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Theodore Sorensen CIA Confirmation Hearings - January 17, 1977

(Ted Sorensen - before boats became swift and innuendos became large) One of the first appointments to the Carter White House was Theodore Sorensen
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(Ted Sorensen - before boats became swift and innuendos became large)

One of the first appointments to the Carter White House was Theodore Sorensen to head the CIA. Sorensen seemed like a good choice. He was White House Chief of Staff under Kennedy and served in the LBJ White House and overall had a distinguished career in Washington.

At least it seemed so. But no sooner was the appointment announced than the rumor mill began working overtime to discredit and trash his chances of confirmation. Rumors spread of his unauthorized taking of secret documents connected with the Kennedy White House, his support of Daniel Ellsberg during the Pentagon papers trial and everything from his being "too liberal" to allegations of being a draft dodger during the Korean War. It was a grab bag of smears.

The rumors and the accusations were persistent as well as unfounded. But they were enough to force Sorenesen to abandon the appointment and notify the President-elect two minutes before he was scheduled to appear at the confirmation hearings of his decision not to pursue the appointment.

So rather than submit to questioning from the committee, Sorensen chose to read a prepared statement outlining his decision and answering the barrage of slurs.

Much speculation has been made over the years as to who was responsible for the rumor campaign. It was largely thought to be members of the CIA bent on eliminating Sorenesen's chances at the post, as well as right-wing extremist groups, fearing Sorensen as CIA chief was unthinkable, since he was perceived by them to be a liberal pacifist critic of covert espionage tactics.

In the end, the votes for his confirmation weren't there and, rather than stage an uphill fight, Sorensen chose to bow out gracefully.

The following recording begins with Sorensen reading his statement and follows through to the post-hearing press conference and a postmortem wrap-up with a discussion featuring former Deputy CIA Director Ray Cline and investigative reporter David Wise. Cline spends a lot of time tut-tuting that the CIA would never dream of spreading rumors and were mostly concerned with "shuffling papers" and nothing as clandestine as trashing someones career. Seriously.

I suppose the only comfort is knowing the ritual of trashing appointees isn't new and it has a long and somewhat dubious history.

Welcome to 1977.

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