MediaWatch: January 1991

Vol. Five No. 1

No Controversy in Collaborating with Communists


When Armand Hammer died, ABC and NBC went to work revising his controversial record. On the December 11 NBC Nightly News, reporter George Lewis noted that "[Hammer's] favorite hat was that of the humanitarian....Hammer, keenly aware of his place in history, wanted to leave a positive legacy." ABC's Peter Jennings claimed that "He will be remembered for many reasons: his campaigns for peace and against cancer, his long associations with Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev, his amazing success at business."

For ABC reporter John Martin, "Armand Hammer's life symbolized America's wildest dream." Martin praised Hammer for using "his access to American Presidents and Soviet leaders to promote peace," concluding Hammer was "one of the world's richest and most generous citizens." Neither Martin nor Lewis did much to upset Hammer's polished history. In fact, Hammer's conviction for concealing a contribution to Nixon's campaign was the only thing ABC and NBC considered controversial.

It's worth asking how Martin defines the American Dream. Is it the American Dream to help prop up the Soviet economy, supply the Soviets with sophisticated chemical technologies and build Soviet docking facilities that were deep enough for nuclear submarines? Another interpretation of Hammer's record could conclude he lived the definition of Lenin's "useful idiot."

Martin and Lewis both observed that Hammer's parents were Russian immigrants but neither mentioned that his father was a committed communist. Wrapping up Martin's story, Jennings noted the confusion between Hammer's name and the baking soda brand name. Jennings neglected to mention that Hammer's father named him for the Arm & Hammer, the communist symbols of the time.