: David Cay Johnston of the New York Times, in his book titled Free Lunch, claims that the top paid wallstreet hedge-fund manager in 2006 was James Simons, of Renaissance Technologies Corp., earning $1.7 billion.

Dear Mr. Bill Moyers,

A newly-released cache of FBI documents published in the Washington Post reveals that you led a gay witch hunt while working as a special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

According to the documents, you requested the bureau "investigate two other administration figures who were ’suspected as having homosexual tendencies.’"

The Post reports that via an e-mail, you said your memory is unclear after so many years but that you may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover.


I realize at the ripe old age of 74, all will probably be forgiven by your fans for trying to protect a pro-civil rights president against a then-lethal associations with gays. However, it might be harder to understand such a selective memory as you continue to work as a journalist even if you can’t remember your own homophobic behavior.

As this news stories develops and shoots across the blogoshere, it might become important to your fans if you try to recall the details of this matter and clear up any details the Washington Post got wrong.


Christopher di Spirito

"BILL MOYERS: Oligarchy is an un-American term, as you know. It means a government by a small number of people. We don't like to think of ourselves that way.

SIMON JOHNSON: It's a way of governing. As you said. It comes from, you know, a system they tried out in Greece and Athens from time to time. And it was actually an antithesis to democracy in that context.
But, exactly what you said, it's a small group with a lot of power. A lot of wealth. They don't necessarily - they're not necessarily always the names, the household names that spring to mind, in this kind of context. But they are the people who could pull the strings. Who have the influence. Who call the shots.

BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy?"

WAKE UP! We have been a CORPOCRACY certainly under the last "administration". The "top 1%" has trumped the democracy we are supposed to be. At least under Bush, "Trumps the president, the Congress and the American government" isn't the phrase. To a large extent they OWN it!

A good future interview would be one with British journalist Adam Curtis. He has a lot of interesting points to make about journalism today and his own work.

I'm sure that Mr. Moyers, in his magnificent and brave mission to bring the truth to lame-street media, will soon invite Mr. Alex Jones from Infowars/PrisonPlanet on his show. Just kidding. Mr. Moyers would do his show in drag rather than interview Jones, Tarpley, Chossudovsky, or similar guests, who could truly clarify 911, other US false flags, the bankster bailouts, etc. Make-up! Mr. Moyers' false eyelashes please...B

I do often feel powerless in our society. Program such as Bill Moyers Journal, Now, and Frontline do help give me a sense of background. I am also old-fashioned--sometimes I find helpful material in The New York Times and (yes) even The Wall Street Journal, which I read faithfully for almost 40 years.

Being part of small groups helps me focus on doing some things that might change our world.

Thank you for the program and the blog.

Please excuse my hyperbolic rants, Bill. It's frustrating to feel powerless. I'm not a journalist but a bottom rank analyst so I feel this gives me some leeway. I will say Bill's advice to get out there and do something for others will dissipate some of the heartache of feeling like a loser in an unjust world. No one has a monopoly on the truth and people are making it new every minute. You'll have a stale little crumb if you don't hook up with other minds. I get a new attitude each day, sometimes just by reading this wondrous blog. Thanks to all posters, even the nutty ones, Hell, especially the nutty ones like me.

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments


THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ