copyright (c) 1996, Electric Nevada
|It was some weeks back and Electric Nevada was trying to land an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, author of the Running Scared investigative biography of casino king Steve Wynn.|
-- not a surfer of the Web -- had never heard of EN and
"The problem that I would have with talking to you," he said, "is that I don't know you, first of all, and -- try not to take offense at this, but -- I've had Wynn's people run all kinds of games over the last year or two, all kinds of phony stuff.
"I've done interviews that were playful, at worst, with local radio stations, and they have ... called, and gotten cassettes, and they've tried their best to silence me."
Smith said Wynn's full-court press has not only largely suppressed the book nationally, [See accompanying story.] but also successfully intimidated conventional news media in Nevada.
"I'm pretty skeptical about being interviewed by people inside the state," he said. "There's been no support here. With the exception of .. a couple of journalists, there's been absolutely no interest in telling the truth with any kind of depth.
"I've talked to the New York Times, and I've talked to a lot of other groups, but frankly I'm real cynical about the lack of balls that Nevada reporters have."
What especially amazed him, said
Smith, is the lack of interest shown by established
Nevada media in the largest news story available to them
-- Wynn's record and background.
|months' work. It was a story I thought
was fascinating, and I thought was compelling and
accurate, and I still do. What's the fallout of it, I
guess, kind of takes on a life of its own.
"I look at it from just a writing and journalistic standpoint, and the facts are there, the documents are there. Somebody should have written this story years ago -- maybe a better writer than myself, maybe a better reporter. But the fact is that no one was doing it."
Smith has been on the Review-Journal for the last 10 years, most of that time writing a general interest column, on topics ranging from human interest stories to investigative pieces. Before the R-J, from 1982 to 1985, he'd been at the Las Vegas Sun as a sportswriter and columnist and editor.
He told EN he's been surprised and disappointed that journalistic 'professional' organizations in the state had not responded to the fierce attack Wynn has launched on the book and its author.
"I had been -- and actually still am -- under attack from someone who's got most of the power and most of the money in the state, and I was very disappointed at the lack of interest from any of the press organizations -- the Nevada Press Association, for example, or the SDX, Society of Professional Journalists -- in even writing a letter, or even exploring opening a file, or doing anything. I just kind of scratched my head over that.
"It didn't surprise me, 'cause I think they're fairly
lightweight operations anyway, and their
excuse is, 'Well, we're just the press and this is a
book.' But the fact is, it's the same thing. It's the
First Amendment, and it's non-fiction, and it's
journalism-oriented, and it's written by a journalist,
and ... there's no pulse there. They weren't interested
|sleepless nights and stomach pains. It
affects your family and everything, but it also
strengthens you, I think."
Smith said that Wynn, a billionaire, had bragged to reporters that he was going to take away Smith's house.
"I'm thinking to myself... my wife lives there, my daughter lives there.. The bank owns 99 percent of it. And this is the mentality at work. This is the kind of mind at work."
Wynn is pursuing his campaign, said Smith, even though Wynn knows that the book is based on documents which are part of the public record.
"He knows where all the documents came from," contends Smith. "He knows that all the documents are authentic. He can disagree with what's in the documents, and I disagree with what's in the documents in some areas -- and I mention that in the book. Where it's inconsistent, I make it inconsistent."
In the book, Smith takes issue with conclusions drawn by England's New Scotland Yard investigations of Wynn, and suggests that a political agenda, rather than actual evidence, probably was behind the agency's harsher allegations.
Wynn is also pursuing his campaign, said Smith, while refusing to acknowledge that he's a public figure. Under U.S. Supreme Court decisions, public figures are subject to 'fair comment and criticism.'
"Well, he's a public figure and he won't even admit he's a public figure. That's what's so silly about this thing. It would be nice if the people involved would grow up here a little bit, but you're dealing with an enfant terrible... a guy, you know, who has things his way or has a tantrum. It's just a fact.
"I can live with it. And .. after researching the book, it's not a big surprise."
"One of the funniest stories I read, was in the Sun, a few months ago, when they had him the second-most powerful guy in Nevada. Which I thought was funny, when Bob Miller was the first. Well, let me tell you something. If you know insiders in Nevada politics, you know that Steve Wynn would yell at Bob Miller before Bob Miller would yell at Steve Wynn. You know?
"Steve Wynn's the kind of guy who yells at everybody. And that's just his personality."
Smith was asked whether the episode detailed in the adjoining story -- when the Chicago Mob sought, unsuccessfully, to get Wynn to take a lesser
price for $73.6 million worth of Teamster
hotel promissory notes -- might not suggest that Wynn is
out to take anybody who gets in his sights, or has
something he wants, even if it's mob figures.
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