In the Wizard of Oz, it may have been lions and tigers and bears that put fear in the hearts of Dorothy and her friends but today, hush money, blackmail and extortion are much more in vogue. But be ready to pay the piper because the price of hush money has risen far faster than the cost of living.
About a month ago, I saw the Hollywood film Frost/Nixon that depicted the back-story of how the Nixon interviews with David Frost came to happen. This later inspired me to check with NetFlix to see if they had the actual Nixon/Frost interviews. Sure enough, they did. I had seen them back in the day, but I was not the political animal then that I am now so they were seen through the eyes of a 20-something college kid as opposed to a more shall we say seasoned observer. A couple of things caught my eye. First, the amazing fact that Frost was able to pull this interview off by cobbling together financing for an independent production is amazing in itself. The networks were sideline observers to an event of colossal proportions. They were not willing to offer as many hours in prime time as Frost was guaranteeing. Not only did Frost beat them at their own game, he actually got Nixon and his people to agree that they would not be privy to any questions prior to the interview nor would they have any ability to see the final program before airing. Now stop right there. Imagine an interview with any former president (or any key figure for that matter) agreeing to those terms today. Not a chance.
The other interesting thing I noticed was the kind of money being offered as “hush money” to make sure that people like E. Howard Hunt and others would not spill the beans. In Hunt’s case, the payoff being bandied about was the lofty sum of $120,000. A tidy sum to be sure in those days but certainly that figure pails by comparison to the 2 million that Bob Halderman allegedly tried to extort from David Letterman recently to keep some untimely sexual liaisons quiet.
So, the bottom line is this. In 2009, it takes 2 million dollars to keep a sexual tryst (or shall we say several sexual trysts) quiet and a mere 37 years earlier it only took $120k to keep a white house “plumber” from springing leaks. And they say we’re in a recession?