Tuesday, August 23, 2016

David Steinberg was NEVER on ANY of Nixon's Enemies Lists

Ed. I did email David Steinberg through his website while drafting the first version of this. I received no response.  Also followed up with a Tweet of inquiry, no response.

This topic was featured in Episode 269 of Matt & Mattingly's Ice Cream Social, from Las Vegas, Nevada (at approx. 54:30)
The Pinocchio Tour
Being Steve Rannazzisi before Steve Rannazzisi is no achievement at all ... Now that Rannazzisi has raised the bar, Steinberg has a long way to go to be a Rannazzisi.

I really hope there is a reference out there that I missed, since this is such a cosmic bummer. It's like finding out Mickey Mantle corked his bat.  In this case, Sammy Sosa is a better comparison.

Comedian and Director David Steinberg has been falsely claiming, since at least 2002, to have been on the infamous Nixon's Enemies List.  That is the slang term for two similar lists, three if you count the list of McGovern staff and contributors:
By all means, browse those lists that have been published and available since 1973 and see if you can find David Steinberg.

David Steinberg even made the claim in his 2013 documentary Quality Balls.  In 2014 he got 'reporter' Marc Ambinder (Twitter) to add that he was the only comedian on the list.
-- made Richard Nixon's enemies list, becoming the only comedian to do so ("In America, anyone can become President. I think we bend over backwards to prove it.");  Marc Ambinder - July 16, 2014
Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory might disagree, they are literally on the list.

Steinberg is not on it.  He was never on it.  He is not on any version of it and never has been.

Steinberg's false claim is not even original, he is following in the hallowed footsteps of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology.  It seems that humorous sermons are not their only point of coincidence.

Steinberg claims it as a badge of honor, his greatest achievement:
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being on Nixon's enemies list. - Proust Questionnaire JUNE 2007
With actual achievements in directing episodes of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Golden Girls, why bother making up something like being on the Nixon list?  What is it with that damn Nixon's Enemies List that turns the cream of Hollywood into sniveling, slimy fabricators, even when they are in candid interviews?

This list, both the original and the expanded versions, have been published, and published, and published some more.  Daniel Schorr read the list on the air on CBS news, and discovered his own name was on it (#17).  That was in June, 1973, and the New York Times published both of the lists shortly thereafter.  The lists are in the Congressional Record, that is where the news outlets got them.  This was decades before Steinberg figuratively erased someone else and penciled in his own name.

In the 2002 interview, with the First Amendment Center, no less, he claimed that his (unnamed) cousin the lawyer found out for him that he was on the list.  He also claimed to be number twenty on the list:
Paulson: Having never made the enemies list myself, is there a list, and do you have a number? Like, are you in the top 10? Is there a ranking? 
Steinberg: Twenty, I’m sorry to say. 
Paulson: With a bullet? 
Steinberg: I’m in the top 20, yeah. My cousin who’s a lawyer found out for me, so yeah. 
- First Amendment Center, Nashville, Tennessee Thursday, February 28, 2002
"My cousin who’s a lawyer found out for me"?  Is he the designated New York Times reader in the family?

Actually, "twenty" would be Mary McGrory.  If that was Steinberg's birth name, I take all of this back.

Via Wikimedia

John Norris, a biographer of McGrory, has weighed in on the topic.
The Wikipedia compilations are not the only versions, they are just easy to read.  There are several others like this one (both lists on the page).  Unless Steinberg performed as Representative John Conyers, he is not #20 over there either.  The Watertown Daily Times, and others, printed a copy of the long one via UPI (PDF), on June 28, 1973 (PNG copy below too).  He does not appear anywhere on that list.

Makes one wonder what his cousin the lawyer was doing in 1972, the approximate year that Steinberg placed being told that he was number twenty on the list.  Just any old lawyer would not have access to that before it became evidence, in 1973, of a Watergate investigative committee.

Then, a year later the lists come out and nobody Steinberg knows comes up to him and says "That cousin of yours is full of crap, you aren't in there."  Conversely, if he kept it under his hat, Steinberg did not find it suspicious that the release was made and nobody he knew slapped him on the back in congratulations?

Maybe David Steinberg just doesn't run in literate circles?

Maybe David's cousin the lawyer just made it up to make him feel good?  Possibly, but ...

Even in 2002, if you were incapable of web searching, you could look it up for yourself in a library or just ask a librarian.  The First Amendment Center could have easily looked it up, located at Vanderbilt University that is also the home of one of the largest (perhaps the largest) news archives in the world.

In 2002 he claimed that Tony Ulasewicz was on TV during the Watergate hearings, testifying about "dirty tricks," and two FBI agents who had followed him around on tour were sitting behind Ulasewicz.  Later, that story shifted.  The FBI guys, who by-the-way carry some very distinctive identification, somehow became "administration" guys, or "Nixon" guys.

(Ulasewicz is the first portion of the clip)

In a bigger change, Steinberg's later versions of the tale replaced Ulasewicz with Donald Segretti.  Before anybody theorizes that maybe Steinberg didn't really know who Segretti was, he sure sounded like he knew who he was in 1974.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune May 10, 1974

I haven't found any video archives of any Segretti appearance before the Watergate committee.  However, I did find these clips of him talking to the press after his trial and sentencing, via the Associated Press:

Again, Steinberg told a different version of this tale to The First Amendment Center, located near the most comprehensive collection of news video outside the Library of Congress, and the 1A center took it without question.

Donald Segretti may have appeared elsewhere on television and it would be nice to see if the people "sitting behind him" (in other versions, they are "standing behind him") are the same ones as in the Ulasewicz clip.  At this point, one cannot be sure that the people behind Ulasewicz are FBI, Secret Service, Nixon staffers, or Steinberg's lawyer relatives either.

In some versions, Steinberg claims to have called these guys on the phone and confronted them.  In another, he claims that his buddy Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky slammed a Nixon henchman heckler against the wall in an elevator.  Later he told Joe Otterson (name at top of article) or Itay Hod (name of interviewer on video) of The Wrap that he never saw the hecklers, only heard the voices and the same voices followed him around on tour.

It would not surprise me if there are even more versions.

One would think that over a decade later, when Steinberg was preparing his autobiographical documentary, that someone would have fact-checked the easy part, the enemies list.  Beyond that, it would have been nice if anybody who interviewed him had bothered to look and see if this claim was true.

Of course, I can forgive Gilbert Gottfried for not calling Steinberg on this one.  Gilbert is just a very, very funny guy.  Vanity Fair is a whole different story.

Now, a blast from the past from the late, great, Dick West, writer of "The Lighter Side" column:

David, why couldn't you be a good honest boy, like David Brenner or Jerry Seinfeld?

PS, since the Steinberg story of Nixon's henchmen heckling his shows keeps changing, a simple Privacy Act Request to the FBI (not Dan Rather), by Steinberg could get him all of the reports of all of the agents who attended his shows on official business.  If any of that happened at all.

If that is too much trouble, Mr. Steinberg can just sign a form authorizing me, or anybody else to do it, since he the subject of those reports and is still a living person.

h/t to the delightful Jesse Walker for the Scientology link

Below, the other pages of the 'Nixon' list and cover memo, via Wikimedia.  Followed by the bigger list, via Fulton History.




The longer, more developed list:

PDF version at Fulton History

David Steinberg and Brian Williams

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ