By Michael Collins Piper
On January 21, 1987, following his conviction on trumped-up corruption charges and facing a lengthy prison term, Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer shot himself at a crowded press conference, continuing to proclaim his innocence. Prior to his suicide, Dwyer gave a lengthy explanation laying out how he had been set up and who was responsible. He begged the press to tell his story.
Instead, what Dwyer had to say was totally suppressed, despite the fact that shocking images of his suicide, a .357 revolver in hand, with the barrel placed in his mouth, were broadcast and printed round the world. This included a particularly gruesome image that appeared in The Washington Post, which like the rest of the media suppressed the real story.
Dwyer claimed, and the facts demonstrate, that he was the victim of a political vendetta by his fellow Republican, then-Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who used his connections in the Justice Department—Thornburgh was a former federal prosecutor—to arrange Dwyer’s frame-up and undoing.
While the mainstream media—including all Pennsylvania newspapers—lied to their readers and claimed that Dwyer had read a “rambling statement” before he died, Dwyer’s final statement was anything but that. It was a stunning indictment of high-level corruption leading from Harrisburg, Pa. right up to the FBI and the Justice Department in Washington, but the mainstream media chose to hide the truth.
Only The Spotlight newspaper—forerunner of AMERICAN FREE PRESS—told the story, featuring a lengthy two-part series, including an exclusive interview with Dwyer’s widow, Joann, who later credited the populist weekly with having done more to spread the word about what really happened to her husband—and why—than any other publication, including big newspapers in Pennsylvania, where, more than anyone, the voters surely deserved to know the facts.
Even former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos—then being held captive in Honolulu by the U.S. government—told this writer that she had heard about Dwyer, even though she and her family were under siege themselves by the mainstream media at that time.
Dwyer’s friends and family have spent the last two decades working to clear his name, and now an eye-opening and poignant new video documentary, entitled Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer, does help bring that message to public attention.
This touching, 76-minute video covers Dwyer’s remarkable career—rising up from a farm boy to become an odds-on favorite to become governor of Pennsylvania (until the final tragic persecution that ended his life). It is a fascinating and thought-provoking demonstration of how the mainstream media can distort a major news story for its own ends.
Even today Pennsylvania newspapers are loath to discuss the actual facts of the Dwyer case when they do dare mention this video, which has been seen by audiences all across the state.
However, in recently commenting on the release of this video, David Newhouse—an heir to the powerful Newhouse publishing dynasty, which owns The Harrisburg Patriot, the key newspaper in the state capital in Pennsylvania—published a congratulatory column praising his newspaper in retrospect for the manner in which it reported Dwyer’s last moments, he never mentioned Dwyer’s charges against the political establishment.
This obviously reflects the corruption of the mainstream media, which, in the Dwyer affair, demonstrated precisely how the media suppresses truth.
This video is a “must” for anyone with even a passing interest in political affairs. Features include commentary tracks from Dwyer’s son and daughter, excerpts from Dwyer’s final comments and a variety of other interesting material. There are interviews with political insiders, Dwyer’s friends and enemies alike, and revealing commentary from a number of elite media “journalists,” who seemed to delight in the fact that they helped bring about Dwyer’s suicide.
Dwyer was a rarity—an honest man in politics, a guy who really believed in the American dream. And it all came crashing down on him when he wouldn’t play the political game.
Suffice it to say that you’ll never forget Dwyer and his story after you’ve seen this documentary.
If you’ve never heard of the Dwyer story, you need to check this wonderful production out. And this writer is honored that the producers mention my name in the credits at the end.
Michael Collins Piper is an author, journalist, lecturer and radio show host. He has spoken in Russia, Malaysia, Iran, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Canada and the U.S.