Posted on

usa confidential

University of Virginia: “. deep pink. ”

It is a shoddy case. The authors name some names and print some telephone numbers, but fact after fact hangs on the rawest form of hearsay, and the turn of many a phrase suggests that the co-authors worked with libel lawyers squatting alertly on their laps. Too many of the statements have no substantiation at all. this, for example, is part of the Lait and Mortimer pocket survey of the nation’s colleges:
Harvard: “. so gay you can hear the swish across the River Charles. ”

Southern Methodist: “It is not unknown to see SMU students letting nature take its full course in the back of automobiles, in daylight, on the college campus.”
University of California (Berkeley) “. the U of C is a bed of sexual perversion, left wing teaching and narcotic addiction, with plain, old-fashioned love-making regarded as corny.”
This is what the two Hearstlings, showing uncommon restraint, call “hot journalism.” It is not even that. The boys’ candor comes at the sacrifice of coverage; they leave big areas of corruption severely untouched. One piquant example is their soft-pedaling of the numbers racket. The omission may stem from the fact that the newspaper Lait now edits (The New York Daily Mirror) prints daily figures from which enterprising readers work out numbers results.
University of North Carolina: “. the Commies literally stole the campus–what was left after the crooks got theirs. Homos were a big thing there, too. ”
A Hearst executive once told A. J. Liebling that “the public is interested in just three things: Blood, money, and. sexual intercourse.” Hearstlings Lait and Mortimer have taken that creed to heart. They have written long and loud about what’s wrong with America, always with at least one eye on the public interest.

Far worse than the coverage of these reporters with their self-styled “Unique will and skill and guts” is the level of their research. Within the sidelines of the libel laws they make about every charge that can be made, always tailoring their material for that crucial, reader-pleasing evidence of Communism, New Dealism, Socialism, “Homosexualism,” and the Mafia. They shift into overdrive when it is imposible to check them. One of the passages which will probably titillate historians in years to come is their version of what former New York Mayor William O’Dwyer was doing on Dec. 7, 1941. It seems O’Dwyer was just wrapping up a first degree murder indictment against his predecessor, La Guardia, and Sidney Hillman. The phone rang. It was President Roosevelt. Roosevelt told O’Dwyer that since the war had just broken out, O’Dwyer had better drop the charges to make sure Italians and labor unions helped along with the war effort. O’Dwyer obeyed. What makes this especially good stuff from the point of view of U.S.A. Confidential is that three of the parties involved are dead and therefore in no position to bring libel suits, and the fourth is conveniently south of the border. The boys’ hot journalism tends to cool on second look.

U.S.A. Confidential JACK LAIT and LEE MORTIMER, Crown Publishing Co., N.Y. $3.50. 404 pp. A Hearst executive once told A. J. Liebling that “the public is interested in just three things: