Inaccuracies in Quiz Show

1995 Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference

Judy Raphael Kletter Alumna, Emerson College

J. Gregory Payne Chairman, Division of Communication Studies
Elisa Kletter Undergraduate student, Emerson College

I'd like to welcome you to the afternoon session of The Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference. We are very pleased to have a distinguished panel which will continue the types of deliberation we had this morning, only more particularly on the docudrama format and on Robert Redford's Academy Award nominee Quiz Show.

For those who do not understand the essence of what that's all about, we will play a bit of a documentary which gives some background material on the quiz show scandals. Our discussion will include distinguished panelists who know Quiz Show very well: the executive producer and some documentary film makers and an actor, as well as an individual who feels very closely tied to the script and the story line. After [the documentary screening], I'm going to ask one of our panelists, Judy Raphael Kletter, to give the opening remarks.

First of all we have Albert Maysles, who is a filmmaker. He just learned this morning that he is going to North Korea very soon for another [project]... North KoreaÑthat's even more exciting. Those of you who know his work, know Gimme Shelter, as well as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.

Someone who we're very pleased to see, and who is fresh off the plane from the west coast, is Fred Zollo. He is the Executive Producer of Quiz Show.

We then have Richard Goodwin, who is en route from Houston, but said he will be here and he's on his way in the car so he will be joining us shortly. Mr. Goodwin, as you know, is a historian. He was a presidential aide to John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and in his book Remembering America, he devoted a chapter to the quiz show scandal.

In addition, we have Frank Annese, who is a television and theatrical actor. Many of you probably wonder "Gee, I think I've seen him about this time during the day." He's been on Days Of Our Lives, he's been a guest on L.A. Law, Murder She Wrote, Hill Street Blues, and 21 Jump Street. He's going to be talking about some of the ethical implications of playing historical figures in these types of endeavors.

We're also very happy to bring back to Emerson our own star and expert Jan Roberts-Breslin, who is a documentary film maker and scholar. Even though she's on leave, she'll give us some critical commentary.

To start this afternoon's panel we will show a very brief picture of what the quiz show scandal was all about. And then weÕll ask Judy Kletter to come to the podium. Thank you.

At this point, the first few minutes of the PBS documentary The 
American Experience:
"The Quiz Show Scandals" was shown.

Well, this goes on. It's a very interesting piece to watch. We encourage you, if you would like to see it, to please stop by the Communication Studies office and we will arrange that. But today, we also have those people who are responsible for putting together "Quiz Show," as well as those people who have questions about docudrama. We also have Emerson's Jane Shattuc, who is going to be a respondent.

I would like to introduce just before Judy Kletter someone whom we are very happy to have at Emerson College -- from a new generation of Kletters, and that is Elisa Kletter. Elisa? [applause]

Elisa Kletter
I just want to introduce my mother, who graduated Emerson at this point in 1966. It was interesting, because I always thought -- because my dad graduated from Emerson too -- [that,] if you graduate from Emerson you work in TV or advertising or something [similar], but my mom wasnÕt exactly in that field. Then all of a sudden she read an article of mine in Rolling Stone magazine that I had. Probably [when] she saw it [she thought] "Oooh.. what's this?!" -- with long haired people on the cover, or something like that. She read this article; I believe it was a movie review on Quiz Show, [which talked] about some of the issues in there. The next thing I know she's picked that up, and she's got articles published in Ad Age and an editorial in The New York Times, and all these things going on... And it was just -- "Whoa! Go Mom!" So, I thought, maybe I can horn in on this. Maybe she'll get on TV and I can get an internship, or something. [laughter]

I finally did see the movie Quiz Show, and I realized that when you see a movie based on a true event -- no matter what you know is fact -- you just believe the movie. This was even after all the talk around my house about the movie, and knowing what was fact and what was fiction. It's mediated reality, and itÕs very "true." That's what my mom is going to talk about. So without further ado, here's my mom, who has worked very hard for this conference: Judy Raphael Kletter. [applause]

Judy Kletter
Hi. Thank you. I was more nervous about what my daughter would say about me, because I thought this could be her revenge. But it was very nice. Thank you, Elisa.

Good afternoon, President Liebergott, distinguished speakers, invited guests, faculty and students. I want to thank you all for coming today to the day-long Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference here at Emerson College. This is all made possible thanks to the generosity of Helen Rose, an Emerson graduate of the Class of 1938. She has totally funded this event and for that we are eternally grateful.

As my daughter said, I'm Judy Raphael Kletter. My husband and I met at Emerson and are graduates of the Class of 1966. We have two daughters: Elisa -- whom you've met -- is a junior majoring in television, and will be graduating next year (hopefully!) My other daughter is named Jenny, and she's a freshman at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

You may be wondering why I'm here and how I got involved in the Ethics and Communication Conference. Now I'll tell you. As Elisa started to say, in September of last year I read her review in Rolling Stone magazine, in which they implicated the quiz show sponsor in the deception in the movie. The sponsor happens to be my father-in-law, Edward Kletter. I then reread parts of Judge Joseph Stone in Tim Yahn's book Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Show Scandals. This book is one of my documented authorities on the subject. Richard Goodwin, who is on our panel, and who is author of Remembering America: A Voice From the 60s, in which he devotes a chapter to the quiz show scandals, and on which Quiz Show was loosely based, describes Judge Stone as "diligent, experienced, incorruptible, the rarest of public servants, concerned with uncovering and disclosing the truth wherever credit might go."

Judge Stone's book documented that my father-in-law, Ed Kletter, was the person who dealt directly with Jack Barry and Dan Enright and the networks, and was the only representative who attended the hearings in New York and D.C. Ed Kletter was cleared of any knowledge of involvement with the riggings. Although the movie did contrive a fictitious character as the sponsor -- the only fictitious name in the movie, by the way -- the person who in fact represented the sponsor is my father-in-law, Edward Kletter. Judge Stone shared with me my father-in-law's congressional hearing testimony, which concurred that he was not involved in the rigging of 21.

Having my facts in order, I went to talk to a friend at NBC, who referred me to the Museum of Television and Radio to watch old 21 shows. I then met with a friend at a public relations firm and I finally saw a senior editor at People magazine. Having everything cleared in my mind, I saw the movie on September 23rd and again with my husband Michael on September 24th. Because my daughter Elisa learned about all the quiz show scandals of the 1950s in her "Introduction to Mass Communication" and "History of Broadcasting" classes, I did not want Mr. Redford to get away with rewriting history.

I wrote an essay and faxed it to The New York Times. Within a half hour they responded saying they wanted to print it in the form of a letter to the editor (I was also interviewed in their office). My letter appeared on October 3rd. As a result of this letter I received letters and phone calls from supporters both in and out of the industry. Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications, and editor-in-chief of Advertising Age, read my New York Times letter and had his staff contact me to do a follow-up story, which appeared in the October 24th edition of Advertising Age.

I was also interviewed and my story appeared in the December issue of US magazine. My letter was also published in Shoot magazine, and Albert Maysles -- who is on our panel and who makes award-winning documentaries -- called my husband after reading my letter. My story was also picked up by The Boston Globe and The National Review. I had no contact with them and was surprised when friends informed me of these articles. (I may be mentioned in other publications as well.)

On October 29th at Emerson's Parents' Weekend I spoke to President Jackie Liebergott, who read my story and my New York Times letter, and [she] was very excited about it. She told me that she and Dr. Gregory Payne, chairman of the Communication Studies Division, wanted me to head and formulate an ethics conference based on this and to line up speakers of my choice. I had a meeting with Fred Zollo, executive producer of Quiz Show, who, incidentally, is a former resident of Massachusetts, who graciously consented to speak here today.

Quiz Show has been nominated for four academy awards, including best picture. Mr. Zollo told me this movie was fiction, but I don't believe that to be the case. I assumed he was kidding. Quiz Show takes broad dramatic license. The film uses the names of real people and has been positioned by its makers as a righteous statement on ethics and morality. It has been described by most critics as a "docudrama." This contradiction is what we will address today. The hero or detective in the movie is Richard Goodwin, who in reality, at the time was a young congressional investigator.

Reuven Frank, a past president of NBC News wrote in the New Leader magazine:

Errors become immortal. An axiom of the publicity trade holds 
that once even small mistakes get into print, they enter permanent 
files and years later are discovered by researchers who proclaim 
them as irrefutable truths. There are errors large and small in 
Quiz Show. Some people in the audience will remember fragments of 
what actually happened. The others will accept the screen version 
as history.

I cannot allow this to happen. A friend of mine, Ron Simon, is a professor who teaches the "History of Television" course at Columbia University in New York City. He is interested in learning the truth about the 1950s to teach it accurately to his students. He has become my inspiration and mentor in this endeavor. Without his support and encouragement I would not be here today. Thanks, Ron.

According to what I've read about Mr. Redford in the Orlando Sentinel, he talks proudly about his children: "I have two daughters and a son and three grandchildren. I worked at being a father. I made a determination to turn things around from how they were between my father and myself. I always wanted my children to know how I felt and to know that I loved them. Family relationships are the oldest you can find." Mr. Redford and I both love our families. The family name is the legacy we pass on to our children. Ed Kletter is Elisa and Jenny's grandfather. Ed has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. As I stated in my New York Times letter, I do not want Robert Redford's Quiz Show to become the textbook on this period. I don't want the grandchildren of Edward Kletter to be ashamed of their grandfather.

Skeptics may speculate as to why I came forward, especially when the sponsor's name was the only fictitious name in the movie. Who would ever know? The answer should be obvious: because my family and I knew, and I could not in good conscience do nothing. Elisa, who I think is quite astute and very intelligent, assumed that most of what she saw on the screen was true, as do most people who see the movie.

The Chicago Tribune quotes Mr. Redford: "I just tried to make a film that would entertain, be truthful and provoke, to make us think about ethics at a time when ethics are in danger." Well, I was entertained. The movie was not truthful on many points and it did provoke me and many others in a negative way for the liberties it took. It definitely is making me think about ethics at a time when ethics are in danger -- especially the lack of ethics in this movie. I had written Mr. Redford a letter expressing my concerns about the movie and also inviting him to attend the conference. He never responded. So much for his ethics and manners. My ethics convinced me to do this conference.

Last night I practiced this speech before a class full of students. At the conclusion, one student remarked that it was nice that I didn't go the celebrity route with this, and that I came to the college. I was approached by a talk show, but I refused. Nor did I want to do tabloid interviews. I wanted to reach my goals with integrity, and maybe make a difference and teach students not to believe everything they read or see. This can only be done tastefully in the academic setting. I'm so glad Emerson is letting me accomplish this today. In closing, I hope we can all learn and benefit from this conference today. I am very appreciative to all our speakers for arranging their schedules to make the time and effort to be here today. I especially want to thank Dr. Gregory Payne for all his hard work in putting this conference together, and making it all happen. Thank you. [applause]

back to the top