By Billy CoxNot that the Air Force really had anything to fear from the hacks at ABC News. But you do have to wonder if the brass at Carswell Field outside Fort Worth were splitting a gut during its "PrimeTime" show last night and going, "What a bunch of morons! They're rippin' off Larry King!"
It’s a little too easy to get hung up in the fact that Tuesday evening’s "UFOs: Seeing Is Believing” microwaved 90 minutes of leftovers from Peter Jennings' 2005 report by the same name. Because, yeah, after all, they tossed in the whole laundry basket again — alien abductions, Roswell, the Phoenix Lights, radio astronomers vs. flying saucers, even the same old B-52 incident over Minot, N.D., from 1968.
What made this show such an inadvertent glittering jewel was its utter lack of irony. Because David Muir, the standup blow-dry who had to paint the lipstick on this pig, actually said, "Tonight, we'll report what's new."
He said that.
Now, to be fair, we can't blame it all on David. The guy had a team of writers and producers and probably a bunch of marketing suits armed with flash cards and timers warning that devoting more than six minutes on a single topic would lose the entire audience.
And did you notice how the narrative made such a breezy transition from the Phoenix Lights to NASA's Phoenix Lander, the probe that discovered ice on Mars? Aside from the word “phoenix,” neither had a thing to do with the other. So that segue had to be a group effort. No one person dreams up that sort of non sequitur by themselves.
The only “What’s New” aspect to “Seeing Is Believing” was the lead segment — the Stephenville, Tex., incident. But ABC’s irresponsible management of it attains tragic proportions only if one assumes investigative journalism, not entertainment, were the imperative.
Let’s (sigh) run through it again real quick: A massive UFO passes over a rural region of north Texas. Multiple witnesses also report jet fighters in hot pursuit. Some contend the bogey was heading toward George Bush’s ranch in Crawford.
A spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing at the nearby Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station (Carswell Field) denies any warplanes were in the sky that night. Two weeks later, aware that investigators with the Mutual UFO Network are filing radar records requests with various military and civilian agencies, the USAF realizes it’s about to be caught in a lie. In a pre-emptive motion, it concedes it had 10 F-16s in the air. Conducting “routine” training missions.
All military agencies in receipt of Freedom of Information Act requests from MUFON — as well as the Department of Homeland Security — stonewall the release of radar data. But it’s too late. Federal Aviation Administration and National Weather Service returns tell the story: F-16s were all over the place that night, straying out of their military operating areas and closing to within a mile of the UFO on its southeast trajectory toward Crawford. Nothing routine about this. And when the object bore down on a straight path to the Bush ranch no-fly zone, the military inteceptors were nowhere in the vicinity.
ABC compresses this stuff into a four-minute feature dominated by civilian eyewitnesses. There’s a sound bite with MUFON report co-author Robert Powell. But no serious examination of the radar data, no airing of the redacted flight logs from Carswell, not even any indication that “PrimeTime” attempted to resolve the USAF’s information embargo.
Perversely, “PrimeTime” concluded its broadcast with an exhortation from physicist Michio Kaku, who wondered if UFOs embody the technology needed to circumvent the constraints of time and space: “Let this investigation begin!”
Exactly. Because ABC can't handle it.