(1) MEDIA ALERT!
Please take a moment to participate in this urgent appeal. Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes", the renowned investigative news program broadcast on CBS, erroneously stated to millions of viewers this past Easter Sunday that "Turkish artists in Byzantium portrayed Christ's likeness in ceramic tile". Mr. Rooney's segment was aired on April 15th, 2001 and was entitled "The Different Faces of Jesus Christ"
After phone discussions with Mr. Rooney and his staff, Mr. Rooney seemed persuaded that he made a factual error but maintained that he didn't think it was important enough to warrant an on-air retraction. Significantly, he did note that he was considering changing his mind and explicitly welcomed letters and e-mails on the issue.
Please take a moment to send Mr. Rooney a brief e-mail urging him to issue an on-air correction based on the following three arguments: (i) that Mr. Rooney and 60 minutes have a clear professional and ethical responsibility as journalists to correct such a conspicuous factual error; (ii) that his Easter Sunday statement was deeply offensive to Greek and other Orthodox Christians given that their achievements were being attributed to the very group that shattered their civilization, subjugated them, and eventually obliterated them from Asia Minor through pogroms, forced conversions and genocide; and (iii) that Mr. Rooney's misstatement was particularly disturbing given the Turkish government's attempts to systematically erase two millennia of Hellenic civilization in Asia Minor from the historical record, and claim this history as "Turkish".
We've been informed that your letters WILL be read by Mr. Rooney if you use the below e-mail address.
** Important: Please maintain a courteous and professional tone. In addition, letters must be forwarded to Mr. Rooney immediately as the window of opportunity for a correction is quickly closing.
(Please note that CBS's website also contains the same erroneous statement at:
(2) CONTACT INFORMATION:
Don Hewitt, Executive Producer
524 West 57th St.
New York, New York 10019
Direct Tel.: (212) 975-2065
*** Please forward this e-mail to five or more friends or colleagues who you believe will act on it -- after five cycles, your e-mail can generate 3,125 letters.
(To avoid ">>>" please copy and paste the entire text onto a new e-mail)
(3) BACKGROUND / FORM LETTER
- (Please feel free to paste the below text in your e-mail)
On April 15th in a segment entitled "The Different Faces of Jesus Christ", Andy Rooney erroneously stated that "Turkish artists in Byzantium portrayed Christ's likeness in ceramic tile".
Mr. Rooney's statement constitutes a substantial factual and historical error and requires an on-air correction. There were categorically no Turkish artists in Byzantium, and Byzantine civilization pre-dated the Turks' first appearance in the area by centuries. The Byzantine Empire had its beginnings in the fourth century A.D. under the Roman Emperor Constantine I, and ended with the Ottoman Turks' 1453 conquest of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) which was the heart of the Byzantine civilization.
Historian Sir Steven Runciman noted, "the Turks had first occupied parts of Asia Minor in the eleventh century" (Steven Runciman, "The Great Church in Captivity", Cambridge University Press). Upon his death last November at the age of 97, the Associated Press described Runciman as "Britain's foremost expert on the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades" (AP, 11/2/00)
In addition, Muslim Turks were forbidden to depict images of Christ for veneration.
Mr. Rooney's statement is not only patently inaccurate but also deeply offensive to Greek and other Orthodox Christians because, rather than contributing to Byzantine art, the Ottoman and successive Turkish states in fact extinguished Byzantine civilization, brutally subjugated its inhabitants, and obliterated Greek, Armenian, Assyrian and other indigenous Christians from Asia Minor through pogroms, forced conversions and genocide.
Below are excerpts from Runciman's narrative of the fall of Constantinople -- which began at 1:30 A.M. on May 29, 1453; an apocalyptic tragedy that marked the end of Byzantium and is still remembered in the Greek world as "Black Tuesday":
"[After Turkish forces succeeded in entering the gates of Constantinople] They slew everyone that they met in the streets, men, women and children without discrimination. The blood ran in rivers down the steep streets from the heights of Petra towards the Golden Horn . . . They overpowered [the Imperial Palace] and started to snatch at all its treasures, burning books and icons once the jeweled covers and frames had been wrenched off, and hacking at the mosaics and marbles round the walls . . . [In the monastery of the Holy Saviour] they destroyed the icon of the Mother of God, the Hodigitria, the holiest picture in all Byzantium, painted, so men said, by Saint Luke himself . . . [Upon the soldiers' entry into the Hagia Sophia,] The worshippers were trapped. A few of the ancient and infirm were killed on the spot; but most of them were tied or chained together. Many of the lovelier maidens and youths and many of the richer-clad nobles were almost torn to death as their captors quarreled over them. The priests went on chanting at the altar till they too were taken . . . The inhabitants were carried off along with their possessions. Anyone who collapsed from frailty was slaughtered, together with a number of infants who were held to be of no value . . . Most of the books were burnt . . . There were scenes of ribaldry in the churches.
. . . . .
Five days after the fall of the city [the Sultan] gave a banquet. In the course of it, when he was well flushed with wine, someone whispered to him that [the Byzantine Megadux] Notara's fourteen-year old son was a boy of exceptional beauty. The Sultan at once sent a eunuch [to] demand that the boy be sent to him for his pleasure. Notaras, whose two elder sons had been killed fighting, refused to sacrifice the boy to such a fate. Police were then sent to bring Notaras with his son and his young son-in-law into the Sultan's presence. When Notaras still defied the Sultan, orders were given for him and the two boys to be decapitated on the spot.
. . . . .
[Byzantium] was now half in ruins, emptied and deserted and blackened as though by fire, and strangely silent. Wherever the soldiers had been there was desolation. Churches had been desecrated and stripped; houses were no longer habitable and shops and stores battered and bare. The Sultan himself as he rode through the streets had been moved to tears."
-- Steven Runciman, "The Fall of Constantinople 1453" (Cambridge University Press)
Runciman emphasized the historical magnitude of this loss in both human and cultural terms: "For eleven hundred years [in Constantinople] the intellect was admired and the learning and letters of the Classical past were studied and preserved. Without the help of Byzantine commentators and scribes there is little that we would know today about the literature of ancient Greece."
George Horton, a distinguished American diplomat who served as U.S. Consul to Turkey, wrote:
"[Byzantium's] splendors, its refinement, its art and culture, its wealth, its power, its fame as a center of learning and of piety are unforgettable even today. In the presence of its gentlemen and great dames, the knights and ladies of Western Europe were mere boors and hoydens. . . [T]here was enough of [Byzantium's] culture left, when the Turks finally laid hands on it, to scatter over Europe and regenerate the West. The Renaissance, that wonderful awakening from the darkness of the Middle Ages, was largely due to the learning brought into Europe by the scholars of Constantinople, fleeing from the Turk. Those scholars had kept the light of the old classic culture burning during all the years of European darkness and ignorance."
-- George Horton, "The Blight of Asia" (1926)
Sir Edwin Pears, quoted in Horton's book, relates how Byzantium's Turkish conquest resulted in the death of Byzantine civilization:
"Under the rule of its new masters Constantinople was destined to become the most degraded capital in Europe, and became incapable of contributing anything whatever of value to the history of the human race. No art, no literature, no handicraft even, nothing that the world would gladly keep, has come since 1453 from the Queen City. . . The wealthiest state in Europe became the poorest; the most civilized the most barbarous."
George Horton concluded that "the destruction of Smyrna [by Ataturk's troops in 1922] was but the closing act in a consistent program of exterminating Christianity throughout the length and breadth of the old Byzantine Empire"
Mr. Rooney and 60 Minutes are urged to set the record straight on this significant error, and rise up to the professional and moral integrity that has been the hallmark of your program. Mr. Rooney, Mr. Hewitt, please do the right thing - and issue an on-air correction, as well as a correction in Mr. Rooney's print and Internet column regarding this issue.
American Hellenic Media Project
PO Box 1150
New York, NY 10028-0008
The American Hellenic Media Project (AHMP) is a non-profit organization created to address inaccuracy and bias in the media and encourage independent, ethical and responsible journalism.
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(posted May 5, 2001)