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Major media ignore ties connecting Bush to Unification church

By Norman Solomon

When George Bush jumped out of an airplane last spring, his skydiving feat was big news. But this country’s media outlets have failed to inform the public about far more important activities by the former president.

Last November, four months before his leap with a parachute, Bush traveled to South America where he provided a major boost for the launch of a newspaper that belongs to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Since leaving the White House, Bush has been quite helpful to Moon. However, the news media have lacked curiosity about Bush’s ties to the shadowy power-broker who heads the Unification church. Moon’s global empire combines cult-like authority over “Moonies” with extensive media holdings.

“President Bush has no relationship with Rev. Moon or the Unification church,” Bush spokesman Jim McGrath assured me in a recent interview. But the facts tell a very different story.

On Nov. 23, 1996, Bush walked to the podium at the Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and deliver a speech to 900 guests invited by Moon to celebrate the opening of his regional daily paper, Tiempos del Mundo. As Moon beamed a few feet away, Bush lauded his host.

“I want to salute Rev. Moon, who is the founder of The Washington Times and also of Tiempos del Mundo,” Bush said. He praised the Washington newspaper for fostering “sanity” -- and added that Moon’s new paper in Argentina “is going to do the same thing.”

The 15-yearold Washington Times doesn’t rank among the top 100 U.S. dailies in circulation. Yet, financed by the Unification church’s deep pockets, it wields enormous influence in the nation’s capital. Elevating innuendo into “news,” the paper excels at smearing liberals and centrists.

During the last couple of years, Bush has spoken at high-profile Moon events on three continents. He went to Asia in September 1995, giving several speeches for a group led by Moon’s wife, Hak Ja Han Moon. In Tokyo, Bush addressed a gathering of 50,000 Moon followers. Ten months later, in Washington, Bush spoke at a Moon-sponsored conference.

Instead of growing, press attention to Bush’s links to Moon has gone from scant to almost nonexistent. Bush’s role in Buenos Aires last fall barely got reported in the United States.

But former Newsweek correspondent Robert Parry has shone some light with an extensive report, “The Dark Side of Rev. Moon” in I.F. Magazine, A new periodical named in memory of the late I.F. Stone and George Seldes (the editor of the muckracking newsletter In Fact).

A few samples of of Parry’s findings:

  • Prior to the premiere of Tiempos del Mundo, much of the Latin American press was hostile to the newspaper project. But Bush’s ringing endorsement allayed some concerns about Moon’s ownership. In the words of a Unification church bulletin, “Mr. Bush’s presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige.”
  • Although Bush won’t disclose how much money he has received from Moon-affiliated organizations, Parry reports that “estimates of Bush’s fee for the Buenos Aires appearances alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification church have put the total Bush-Moon package in the millions.” According to one source, Bush’s net could be as high as $10 million.
  • Bush’s lucrative courtship of Moon may help the ex-president lay groundwork for his son George W. Bush, the current governor of Texas, who is expected to run for the new Republican presidential nomination.
  • “A silent testimony to Moon’s clout,” Parry writes, “is the fact that his vast spending of billions of dollars in secretive Asian money to influence U.S. politics -- spanning nearly a quarter-century -- has gone virtually unmentioned amid the current controversy over Asian donations to U.S. politicians.”

What Moon seeks to accomplish with his riches is chilling to consider. As Frederick Clarkson’s book Eternal Hostility (Common Courage Press, 1997) explains, Unification church operatives “have been close to neofascist movements all over the world.”

Here in the United States, it ramains to be seen whether the national media will finally focus on the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his tacit alliance with George Bush.

An important question about American journalism hovers in the air: Who’s afraid of the Rev. Moon?

Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His book Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (coauthored with Jeff Cohen) has just been published by Common Courage Press.

National Catholic Reporter, September 12, 1997