Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nat Geo’s Chasing UFOs:
Two of the Stars Say the Show was Hijacked

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By Robert Hastings
     “I know how disappointed all of you are. I am too. It’s not the show that was sold to both myself and scientist Ben…[It] does get a bit better further down the road but not a lot.” —James Fox

“James and I both had expectations and (for our own reasons) hopes of an ultimately serious product. We both saw the project heading in a different direction as time went on and were powerless to influence it.” —Dr. Ben McGee

My last article on this website, Nat Geo’s Chasing UFOs: Investigation as Farce, roundly criticized the format and content of the new reality series currently being aired on the National Geographic channel. Having meticulously investigated UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites for 39 years—utilizing declassified U.S. government documents and the testimony of more than 130 military veterans—I was appalled by the ridiculous thrashing around in the dark and superficial-to-non-existent analysis by the trio of “investigators” offered up in the program’s first three episodes.

I was/am concerned that public and scientific perceptions about the UFO phenomenon, and those who actually research it, will be very negatively impacted as a result of Chasing UFO’s pretend-investigation approach to the subject. God knows there already exists a pervasive perception, at least in some quarters, that there is no “there” there. Consequently, this crap was the last thing that I, or anyone who wishes to learn the facts about UFOs, needed to see on our TV screens.

Out of a sense of fair play, upon posting the article I emailed one of the show’s stars, filmmaker James Fox—whose previous two UFO documentaries I loved—and notified him that I had just publicly trashed him and his current project. To his credit, he took my very harsh but accurate criticism in stride and, in response, subsequently offered some mostly-apologetic commentary on journalist and best-selling author Leslie Kean’s Facebook site:

(A new article by Robert Hastings on the “Chasing UFOs” disaster.)

Shortly thereafter, a second member of the Chasing UFOs trio, Dr. Ben McGee, added his own input. Both comments appear below and, as of this moment, over 40 other individuals have added their views to the very influential blog.

James Fox said: I know how disappointed all of you are. I am too. It's not the show that was sold to both myself and scientist Ben. Two months into it, we were off to a great start; good locations, solid witnesses and some opportunities for Ben to apply his field research as a geologist at some crash sites. Very exciting stuff. Unfortunately, when we actually got out in the field we began to realize that they were more interested in poking around a night than allocating the time necessary during the day as apparently (so we were told) Americans love watching others sneak around at night from the comfort of their couches. Ben and I reluctantly played along...and it wasn't always bad. We really set up field maps and surveillance at the Roswell crash site (with a slew of high tech gear) and ran out of daylight. As it was in the middle of nowhere we all decided to work through the night and did find something...there were other cases in the show where when witnesses claimed to see strange lights appear in certain areas and that too made some sense for us to go out at night...but for the most part it was gratuitous night time boloney. As far as the title, it was UFO Investigations until they switched it to Chasing UFOs after it was all shot and edited. So with a lack of control in the field and zero in post the show is what it is. Having said that, all my previous works are circulating Nat Geo headquarters and I've been influencing and establishing contacts in the mainstream (middle america mainstream) and will continue to do so and I will only return if I'm on as a producer all the way through to the end. Will it ever be I Know What I Saw or Leslie's great work...? No, but I'll do my best to make is a credible while entertaining as possible (as that's most important to Nat Geo). I promise I'll either quit or change my position within the show because at least I can make it all make some sense. The show does get a bit better further down the road but not a lot. Please bare with me a bit longer as I've jumped into the lions den to see what I could do from the inside. My credibility and reputation has, deservedly, taken a serious hit but know that I'm hoping to come out with an opportunity that otherwise wouldn't have presented itself. Fingers crossed. James

Ben McGee said: Greetings, all - James asked me to chime in as well. When we were brought onboard, the project certainly had a much harder inclination than its final realization, and as a career scientist I was excited that NatGeo was at the helm (unaware of their desire for a major shift in programming flavor). Our intentions were very sincere, and the project working title was even more serious than James remembers: Sightings Investigated. For my own part, while personally unconvinced of any extraterrestrial visitation, I had plans to provide insightful context that I thought viewers of all stripes would appreciate and find engaging - examples of spaceflight technology, astronomy, planetary science - helping anchor the show and explain why the scientific establishment supports the possibility of extraterrestrial life yet is unconvinced of extraterrestrial visitation either now or in the distant past. We filmed much of this content, but as you no doubt noticed, the great majority was ultimately not included. Apparently, such is television. James and I both had expectations and (for our own reasons) hopes of an ultimately serious product. We both saw the project heading in a different direction as time went on and were powerless to influence it. Injecting science into mainstream media is also problematic, and I am suffering heat in my own circles for the lack thereof on the show. I will personally vouch that James's motives were true, and if anyone is interested in the science that we did perform, I’m keeping a blog on the NatGeo website (linked below).

Cheers, Ben


My own opinion, expressed in great detail in my first article on this subject, is that the fix was in from the get-go and neither Fox, McGee nor Erin Ryder (the trio’s third member) had any real chance of influencing or altering the ridiculous outcome.

Indeed, the Nat Geo network’s track record on UFO “documentaries” speaks for itself. As I wrote in the other article, “Over the years I had told several people, only half-jokingly, that if the Nat Geo scripts were not actually written at CIA headquarters, the network was at least making the agency very happy by broadcasting its poorly researched, extremely biased, essentially propagandistic shows on the UFO subject.”

Those comments were specifically directed toward Nat Geo’s other new UFO program, The Truth Behind UFOs: Popped, a true-to-form debunking exercise—only the latest of many—which aired the night before the premier of Chasing UFOs. Given the absurd ambiance offered by latter, I suppose I can now add, “Not to mention making otherwise serious people who sincerely wish to investigate the phenomenon look like fools.”



  1. I had the misfortune of being associated with another National Geographic piece of UFO debunkery, "The Real Roswell", back in 2007. The hired gun for NG was British documentary film maker Philip Day, who had done other work for them, and in general is a good documentarian. But in this case, his mind was made up and he knew there was nothing to Roswell. He walked into my house with his local-hire film crew and practically the first words out of his mouth were that Roswell intelligence chief Jesse Marcel was a liar and Roswell was a bunch of garbage. Not even the usual pleasantries such as, "Hello, I'm Philip Day, pleased to meet you. Glad you are willing to help me out."

    So at that point I said it was obvious he was a big skeptic and how could he possibly do an objective documentary or be fair with what I was about to say. He sat there a moment thinking and then said he thought he could be fair, but the end product was anything but. It was pure, one-sided debunkery. When I raised objections to signing the usual waivers that they could edit my comments any way they wanted, I was completely edited out of the final program, even though they promised me a copy to review before the final film went in the can. Of course, I was sent nothing for review.

    Day could have cared less. He got his money from National Geo and put out the heavily biased product he obviously planned from the beginning. I don't know if NG told him to slant it; I don't think he needed any prompting, but maybe they chose somebody they knew would debunk the subject. Whatever, it was "journalism" at its very worst, without the least pretense of balance, accuracy, or objectivity.

    David Rudiak

  2. When James Fox first called me about some cases in Utah (of which I was interim MUFON State Director) and explained his ideas for a new show for NatGeo, I was extremely excited knowing his exemplary work with "Out Of The Blue" and "I Know What I Saw". So, I watched the first two back-to-back episodes.

    To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

    I did not watch the 3rd episode nor do I have a desire to watch any subsequent episodes.

    I just don't want to see James in that format. It is beneath him.

    Terry Groff
    Deputy Director
    CMS Administration
    MUFON Intl.

  3. I knew the show was in trouble as soon as I saw Erin Ryder was in the cast. Her producer track record has not been exactly stellar (pun intended):

    Destination Truth
    Paris Hilton's My New BFF Reunion Special
    Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious
    The (White) Rapper Show
    Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?

  4. Did you all actually expect the show to be good? All you have to do is look at the fact that it's National Geographic who made it. Nat Geo. is the leading contributor of ridicule regarding UFO. Have you watched a documentary by them that didn't contain any ridicule? Nope and if you did, I would to know. All this show is, is a lame and stupid attempt at Nat Geo trying compete with the History channel. And it's a complete failure and waste of time. See this article here.

  5. David, Terry,

    Thanks for sharing. In another thread I in part wrote:

    ". . . Sober Ufologists now anticipate this type of flapdoodle from various independent television producers along with Nat Geo et al, as they have a proven track record for producing sub-standard product (to be polite) when it comes to Ufology; what most didn't foresee, certainly I didn't was someone like James, (whose previous body of [re Ufology] work was/is topnotch and I know I speak for many when I say we're all proud of "that work" and him) becoming involved.

    In that vein–I was dumbfounded when I finally realized that James was indeed participating in this kind of hokum . . . that he has gone over to the "Dark Side." . . .

    Moreover, when someone like James participates in this tripe it's akin to losing one of our best Lieutenants to the enemy!

    I only pray that James hasn't damaged himself beyond repair."


  6. As just a laymen follower of the UFO phenomena I'm glad you all have spoke up against this NG insult and mockery of a subject that all of you have honestly and seriously devoted your lives to. As soon as I heard the title "Chasing UFO's" I knew this was not going to go well. As soon as I saw the first episode and James Fox (James Fox?!?) and friends running around at night like they were kids in someones backyard having play time with cameras I could feel the disappointment and disgust building up in me.

    Why I had any hopes at all I guess came from the fact James Fox was on board, but that of course was quickly dashed. But I should have known from the track record of NG and many other shows that have been nothing but debunking hit pieces. I'm surprised the "X-Files" theme music wasn't playing in the back ground with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny making a guest appearance or the smoking man jumping out of the bushes.

    I observed a UFO/object in 1995 that literally rewrote my world view and forever changed my perspective of what we are lead to believe by our so called leaders. I like telling people my story, but I often get that "look". I try not to let that deter me from the monumental importance of what I saw. However, show's like "Chasing UFO's" are making it increasingly difficult. I guess, however, that was the purpose and mission of NG all along.

  7. Frank, as James Fox and skeptic/scientist Ben McGee have commented, they didn't sign up for this. They were promised a much more scientifically oriented production. Unfortunately, unless you begin with full production control, a mere hire is at the mercy of the network and producers as to what eventually comes out of the meat grinder, sort of like being a private in the Army. You have no rights. That's why I refuse to sign the standard waivers that say they can edit my remarks any way they want and use my recorded content for anything and everything beyond the given documentary in perpetuity forever and ever throughout this Universe and any alternate Universes. (Really, the standard releases are close to being that all-enclusive.)

    Woody Allen has commented that he refused to make any more movies beyond the studio-controlled disaster Bond spoof Casino Royale unless he had full artistic control. Somehow he achieved that control, thus his long string of high-quality movies. I hope James Fox achieves the same. He deserves it. Occasionally even Woody Allen bombs.

  8. I'm surprised anyone thought, even for a minute, this show wasn't going to be another rehash of Destination Truth & Finding Bigfoot same exact format, same mockery!!!

  9. As I wrote on the Chasing UFOs Blog Site July 6 :

    Just watched tonight's episode, If you look at how the guy put the mask up to the window there's only about 2 feet clearance from the ground outside to the outside window, IMO, The original Video was Fake, Anyone who knows about Alien Greys knows that they are at least over 3 feet tall, To see the guy laying on his back to push the mask up towards the window is proof enough for me that this was a Fake, And as for Erin saying because in the Original Video the Eyes Blinked, Very Simple, CGI Added Later, Sorry Erin. :( Also To be Honest I am Pissed about this Episode, They sorta pulled a Prank on one of their members, Just to prove a point on how easy it would be to Hoax, OK fine but this is Not Fact or Fake where all the members know what's going on when they try and disprove things, They didn't tell the guy they were going to do this, Now every-time this guy see's something on camera he and everyone else watching on T.V. is going to thing that the other members are pulling a Hoax, By them doing this was A Bad Call, Now I can't believe Anything they Show on This Show, They Lied to their own Member and They Lied to Us Watching, What a Shame it would have been a good series. :(

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who has complaints about this show, I also posted my disapprovment on their Facebook page.

  10. Mornin' David,

    As I wrote above: "Sober Ufologists now anticipate this type of flapdoodle from various independent television producers along with Nat Geo et al . . .."

    James of course is included in this group and was/is aware of the sub-par (to put it mildly) product that is prevalent in what the television medium has to offer re Ufology.

    I don't doubt that James was "sold" a different bill of goods, "initially"; however, once you've jumped in the water you know how cold it is! What has taken the place of quality (or average) programming, and what I call the deconstruction of Ufology has been going on for years, (Peter Jennings'"Seeing is Believing" comes to mind) James in fact has complained about it himself. The issue in my view is what he does now.

    Some folks think he's cooked his own goose, and won't be able to save grace; I am an optimist however, and believe there's hope; however, it all depends on his choices from this point on.


  11. I just left this on the NatGeo Blog, (not that it would do anygood)
    Jack Bowman LMFT

    Altadena CA.
    3:44 pm Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I thought I was in for a shock. I have seen Nat Geo shows about the UFO phenomena before and basically had written them off as a network afterward, so two UFO shows back to back, with James Fox? Has to be a change in perception.. Then, the depression set in: the first show made a pop-up effort to discredit all ufo investigators by picking on their “old Day jobs.”Something we all have, unless we were born with silver spoons, even us professionals
    Sad, elitist and skewed, to be polite, Chasing UFOs a obvious highspeed rip off of UFO Hunters, seriously lacking patience content and at times common sense….I should have known better. Nat Geo should stick to animal shows, at least it knows something about those and knows how to do them well.


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