Jack Anderson (columnist)

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Jack Anderson
Born (1922-10-19)October 19, 1922
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Died December 17, 2005(2005-12-17) (aged 83)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Cause of death Parkinson's disease
Occupation Investigative journalist
Spouse(s) Olivia Farley
Awards Pulitzer Prize

Jack Northman Anderson (October 19, 1922 – December 17, 2005) was an American newspaper columnist, syndicated by United Features Syndicate, considered one of the fathers of modern investigative journalism. Anderson won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his investigation on secret American policy decision-making between the United States and Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. In addition to his newspaper career, Anderson also had a syndicated radio show with the Mutual Broadcasting Network, acted as Washington bureau chief of Parade magazine, and was a commentator on ABC-TV's Good Morning America for nine years.[1]

He also broke open the investigation and harassment by the Nixon administration of John Lennon during the fight to deport Lennon, the search for fugitive ex-Nazi officials in South America and the savings and loan crisis. He discovered a CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro,[2] and was credited for breaking the Iran–Contra affair, though he has said the scoop was "spiked" because the story had become too close to President Ronald Reagan.[citation needed]

Early life and career

Anderson was born in Long Beach, California, to Orlando and Agnes Mortensen Anderson, devout Mormons of Swedish and Danish descent. He grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and served two years as a Mormon missionary in the church's Southern States Mission.[3] Anderson's aptitude for journalism appeared at the early age of 12 when he began writing the Boy Scouts Column for The Deseret News. His writing career began at his local newspaper, The Murray Eagle. Anderson also edited his high school newspaper, The Granitian. He joined The Salt Lake Tribune in 1940, where his muckraking exploits included infiltrating polygamous Mormon fundamentalist sects. He served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II in China, where he reportedly fought the Japanese alongside Chinese guerrillas and worked on the Shanghai edition of Stars and Stripes.

After a stint as a war correspondent during 1945, he was hired by Drew Pearson for the staff of his column, the "Merry-Go-Round", which Anderson took over after Pearson's death in 1969. In its heyday, Anderson's column was the most influential and widely read in the U.S.; published in nearly a thousand newspapers, he reached an audience of 40 million.[4]

He co-founded Citizens Against Government Waste with J. Peter Grace in 1984.[5]


Anderson feuded with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s, when he exposed the scope of the Mafia, a threat that Hoover had long downplayed. Hoover's retaliation and continual harassment lasted into the 1970s.[6] Hoover once described Anderson as "lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures."[7]

Anderson told his staff, "Let's do to Hoover what he does to others."[8] Anderson had his people go through Hoover's garbage, a tactic that the FBI used in the surveillance of political dissidents. Anderson's investigations were a tipping point in the attitude of the public and the press towards Hoover. Prior to Anderson's exposés few people of stature had dared to publicly criticize Hoover. After Anderson, many followed suit, and the man who had been the public persona of exemplary law enforcement became exposed for his failures and dubious activities in the areas of organized crime and civil rights, many of which were of questionable legality.

Anderson grew close to Joseph McCarthy, and the two exchanged information from sources,[9] but when Pearson went after McCarthy, Anderson reluctantly followed at first, then actively assisted with the eventual downfall of his onetime friend.

In the mid-1960s Anderson exposed the corruption of Senator Thomas J. Dodd and unearthed a memo by an ITT executive admitting the company paid off Richard Nixon's campaign to stymie anti-trust prosecution. His reporting on Nixon-ITT corruption earned him a place on the Master list of Nixon's political opponents.[10]

Anderson collaborated with Pearson on "The Case Against Congress," published in 1968.[11]

According to the Family Jewels Central Intelligence Agency documents, in 1971, during the Indo-Pakistani War, the director of the CIA, Richard Helms, put Anderson under tap.[12]

Other notable topics that Anderson covered included organized crime, the Kennedy assassination, Chappaquiddick, Watergate, fugitive Nazis, the white supremacist group the Liberty Lobby and other far-right organizations, the death of Howard Hughes, the ABSCAM public corruption investigation, the investigation into fugitive financier Robert Vesco, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the activities of numerous Washington agencies, elected officials, and bureaucrats.[1]


In addition to his notable discoveries and breaking coverage, Anderson's reporting has included several mistakes and compelled retractions. Notably, during the 1972 presidential race, he libeled Democratic vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton when he accused Eagleton of multiple drunk driving arrests. Anderson subsequently retracted the accusations.[13]


In 1972 Anderson was the target of an assassination plot in the White House. Two Nixon administration conspirators admitted under oath they plotted to poison Anderson on orders from senior White House aide Charles Colson.[14] White House "plumbers" G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt met with a CIA operative to discuss the possibilities, including drugging Anderson with LSD, poisoning his aspirin bottle, or staging a fatal mugging.[15] The plot was aborted when the plotters were arrested for the Watergate break-in. Nixon had long been angry with Anderson, blaming Anderson's election eve story about a secret loan from Howard Hughes to Nixon's brother[16] for Nixon's loss of the 1960 presidential election.

Glomar Explorer

Anderson has been credited as breaking to a nationwide audience in 1975 the story of the Glomar Explorer, a ship constructed under tight security by the CIA to recover the lost nuclear armed Soviet submarine K-129.[17] Rejecting a plea from the Director of Central Intelligence William Colby to suppress the story, Anderson said he released the story because "Navy experts have told us that the sunken sub contains no real secrets and that the project, therefore, is a waste of the taxpayers' money."[17]

JFK conspiracy allegations

In 1988 Anderson hosted a prime-time television special entitled American Expose: Who Murdered JFK? that asserted the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy involving an alliance between organized crime and the Communist Cuban government.[18] His theory was based on interviews with mobster John Roselli, who said he learned of a conspiracy through mob sources.[18] According to Anderson, Cuban leader Fidel Castro wanted Kennedy killed in retaliation for CIA plots to kill Castro, and leaders of La Cosa Nostra in the United States opposed him due to Robert F. Kennedy's efforts against organized crime.[18] Anderson said that Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, and Jimmy Hoffa had the "motive and means to kill the president", and reiterated reports connecting Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to the mob.[18] Anderson also alleged that Lyndon B. Johnson covered-up the conspiracy for fear that public knowledge of the CIA plots would trigger war with the Soviet Union.[18]

According to Anderson's report, private photographic analysts concluded that the shot that killed Kennedy came from the front. They also said that E. Howard Hunt and James Earl Ray were depicted in photographs of the "three tramps".[18] Hunt denied the charge on the program. An Associated Press (AP) writer described it as a "bizarre allegation," to which Anderson provided "no explanation of their alleged connection".[18]

Stunt to demonstrate lack of Capitol security

To demonstrate the threat of terrorism within the U.S. Capitol, in 1989, Anderson brought a gun to an interview in the office of then Senate minority leader Bob Dole. This led to a reprimand and a change of rules for reporters.[19]

Legmen and Alumni

Anderson had a staff of "legmen" on his payroll, who earned little but gained valuable reporting experience. Among Anderson's legmen—reporters who went out into the field and gathered the information, forwarding it on to writers such as Anderson—was Brit Hume, later a reporter for ABC News and Washington managing editor for the Fox News Channel.[20]

Death and aftermath

Anderson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1986. In July 2004 at the age of 81, Anderson retired from his syndicated column, "Washington Merry-Go-Round." He died of complications from Parkinson's disease, survived by his wife, Olivia, and nine children.

In April 2006, Kevin Anderson stated that the FBI approached Olivia earlier in the year to gain access to his father's files, purportedly in connection with the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal.[21] FBI spokesmen stated that Anderson's archives contained classified information and confirmed that they wanted to remove the papers before they were made public.[21][22] The FBI agents claimed to be looking for documents pertaining to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as part of an espionage investigation. In November 2006, the FBI quietly gave up its pursuit of the archive. The archive, as revealed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, contains Anderson's CIA file, along with information about prominent public figures such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Dodd, and J. Edgar Hoover.[23]



  • The Case against Congress (with Drew Pearson), 1969
  • American Government, Like It Is (with Carl Kalvelage), 1971
  • The Anderson Papers, 1973
  • Confessions of a Muckraker, 1979
  • Alice in Blunderland (with John Kidner), 1983
  • Inside The NRA, Armed and Dangerous, 1996
  • Peace, War and Politics: An Eyewitness Account, 1999


  • The Cambodia File (with Bill Pronzini), 1983
  • Control, 1989
  • Zero Time, 1990
  • The Japan Conspiracy, 1993
  • Millennium, 1995
  • The Saudi Connection (with Robert Westbrook), 2005


  1. 1.0 1.1 Guide to the Jack Anderson Papers, 1930-2004, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  2. Cass, Connie. "Pulitzer-Winning Columnist Anderson Dies." AP Online (2005): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
  3. "The Aggressive Inheritor." Time 94.11 (1969): 86. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
  4. Naylor, Brian. "Interview: Mark Feldstein Discusses Journalist Jack Anderson." Weekend All Things Considered (NPR) 31 Jul. 2004: Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
  5. "Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government". President Ronald Reagan Speech October 28, 1985. Retrieved April 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Jack Anderson: The Fall of J. Edgar Hoover DVD". History Channel Store. Retrieved 25 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Bennett, Brian and Thompson, Mark (May 1, 2006). "A Reporter's Last Battle". Time: 29.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations
  9. Feldstein, Mark. "Getting The Scoop." Washington Monthly 32.1/2 (2000): 48. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
  10. Nixon’s Plot to Assassinate Jack Anderson - Crime Magazine
  11. "Corruption Within." Time 92.8 (1968): 80. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
  12. Memo of conversation, January 3, 1975, between President Gerald Ford, William Colby, etc., made available by the National Security Archive.
  13. "Moving to the Right" by Howard Kurz 'The Washington Post' (April 19, 2006)
  14. Feldstein, Mark (July 28, 2004). "The Last Muckraker". The Washington Post. p. A19. Retrieved February 27, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Liddy, G Gordon (1996). Will. St. Martins Press. pp. 208–211.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Getting the Scoop" by Mark Feldstein
  17. 17.0 17.1 Robarge, David (March 2012). "The Glomar Explorer in Film and Print" (PDF). Studies in Intelligence. 56 (1): 28–29. Retrieved August 4, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 Callahan, Christopher (November 2, 1988). "Jack Anderson TV Special Concludes JFK Victim Of Mob Conspiracy". Associated Press. AP. Retrieved February 4, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Reporter Reprimanded In Capitol Gun Incident". The New York Times. June 27, 1989. Retrieved May 5, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Moving to the Right, Washington Post, April 19, 2006
  21. 21.0 21.1 Shane, Scott (April 19, 2006). "F.B.I. Is Seeking to Search Papers of Dead Reporter". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved December 14, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "FBI wants columnist Jack Anderson's papers". USA Today. AP. April 19, 2006. Retrieved December 14, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Carlson, Scott (March 2007). "In Jack Anderson's Papers, a Hidden History of Washington". Chronicle of Higher Education (March 16, 2007).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]

External links