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The Quiz Show Scandal | Primary Source

Newspaper Account

Los Angeles Times Article
Thursday, November 5, 1959

President Wants TV Scandals Cleaned Up
Eisenhower Shares Public 'Dismay'; FTC and Justice Department Will Report

By Robert Hartmann
Times Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4- Some of the nation's most pontifical pundits tried hard today to elicit a weighty pronouncement from President Eisenhower on the decay of the American character revealed by rigged TV quiz shows.

Instead they got some plain talk and an old-time fan's recollection of the 1919 baseball scandal in which the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series to Cincinnati.

Asked to describe his reaction to the quiz show confessions, the President said he shares the general public's bewilderment, astonishment and dismay that anybody "could conspire to confuse and deceive the American people."

Two Inquiries On
He revealed that the Federal Trade Commission has moved into the investigation to see if fraudulent advertising rules have been violated, as well as the Department of Justice whose report is due in January.

"Nobody will be satisfied until this whole mess is cleaned up," he asserted. Asked to discuss "the wider philosophical implications" of the television scandals as "something that perhaps reflects debasement of standards in this country" President Eisenhower took the contrary view.

'Say It Ain't So'
He said public reaction is so universal that it reminds him of the story of the newsboy who approached his hero, Chicago baseball star Shoeless Joe Jackson, holding out the scandal headlines and begging:

"Say it ain't so, Joe."

The Chief Executive said every industry involved in distributing mass entertainment or news has a terrific responsibility to the public, and so does any other kind of economic unit. But he denied America has forgotten its moral standards.

Still unsatisfied, another questioner unreeled this:
"You have often expressed the importance of spiritual and other intangible values, but there seems to be some evidence that the country isn't keeping your counsel. In addition to - certainly the spiritual are not the determining factor in the long deadlock in the steel strike, the motivation of people, contestants and sponsors in the television quiz scandal that's prizes and profits in contrast, yesterday only the voters of New York State turned down a half-billion dollar bond issue for school construction. Don't these things indicate a serious imbalance in values, in your opinion?"

Question of 'Duality'
The President replied that "what you are getting at: is that selfishness and greed occasionally get the better of the 'nobler virtues of mankind. Some psychologists say this duality is rooted in the self-preservation instinct, he reflected.

Both the steel strike deadlock and the quiz scandals are disappointing to him, but he doesn't know much about the New York school bonds and won't lump them with the other issues, Mr. Eisenhower concluded warily.

On other domestic questions, the President:

Denied that improper secrecy has grown in his administration despite errors inevitably made by big government.

Declined to comment on his next step if the Supreme Court fails to uphold the Taft-Hartley Law's 80-day injunction in the steel strike.

Defended his shift of the Army space team to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as a proper division of military and scientific missile efforts under the traditional American doctrine of civilian predominance.

"I cannot, for the life of me, see any reason why we should be using or misusing military talent to explore the moon." he stated.

Copyright, 1959 Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission.

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