Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 23:05:32 -0800 Subject: RE: LA Times article on Jammal (reproduced
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 23:05:32 -0800
From: "Brett J. Vickers"
Subject: RE: LA Times article on Jammal
(reproduced without permission)
WILL CBS SEE ERROR OF ITS WAYS?
The network finally admits that 'The Incredible Discovery of Noah's
Ark' was flawed but does more harm to its credibility by refusing to
run a correction.
By Howard Rosenberg,
TV Critic for the L.A. Times
November 1, 1993
Hear a whooshing sound? It's the credibility of CBS falling like a
brick hurled from the top of its Black Rock headquarters in New York.
. George Jammal did *not*, as he had claimed, visit Turkey's Mt.
. Thus, the hunk of wood he displayed during a two-hour CBS
television program last February was *not*, as he had claimed, a piece
of the legendary Noah's Ark.
. The wood was *not*, as he had claimed, a "gift from God."
CBS finally acknowledged to Times reporter Daniel Cerone on Friday
that it had been duped. It did so only after Cerone had confronted
the network with Jammal's admission that the story he told a CBS
prime-time documentary-style special, "The Incredible Discovery of
Noah's Ark," was itself an incredible hoax.
Yet no more incredible than the behavior of CBS through all of
this. After appearing to stonewall this months-old controversy almost
since its inception, the network told Cerone that it had no plans to
inform its viewers ("The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark" drew an
estimated audience of 20 million) that at least some of what the
independently produced program presented as truth was untrue.
No on-the-air correction? CBS, whose own storied history
encompasses the history of U.S. television itself? Where is its sense
of fairness? Where is its integrity?
C'mon now, just a teeny, weeny correction.
"A, there's no format to do it, and B, it's just going to attract
more attention to this," CBS spokeswoman Susan Tick told Cerone. And
C, she added, "the show never purported the wood was from the ark,
only that this person on the show said it was."
. A. No format for a correction? Let's see now, "CBS This Morning"
has no trouble finding time to relentlessly *plug* the network's
entertainment programs. Surely it could find time to *correct* just
There's also "Late Show With David Letterman," where CBS performers
regularly turn up to advertise their shows on the network. You can
bet that good old Dave would love to spend a few seconds setting the
record straight on Noah's Ark.
What's more, there's always "The CBS Evening News." Dan Rather
recently made a speech in which he savaged non-news reality programs
run by networks. He included the Noah's Ark special without naming
CBS as the offending network.
So why not put the correction on Rather's newscast? He loves a
good story. And a major television network getting hoaxed by a man
passing off some railroad timber (that's what Jammal now says it was)
as a piece of Noah's Ark is a great story.
. B. It would just attract more attention? Well, shouldn't that be
the idea, to make sure no one is misled by information appearing under
the CBS banner?
. C. The show didn't purport the wood was from the ark? If so, why
wasn't its title "The *Alleged* Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark"?
It was eight months ago that CBS aired "The Incredible Discovery of
Noah's Ark," which looked like and pretended to be a documentary, even
if CBS now says it wasn't. Produced by Sun International Pictures of
Utah, it was immediately accused by some scholars of being a sham.
CBS apparently wasn't listening.
It was four months ago that Time magazine published an article
disclosing that much of the program--which used testimony from
"expert" witnesses to buttress the creationist theory that Noah's Ark
existed--was untrue. Within two weeks, the Time article as followed
by others from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times that
also questioned the validity of portions of the program.
Time, the AP and the Times quoted Gerald Larue, USC professor
emeritus of biblical history and archeology, as saying he had coached
Jammal on how to fool the producers into believing that he had really
returned from Mt. Ararat with a piece of Noah's Ark. The purpose,
Larue said, was to expose the "sloppy research" of Sun International
Pictures, whose previous documentary-style programs were also accused
by some specialists of being substantially false.
After months of defending Jammal, who did not speak out publicly
until recently, Sun now says it was, indeed, fooled by him. It's
"impossible to defend against that kind of well-planned and
well-thought-out deception," said Sun President Allan Pederson.
Oh, stop it. One way to do it is to have these alleged artifacts
examined by real authorities. Suspiciously, Sun did not even bother
to verify the authenticity of Jammal's wood by having it tested by
experts. And the brain trust at CBS never bothered to ask for
verification of the wood. To say nothing of closely examining other
components of this fishy-looking program that many viewers probably
thought came from the network's news division.
In an ideal world, it would be CBS News, not some cockamamie
outside production company, that would be getting two hours of prime
time for a documentary. But the world ceased being ideal a long time
So, despite getting stung by Jammal the Imposter, CBS is not
immediately severing its relationship with Sun. Although CBS says it
will not air two previously planned Sun Programs, "Revelations" and
"The UFO Confessions," it will telecast a near-completed third Sun
production, "Mysteries of the Ancient World."
The program covers such phenomena as the Sphinx, Nostradamus, the
Bermuda Triangle and the Shroud of Turin.
Not to worry, though, says spokeswoman Tick, because CBS has
checked it for accuracy. So listen up, you would-be hoaxers, you're
not dealing with Beavis and Butt-head here.
However, if anyone happens to come across Atlantis, the CBS number
Brett J. Vickers
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank