A blogger brought to my attention a column by Bill Moyers in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Jan. 29, titled “There is no tomorrow.”
The third paragraph reads as follows:
“Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, “After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”
I have never thought, believed or said such words. Nor have I ever said anything that could be interpreted by a reasonable person to mean anything similar to the quote attributed to me.
The paragraph does have one true statement about me. I did serve as President Reagan’s first secretary of the interior. I am very proud of having been associated with such a great president. After 20-plus years of hindsight, I am delighted that the revolution I helped to bring about remains fixed in America.
The Moyers column tells that one truth about me. It also tells us a lot about Mr. Moyers. First, he did no primary or objective research, because there is no record, in congressional hearings or elsewhere, attributing such words to me.
Mr. Moyers is of at least average in intelligence and has a basic understanding of Christian beliefs and therefore he knows that no Christian would believe what he attributed to me.
Because Mr. Moyers served in the White House under President Johnson, he knows that no person avowing such a thing would be qualified for a presidential appointment, nor would he be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, or if confirmed and said such a thing would be allowed to continue to serve.
Since Mr. Moyers must have known such a statement would not have been made and refused or failed to do any primary research on this supposed quote, what was his motive in printing such a damnable lie?
Did he want to demean or degrade a man who has been out of the public arena for 22 years? Did he seek to damage the cause of Christ by attributing lies to His followers? Did he want to try to damage the record of President Reagan by repeating such an outrageous claim of a selfish interest group?
One way out of the mess would be for Mr. Moyers to respond by saying, “I did not say you said that, I correctly reported that Grist magazine (or whoever) said you said that.” That is the cowardly way out of this corrupted column of his. It is what many of the mainstream media did when I was in the Cabinet and caught a news reporter or CBS anchorman attributing statements to me that I never made.
Another way to handle this matter, the way many in the mainstream media would handle it, is to simply ignore me and the matter and continue on with ruthless disregard for the truth.
Or, he could simply apologize to me in the same space and with the same flair he used to impugn me. Then the public might respect him as the honest man he should want to be.
(In some primary research on Mr. Moyers, I found he also used this damnable quote when receiving the Harvard Medical School’s Global Environment Citizen Award from Meryl Streep. If they honored him for environmental reporting, and the basis of Mr. Moyers’ reporting is no greater than the lie repeated about me, I question their judgment in giving him the award.)
JAMES G. WATT
James G. Watt was President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of the interior.