Nelson Mandela and the US media

After I watched and linked to the clip of Nelson Mandela giving Kenneth Adelman and Ted Koppel their comeuppance at an event in City College, New York during Mandela’s first visit to the US after being released from prison, I became interested in seeing more of that event and found these two clips of it. The clips are illustrative of how the US media serves the US establishment. It was more of an ambush than a town hall but Mandela turned the tables on Koppel.

Koppel was at that time was riding high with a reputation of being an independent journalist. The event with Mandela was billed as a ‘Town Hall’ with questions posed by people in the audience. The catch was that the questioners had been pre-selected by Koppel and it soon became clear that almost all of them were people who sought to advance US ideology and seek to have Mandela sever his links with the very people who had helped the ANC in its liberation struggle.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The aim of Koppel and the questioners seemed to be to separate the ANC from its allies. As Mandela told Adelman, the trouble with people like him is that they want to have the ANC treat as enemies whoever the US considers as enemies. It is illustrative to listen to the white supremacists at the 16:00 and 42:00 marks in the first clip. Their arrogance is astounding. I would have responded angrily but Mandela kept his cool and his sense of humor. He knew that history was on his side.

Mandela brushed aside Koppel’s attempted ambush. The ANC had waged a long struggle against the racist apartheid regime and during that period it became very clear to them who were the people who genuinely supported them and gave them material resources to help them, and who merely gave lip service to equality but were mainly interested in protecting the interests of then Afrikaaner president F. W. de Klerk, the white people in South Africa, and of western business interests. Many of the western governments, especially the US and the UK, fell into the latter category. Mandel wasn’t going to be lectured, often condescendingly, by others as to who should be his friends and who should be his enemies. He said that the ANC makes that decision based on its own interests and not that of the US.

The person who posted these to links has helpfully provided some background to the event and on the questioners selected by Koppel.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela visited the U.S. for the first time after being freed from 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa. During Mandela’s visit he also conducted his first interview with Ted Koppel of ABC News. Koppel was then known as one of the toughest and most feared TV reporters and interviewers in America. His ABC news show, “Nightline”, was one of the top rated late night programs on television. The interview turned out to be an openly biased attempt to assassinate Nelson Mandela’s character, credibility, and cause. With the bulk of Koppel’s preselected questioners being either conservative Republican plants, apartheid sympathizers, opponents of Mandela’s African National Congress party (ANC), and/or known members of the white supremacists Apartheid regime. Due to the wisdom and strength of Nelson Mandela, the assassination attempt failed miserable. Ted Koppel was never the same man again and eventually slipped into oblivion.

Here’s a little background on some of the questioners that Ted Koppel preselected:

Rev. Calvin Butts – Political crony of former Republican governor of New York George Pataki and major critic of Hip Hop music and culture.

Gloria Toote – Conservative Republican who held positions in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan presidential administrations.

Koos Van Der Merwe – South African Conservative Party leader and white supremacist.

Ken Adelman – Conservative Republican political analyst and diplomat who served under Republican presidents Nixon and Ford. He was later a major proponent of the second Iraq War.

Gatsha Buthelezi – Chief Minister Kwazulu and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party; a political rival of the ANC and Nelson Mandela.

Abe Hoppenstein – South Africa’s New York City Consul General under the apartheid government, ANC opponent, and white supremacist.

I noticed in the audience Arthur Ashe, Harry Belafonte, and Spike Lee.


  1. jrkrideau says

    What a beautiful and masterful performance by Nelson Mandela.

    Koppel and his plants were so outclassed it was almost pitiful at times except I must admit did not feel an iota of pity for any of them. They got the least of what they deserved as did Koppel for allowing or creating such a program.

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