tv 60 Minutes CBS April 8, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
and i couldn't ask for a better partner. and ford. we go further, so you can. >> i picked up the phone, and it's like, "steve, we got a problem." and i said, "okay, what happened?" he says, "we've been hacked." i said, "oh, my god." >> and with that, the first shots were fired in the sweeping cyber assault on state voting systems that u.s. intelligence has tied to the russian government. >> we now realize that we were potentially dealing with something way more serious. what happened, and finds bipartisan agreement that our democracy is under attack. are we doing enough? >> no. >> whoa. this is something. there are 805 steel markers: one for each county where lynchings took place, all across this country. so far, the memorial's research
team has evidence of more than 4,300 lynchings, beginning after the civil war. every name has its own story. >> yes, that's right. eliza cowen was lynched in laurens county, south carolina. >> eliza, a woman. >> a woman. if they couldn't find the man they were looking for, they would lynch that man's wife or daughter, or child. >> this spring, harvard will likely mint leading cancer doctors, future hedge fund titans, tech entrepreneurs, and professional wisecrackers. for more than 100 years, this castle in cambridge-- part secret society, part writing room-- has housed the "harvard lampoon," but continues to produce some of the great comic minds in america. >> honestly, smithers, i don't know why harvard even bothers to show up. >> tonight, we'll take you inside. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm scott pelley. >> i'm anderson cooper.
>> i'm oprah winfrey. >> i'm bill whitaker. those stories, tonight, on "60 minutes." polk county is one of the counties that you don't think about very much. it's really not very important. i was in the stone ages as much as technology wise. and i would say i had nothing. you become a school teacher for one reason, you love kids. and so you don't have the same tools, you don't always believe you have the same... outcomes achievable for yourself. when we got the tablets, it changed everything. by giving them that technology and then marrying it with a curriculum that's designed to have technology at the heart of it, we are really changing the way that students learn.
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>> whitaker: the u.s. intelligence community has concluded there is no doubt the russians meddled in the 2016 u.s. presidential election, leaking stolen emails and inflaming tensions on social media. while congress and special counsel robert mueller investigate russian interference-- including whether the campaign of donald trump colluded with russia-- we have been looking into another vector of the attack on american
democracy: a sweeping cyber assault on state voting systems that u.s. intelligence tied to the russian government. tonight, you'll find out what happened from the frontline soldiers of a cyberwar that was fought largely out of public view, on digital battlegrounds in states throughout the country. the first shots were fired here in illinois, not far from downtown springfield, in a nondescript shopping center, the kind you'll find anywhere in the united states. there, in a repurposed supermarket, is the headquarters of the illinois state board of elections. this doesn't look like a war zone. >> steve sandvoss: no, it doesn't, actually. >> whitaker: steve sandvoss is the executive director. he told us, in his first television interview about the attack, that this office is on the front lines of a cyberwar. >> sandvoss: we have a good i.t. department, but-- >> whitaker: no match for the russian government. >> sandvoss: bows and arrows
against the lightning, hate to say it. >> whitaker: bows and arrows against the lightning? is that what it felt like? >> sandvoss: at-- at first, yes. >> whitaker: he vividly remembers the call from his i.t. director on july 12, 2016, just weeks after the democratic national committee announced that russian hackers had infiltrated its computer network. >> sandvoss: i picked up the phone, and it's like, "steve, we got a problem." and i said, "okay, what happened?" he says, "we've been hacked." i said, "oh, my god." >> whitaker: a staffer noticed the server for the voter registration database, with the personal information of 7.5 million illinois voters, had slowed way down. the i.t. team discovered a malicious attack-- a barrage of digital hits. >> sandvoss: i suppose you could analogize it to a fast-growing tumor in the system. it was unlike anything we had ever seen. >> whitaker: did you determine what they were after? >> sandvoss: it was of a very random nature. >> whitaker: they weren't looking for all the democrats or
all the republicans or all the people who lived in one district or another? >> sandvoss: there was no rhyme or reason to it. >> whitaker: steve sandvoss showed us the voter registration website where the hackers exploited a security flaw to get in. his i.t. team determined the attackers had been in their system, unseen, for three weeks. they only noticed when the hackers suddenly ramped up their attack and, in just a couple of hours, scooped up bits of information on up to 90,000 voters; complete records of 3,500. his engineers upgraded the firewall and plugged the website holes. that stopped the data heist, but not the attack. >> sandvoss: the hits continued, even though they weren't penetrating. the logs revealed that about a million and a half hits were coming in. >> whitaker: a million and a half? >> sandvoss: yes. yeah, five queries per second for a period of approximately 30 days.
>> whitaker: this almost seems like they wanted to be noticed? >> sandvoss: the only thing they didn't do is identify themselves as "the russians." >> whitaker: sandvoss says he suspected the hackers wanted to sow doubt about the integrity of the vote. illinois notified the f.b.i. >> anthony ferrante: what illinois discovered set off a chain of events that take us to today. >> whitaker: former f.b.i. agent anthony ferrante was director of cyber incident response for president barack obama's national security council. when you go in to investigate this intrusion that the state of illinois saw, what did you see? >> ferrante: the f.b.i. identified digital fingerprints left by the intruder. think of it as a crime scene, where fingerprints are dusted and pulled. we do the same thing when investigating a computer intrusion. >> whitaker: and your analysis pointed the finger at russia? >> ferrante: it did indeed. >> whitaker: the department of homeland security was so alarmed by what it saw the russians doing, it took the unprecedented
step of arranging a conference call with election officials from all 50 states. the f.b.i. put out this flash alert. but the intelligence community wasn't prepared to publicly implicate russia, so the call and the alert simply warned states to be on the lookout for the kind of malicious attack that had hit illinois. did information from other states start flooding in? >> ferrante: i would show up to work every single day and learn of two, three, four more states that had been actively targeted by the same actors. and it was after two or three weeks of this, that my colleagues and i said, "we have to believe that this is a large- scale, coordinated campaign to target every single state in the union." >> whitaker: anthony ferrante reported what he was learning to michael daniel, president obama's cyber czar. what was the reaction when you saw this in the white house? >> michael daniel: i think that was at the point we realized
that we were playing a different game. that we had thought that we were dealinhethg ma n trtorl soassocifated with presidential elections, and we now realized that we were potentially dealing with something way more serious. >> whitaker: "60 minutes" obtained this previously undisclosed department of homeland security internal document that details the scope of the russian cyber attack-- a snapshot of what investigators were seeing on october 28, less than two weeks before the presidential election. the document shows hackers tried to get into 20 state election systems, and an election i.t. provider in nebraska. hackers successfully infiltrated illinois, a county election database in arizona, a tennessee state website, and an i.t. vendor in florida. >> daniel: but it was always our working assumption that we did not detect all of the potential russian activity that was going on. >> whitaker: there's other stuff that they might have done, that we don't know? >> daniel: it's entirely
possible. >> whitaker: they quickly ruled out the russians were tampering with voting machines. there are tens of thousands of them, and they're not connected to the internet. >> daniel: what seemed much more likely to us was causing chaos at the polls on election day. so, if you intrude into a voter registration database, and you change two digits of everybody's address so that their voter i.d. doesn't match what's in the voter rolls when they show up at the polls... >> whitaker: and that creates chaos? >> daniel: sure. and those stories start to spread. lines begin to form. election officials can't figure out what's going on. you would only have to do it in a few places, and it would almost feed on itself. >> whitaker: compounding that worry? states were reluctant to accept cybersecurity help from homeland security. under the constitution, states run elections. several pushed back against what they saw as federal intrusion, still unaware the threat was coming from russia. our system was under attack.
why not scream it from the top of the roof and let the states know that this was a serious and credible threat? >> ferrante: the obama administration did not want to appear to be biased. we had a presidential candidate who was campaigning on the fact that the election was rigged, and he wasn't certain he was going to get a fair shot at the presidency. >> donald trump: and i'm afraid the election is going to be rigged, i have to be honest. >> ferrante: it was a very sensitive issue. >> whitaker: on october 7, three months after the illinois hack and one month before the election, the obama administration decided it had enough evidence to call out the russians. but, there was no press conference, no pronouncement from the oval office, just this three-paragraph statement saying the kremlin "intended to interfere with the u.s. election process." did that statement get the reaction that you would hope for? >> daniel: there were some other news events that happened around
the release of that statement that tended to swamp some of it out. >> whitaker: the "access hollywood" tape-- >> daniel: "hollywood" tape, yes. >> trump: hello, how are you? hi! >> whitaker: the hacked emails of hillary clinton's campaign chairman john podesta were also leaked the same day. the press and the public paid little attention to the administration statement on russian hacking. so, the national security council did something never done before: contacted russia on the cyber hotline, a communication channel added to the old nuclear hotline in 2013 to prevent cyber war. so what did the message say? >> daniel: it basically said, "we know that you are carrying out these kinds of activities. and, stop. knock it off." >> whitaker: was that tough enough? >> daniel: so, i think, certainly-- >> whitaker: stop? >> daniel: the fact that this was the first time we had ever exercised this channel, which was supposed to be, you know, for very serious cyber incidents and cyber issues-- i think that, in and of itself, sent-- sent a message.
>> whitaker: the russians brushed it off. the administration was bracing for the worst. it drew up this election day response plan, which called for war rooms at the white house, the f.b.i., and homeland security, and planned for the unprecedented deployment of "armed federal law enforcement agents" should a cyber attack cause complete breakdown at a polling place. on election day, the teams saw no signs the russians tampered with the vote. why do you think they didn't pull the trigger on election day? >> ferrante: i don't know. i don't know if we'll ever know. >> whitaker: do you think they would have succeeded in creating chaos? >> ferrante: absolutely. >> whitaker: the agency charged with helping states protect elections from attack is the department of homeland security, d.h.s. the agency has been criticized for a slow response. we tried repeatedly to interview
secretary kirstjen nielsen or one of her deputies, but d.h.s. denied all our requests. instead, we were directed to the secretary's recent testimony before the senate select committee on intelligence. >> kirstjen nielsen: the threat of interference remains, and we recognize that the 2018 midterm and future elections are clearly potential targets for russian hacking attempts. >> whitaker: secretary nielsen told the senators d.h.s. is offering to run security checks of state online election systems. it's also granting security clearances for state officials to receive classified cyber threat briefings. many senators expressed frustration with the agency's response. >> sen. angus king: with the possible exception of north korea's nuclear weapons, this is the most serio threat that our country faces today, and we are not adequately dealing with it. >> sen. susan collins: i hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue. >> whitaker: with the 2018 midterm elections fast approaching, 16 states have
requested extensive, on-site security checks from d.h.s. so far, the agency has completed only eight. illinois, where it all began, had its primary two weeks ago, and still hasn't gotten its security check. >> sen. kamala harris: we have to be prepared for wars without blood. >> whitaker: senator kamala harris, democrat from california, and republican senator james lankford of oklahoma are on the senate intelligence committee. democrats and republicans don't agree on much, but there's bipartisan agreement on the committee, that our democracy is under attack. what was the russians' end game? >> harris: to disrupt our democracy, to disrupt americans' confidence in their government and their democracy, and in that way, weaken our standing in the world. >> sen. james lankford: this could be the iranians next time, could be the north koreans next time. this is something that's been exposed as a weakness in our system, that we need to be able to fix that, not knowing who could try to test it out next time.
>> whitaker: senators lankford and harris are backing legislation to set minimum cybersecurity standards and streamline communication between states and the federal government, but even that modest bill has languished in the senate. this does not seem like the kind of response that you would have to a nation under attack by a foreign power. are we doing enough? >> harris: no. we're not doing enough. we're not doing nothing, but we are certainly not doing enough. >> whitaker: the senators say the u.s. needs a comprehensive strategy to fight cyber war, but concede upgrading systems around the country by the 2020 presidential election will be a challenge. and, the mid-term elections are just seven months away. >> this cbs sports update is brought to you by the lincoln
motor company. at the masters today, patrick reed, a 27-year-old from houston, shot a final-round 71 to take the groan -- green jacket by one over rickie fowler, becoming the fourth first-time major winner at the masters in the last four years. for 24/7news and highlight, visit cbs sports h q dot com. this is jim nantz reporting from visit cbs sports h q dot com. this is jim nantz reporting from augusta, georgia. than the lexus rx350 and a quiet interior from which to admire them. the lincoln spring sales event is here. for a limited time get zero percent apr on the lincoln mkx. hurry in today to your lincoln dealer. some moments can change everything.
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>> winfrey: there is a reckoning taking place in america over how we remember our history. much of the focus has been on whether or not to take down monuments that celebrate the confederacy. but this story is about a new monument going up in montgomery, alabama. it documents the lynchings of thousands of african american
men, women, and children during a 70-year period following the civil war. the project is being led by criminal defense attorney bryan stevenson, who is determined to shed light on a dark period in our past that most people would rather forget. it's a shocking and disturbing reality that lynchings were not isolated murders committed only by men in white hoods in the middle of the night. often, they were public crimes, witnessed-- even celebrated-- by thousands of people. stevenson believes, if we want to heal racial divisions, we must educate americans, of every color and creed. these cotton fields in southern alabama are quiet now, but in 1937, a brutal murder took place here: the lynching of wes johnson. last january, some of johnson's descendants came here, in what has become a ritual taking place
at lynching sites across the country, organized by civil rights attorney bryan stevenson. >> bryan stevenson: something happened here that was wrong. something happened here that was unjust. and too few people have talked about it. and so, we want to acknowledge the wrong that happened to wes johnson. >> winfrey: this is 18-year-old wes johnson. it is the only known image of him that remains. he was a tenant farmer, accused of assaulting a white woman. before he could stand trial, a mob of 100 men dragged him from jail, shot him, and left him hanging from a tree. >> stevenson: the blood of wes johnson is in this soil. i'd like you to begin to dig this soil in remembrance of wes johnson. >> winfrey: the soil collection is part of bryan stevenson's project to document and remember african americans lynched during a period of what he calls "racial terror." >> stevenson: we want to call this community to repentance, to acknowledgement, to shame. we want to tell the truth,
because we believe in truth and reconciliation, but we know that truth and reconciliation are sequential. we can't get to where we're trying to go if we don't tell the truth first. >> winfrey: so far, stevenson's team has chronicled more than 4,300 lynchings. they continue to find more. many victims, like bennie simmons and john richards, were accused of murder. one in four lynching victims, like joseph richardson and frank embree, were accused of unlawful conduct with white women. in nearly every case, no evidence, just an accusation, was enough. there are so many crimes committed against african americans. why focus on lynching? >> stevenson: at the end of the civil war, black people are supposed to get the right to vote, and the only way people who were white could maintain their political control was to intimidate black people. and lynching was especially effective because it would allow the whole community to know that we did this to this person.
it was intended to send a message, that if you try to vote, if you try to advocate for your rights, if you insist on fair wages, if you do anything that complicates white supremacy and white dominance and political power, we will kill you. >> winfrey: anything that upsets the power structure as i want it to be. >> stevenson: that's exactly right. >> winfrey: in 1993, bryan stevenson founded an organization he called "the equal justice initiative." it's a legal advocacy group, based in montgomery, alabama, focused on defending the poor and powerless. stevenson is best known for his legal victories in the united states supreme court and for successfully overturning the wrongful convictions of over 100 people on death row. but ten years ago, he turned the attention of his organization to also investigating crimes of the past: the lynchings of african americans. defense attorney sia sanneh has
spent hundreds of hours searching through newspaper archives and visiting county courthouses. is there usually newspaper evidence or documentation? >> sia sanneh: often, there were public reports, because people acted with impunity. and so there would be newspaper reports, sometimes in advance, saying, "a man will be lynched later this afternoon." this is an article about the lynching of a man named jesse washington, who was accused of a crime in waco, texas. >> winfrey: the newspaper headline read, "burn young negro in public square as 15,000 look on." a mob dragged jesse washington, a teenager who was convicted of murder after a one-hour trial, from the courtroom to the public square. >> sanneh: there's a remarkable photograph of the crowd, and it's people dressed in their sunday best-- >> winfrey: sunday best. >> sanneh: --with their hats on. >> winfrey: "his clothing oil- soaked, he is strung to tree. fire is set under him, and he is
dropped into flames as 15,000 people look on." >> sanneh: i think it's incredibly revealing that death was not enough. that it wasn't enough to kill people. people would be killed, and then shot, and then set on fire. and then, even after that, there are cases where the body was dragged to the heart of the black community. >> winfrey: fear of that kind of mob led wes johnson's relatives to bury him in this unmarked grave. >> faye walker howell: right here is where wes johnson is buried. and-- >> winfrey: right here? >> walker howell: right here. >> winfrey: faye walker howell, who is a filmmaker and wes johnson's distant cousin, spent decades interviewing relatives who were alive at the time and remembered the lynching. >> walker howell: they had to bury him in a hurry. >> winfrey: mm-hmm. why? >> walker howell: because the lynch mob, they were coming. they wanted wes' body to take around town, to drag around town, to show the body off.
>> stevenson: it wasn't just wes johnson who was killed and victimized. it was the entire black community. >> walker howell: exactly. >> stevenson: everybody was feeling fear and panic and menace and trauma the night of this lynching, and for the weeks and months and years after that lynching. it was a community crime. this wasn't done by the klan, or people who had to wear a mask. this was done by teachers and clergy and law enforcement officers. >> winfrey: and people you had to deal with every day. >> stevenson: every day. >> winfrey: stevenson's team started their investigation in alabama, but soon uncovered accounts of mobs murdering african americans throughout the southern states, and beyond. as the cases mounted, stevenson wanted to do something to commemorate the victims. so in montgomery, alabama, the heart of the deep south-- which still has dozens of monuments celebrating the confederacy-- stevenson's equal justice initiative took on a bold project. they bought six acres of land, and started construction on a memorial to the victims of lynching.
>> stevenson: actually, you can still see names... >> cannon: yeah. >> sanneh: from here. >> cannon: you can see it a lot better than i thought. >> stevenson: i think this looks great. >> winfrey: "the national memorial for peace and justice," which was paid for through hundreds of private donations, will open to the public april 26. it contains 805 steel markers: one for each county where lynchings took place. and on each marker, the names. the markers are suspended, to evoke the horror of being strung up and hanged from a tree. >> stevenson: so you start with them at eye level, and then, on this corridor, they begin to rise. and then you get to this corridor, and this is when you begin to confront the scale of all of these lynchings. >> winfrey: whoa. this is something. >> stevenson: yes, yes. we wanted people to have a sense of, just the scale of what this violence, what this terrorism was.
>> winfrey: so, this is over 4,000 that have been documented, but of course, there are more. >> stevenson: thousands more. thousands more-- >> winfrey: thousands more. >> stevenson: and-- >> winfrey: will we ever even know how many? >> stevenson: we will never know. >> winfrey: uneven, rusted steel is meant to echo the many shades and skin tones of those african americans lynched. every name has its own story. >> stevenson: yes, that's right. eliza cowen was lynched in laurens county, south carolina. >> winfrey: eliza, a woman. >> stevenson: a woman. a woman. >> winfrey: were women often lynched? >> stevenson: they were. they were. sometimes because they were accused of something, and then sometimes, women would be lynched if they couldn't find the man they were looking for-- they would lynch that man's wife or daughter or child. and this was a minister, reverend t.a. allen, who began talking to sharecroppers about their rights. and because he was doing that, the plantation owners, the landowners got together and they-- they lynched him. and the proof they used that he was somebody worthy of lynching is that when they found his body, he had a piece of paper
that talked about sharecropper rights. and the other piece of paper he had in his suit jacket was a note that said, "every man a king." a lot of these folks were lynched because they showed too much dignity. they showed too much humanity. he just wanted to be respected as a human being, and it got him hanged. on the side here, what we do is we start to tell stories. we want people to hear and understand what happened to some of these folks. >> winfrey: oh, my. robert morton was lynched for writing a note to a white woman. david hunter was lynched in laurens county, south carolina, for leaving the farm where he worked without permission. >> stevenson: yeah. >> winfrey: lynchings became so acceptable, onlookers would send picture postcards to friends and family. this card, depicting the horrific image of a burned corpse, casually notes, "this is the barbecue we had last night."
even young children looked on. you know, the thing that gets me in so many of the photographs that i've seen is the fact that people treated it like major events. >> stevenson: yeah. >> winfrey: i think about who are those people-- >> stevenson: yes. >> winfrey: --that are smiling into the camera? >> stevenson: and i think it's done real psychic damage, not just to black people, but to white people, too. because you can't bring your child to the public square and have your child watch someone be burned to death, be tortured, to have their fingers cut off, to be castrated, to be taunted, to be menaced, to be hanged like that, and not expect it to have some consequence, some legacy. and the legacy that i think it's created is this indifference to how we treat people who look different than us. and i think that's tragic. i don't even think that white people in our country are free. i think we're all burdened by this history of racial inequality. >> winfrey: what about everyone who says-- and there are black people and white people who say
it-- "enough already, of all that. that happened. that's the past. let's move forward." >> stevenson: i don't think we get to pretend that this stuff didn't happen. i don't think you can just play it off. this is like a disease. you have to treat it. >> winfrey: to do that, stevenson says, we need to talk about it. so, along with the memorial, he is also opening a museum in montgomery, designed to teach people more about what he calls, "the ugly parts" of american history. it traces the african american experience from enslavement to mass incarceration. >> stevenson: slavery doesn't end in 1865, it just evolves. >> winfrey: stevenson wants people to understand that lynchings were not just brutal footnotes in history. they reflected a belief in racial differences that reinforced segregation in the 1950s and '60s, and, he says, has resulted in a pattern of unequal justice today. >> stevenson: and now we live in a landscape where you see young black boys and men being rounded up.
one in three black male babies born in this country is expected to go to jail or prison. >> winfrey: you actually think that slavery and lynchings led to african americans being disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system? >> stevenson: yes, i do. and i think, actually, it's not a hard thing to understand, you know, i look at-- >> winfrey: i think it is a hard thing to understand for people who think people get locked up, people are locked up because they commit crimes. >> stevenson: about 13% of the people illegally in possession of drugs in this country are black. that's about our proportion of the population. you know what percentage are arrested? that's about 35%. that is an echo of this consciousness that doesn't value the lives of these folks. >> winfrey: equal value for every life is what bryan stevenson has spent his life fighting for. so now, soil from the place of wes johnson's lynching sits on this shelf in the museum in montgomery, along with hundreds of others. >> stevenson: and right now, when we talk about our history,
when we talk about our past, we're not telling the truth. we're just not. america can be a great nation, even though there was slavery, even though there was lynching, even though there was segregation. but if we don't talk about those things we did, we don't acknowledge those things, we're not going to get there. >> i think that some people will be offended by seeing the photos. >> the reason behind "60 minutes'" decision to show graphic images of lynchings, at 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by ibranz. alice is living with metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. she's also taking prescription ibrance with an aromatase inhibitor, which is for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive
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illustrious ivy league university, famous for taking itself seriously, one student magazine's staff devotes itself to publishing parody, pulling pranks, and causing general mayhem. yet, here's the punchline: 142 years after its founding, the "harvard lampoon" remains as relevant as ever, the wellspring of so much comedy in america today. over the years, the "lampoon" has changed in some ways-- a long-time male preserve, three of its last five presidents have been women. in other ways, it has stayed true to its roots, poking fun at the powerful, including the current occupant of the oval office, the recent victim of a sly "lampoon" prank. while their straight-laced and straight-faced classmates may aspire to become supreme court justices, hedge fund titans, and curers of cancer, for a core group of harvard undergrads, the "lampoon" offers vocational training for careers as comedy writers. we got a rare glimpse inside the place this winter and caught up
with some of the "lampoon's" cast of characters, past and present. a winter night in cambridge, massachusetts. as the temperature drops, a line of undergraduates forms outside the castle at 44 bow street. this is the headquarters of the "harvard lampoon," part comedy magazine, part secret society. and these students want in. akin to rushing a fraternity, the pledges are called compers, for the competencies they'll have to demonstrate before landing a spot on the magazine staff and literally scoring keys to the castle. the first test: can they make their upperclassman judges laugh? >> make room for the cameraman, please. >> wertheim: our cameras were invited into the castle library to watch upperclassmen put compers on the spot. and, right off the bat, "lampoon" staffers seized the opportunity to poke fun at us, too. using a fake microphone, they subjected compers to spoof tv news interviews...
>> action. so, in the fourth grade-- >> wertheim: ...prodding them to tell their best stories, and playfully reminding them of our presence. >> so, for 30 minutes, i had a bottle of whipped cream with me... >> wait, 30 minutes or "60 minutes?" ( laughter ) >> wertheim: but the real criteria for admission here: applicants must be funny on paper. they submit six pieces of humor writing to be critiqued by "lampoon" members, including liana spiro, the current "lampoon" president. >> liana spiro: it's a whole semester of writing comedy and then having other people earnestly read it, and spend a lot of time, you know, telling you what they think about it. i believe in it strongly. i think people are funnier by the end. >> wertheim: but only the funniest survive. out of about 100 pledges last semester, six compers made the cut. the semester before that, only three. the initiated will see their name on the masthead of the "harvard lampoon," an eclectic periodical full of original illustrations and niche advertising. one recent issue on the theme
"just friends"-- those two words no college kid ever wants to hear-- includes a dialogue piece on chance encounters, a comic about phone etiquette, and, in a typical random beat, an ode to tv meteorologists. the "lampoon" is published five times a year, with a circulation barely extending beyond harvard's gates. members are under no illusions about the magazine's impact. >> spiro: there's a sense here that we are writing the magazine for ourselves, and that no one is reading it. and that, i think actually, is one of the most beautiful things about the "lampoon," that we feel like no one is watching, and we can just dance however we want. >> wertheim: you're doing this for yourself. not the kid across the hall or the kid in the dining hall. >> spiro: yeah. we could print, you know, five copies of the magazine, and it would still be worthwhile, and i think everyone would still be here just as much, trying to be just as funny. >> wertheim: officially, members major in everything at harvard from math to poetry, but the "lampoon" is their real area of concentration. take alice ju, philosophy student and former "lampoon" president.
what percent of your time here at harvard is devoted to the "lampoon," versus regular school work? >> alice ju: like, 99% "lampoon" and then 1% sleep, i guess. and then 0% regular school work. >> wertheim: i'm sure your parents are pleased to hear that. >> ju: yeah. i mean, they've already given up, so. i have a younger sister who will be, like, doing all the right things, while i do this. >> wertheim: most aspire to a career in comedy, and the "lampoon" serves as their first writer's room. just as iron sharpens iron, you might say that here, irony sharpens irony. the "lampoon" has a rich history of deploying that irony in special edition parodies of other publications. name a popular magazine, and be assured it's been the victim of a "lampoon" send-up. this parody of "cosmo," complete with henry kissinger centerfold, endures as a classic in the genre. their latest is an absurdist parody of harvard's daily student newspaper, the "crimson," but that's just the physical product. ( laughter ) pranks-- cooking them up and
then carrying them out-- are as much a part of the "lampoon" tradition as actual humor writing. "lampoon" staff invited us to see how it's done. we watched as they fanned out across campus, taking that parody issue and scheming to swap it out with the real "crimson." it's the kind of thing they live for. >> perfect. >> wertheim: for decades, the "crimson" has been the butt of "lampoon" hijinks. liana spiro's crowning achievement so far: when mark zuckerberg returned to harvard to give a commencement address, she hacked into the "crimson's" website. >> spiro: and we wrote up hundreds of these fake headlines about mark zuckerberg in the silliest comedic tone possible, extremely dumb. basically, the crux of the humor was just changing his name to, like, mink singletock, like, over and over again. ( laughter ) >> wertheim: our amusement went unshared by the harvard "crimson." how upset were they? >> spiro: they were fairly upset. my roommate actually is on the "crimson," and this was the only
time that she really was upset at me. she had worked weeks on a very long piece, like 10,000 words about some corner of harvard's administration. and then i had worked, you know, two hours on some headlines about mink zinkletonk. ( laughter ) but i'm super-pro-pranking them all the time. >> wertheim: every once in a while, the "lampoon" will pull off a prank so bold, it achieves comic glory, and tom waddick, currently a senior, may have set the new standard. this one started late one night. waddick recruited some "lampoon" conspirators to break into the "crimson" headquarters and steal the paper's famous president's chair. it was the summer of 2015, and donald trump had just announced he was going to run for president. pretending to represent the "crimson," waddick contacted the trump campaign and offered up the student newspaper's enement. would mr. trump like to pose for the accompanying photo in the "crimson's" chair? >> tom waddick: they say, "this seems like something that mr.
trump would be very interested in." >> wertheim: waddick and crew raced from harvard to manhattan and parked a few blocks from trump tower. they lugged the chair in a freight elevator, and made it to the 25th floor. >> waddick: by the way, the chair's about like 150, 200 pounds, so it takes like two, or three people to carry it anywhere. >> wertheim: with an eye on the chair, trump welcomed students he believed to be "crimson" editors. >> waddick: he was very nice. he had his hair fixed. >> wertheim: while you were there? >> waddick: while we were there they had sort of hairsprayed and combed it over and stuff. and he said, "people don't think my hair is real, but you can all testify, this is very real." >> wertheim: once the cosmetics were complete, it was time to capture the moment. >> waddick: so he said, "everyone do the thumbs up," so we're all doing his sort of signature thumbs up around him. and i was just like "we got it." >> wertheim: not quite. a few days later, as he was preparing to publish the endorsement, waddick received a call from trump's personal lawyer, michael cohen. the trump campaign realized they'd been had. >> waddick: he says, you know, "i'm going to come up to
harvard. you're all going to get expelled. if this photo gets out, you'll be out of that school faster than you know it. i can be up there tomorrow." >> wertheim: what's that like? >> waddick: well, i mean, it was terrifying. he asked me to send my harvard i.d. so he could have my identity, my information. >> wertheim: did you send it? >> waddick: and i sent it right away. i was so afraid that if i didn't, he might actually be crazy enough to fly up here. >> wertheim: the trump campaign never did follow up. the "crimson," good sports that they are, published the story of the prank later that summer, complete with photo. and with that, tom waddick and company gained a measure of "lampoon" immortality. which is saying something, given the alumni rolls. early generations count everyone from william randolph hearst to george plimpton to john updike. ( applause ) >> what the hell is wrong with you people? ( laughter and applause ) >> wertheim: the modern era produced conan o'brien and colin jost, currently co-anchor of "weekend update" for "saturday night live." but most "lampoon" stars are not
stars at all. david mandel, class of '92, has written for shows from "s.n.l." to "seinfeld." he's currently the show runner for hbo's "veep"... >> veep! >> wertheim: ...emmy winner for outstanding comedy series, three years running. >> david mandel: this is for chubby jews from the upper west side. >> wertheim: what made you want to join the "lampoon"? >> mandel: the building. you kind of, you can't help but notice it. you know, you see a lot of other organizations, you go to a lot of other meetings. and there's this one place that happens to have a castle. it definitely hits you. >> wertheim: it's hard to overstate the importance of the castle. built in 1909 in a style described as "mock-flemish," whatever that means, the exterior almost winks at you, foreshadowing farce. and inside, the great hall. site of "lampoon" parties so legendary, movies have been made about them. >> ( bleep ) party. >> wertheim: in real life, the great hall, along with most of the castle, is strictly off limits to non-members. our cameras were not permitted anywhere but the library, no
matter how many times we asked. we did, however, track down the unofficial godfather of the place. jim downey, class of '74, cuts a mythical figure within harvard "lampoon" circles. >> jim downey: the centerfold. >> wertheim: the guy responsible for that kissinger centerfold fondly recalls his late nights at the castle. >> downey: we thought it was the funniest thing on earth to pointlessly put the word "frankly" into any answer to a question. so it could be like, "what bus goes up tenth avenue?" "frankly, the m-11." or, "what planet has the most eccentric orbit?" "frankly, mercury." you know, it's just-- see? i mean, you're laughing. >> wertheim: downey made a career of mining humor from the mundane. frankly, he has also written some of the most enduring political satire of the last 40 years. >> ...to sum up in a single word, the best argument for his candidacy. governor bush? >> strategery. ( laughter )
>> wertheim: for decades, downey's sketches cold-opened "saturday night live." yet, ask jim downey about his most memorable moment in comedy, and he hearkens back to january of 1974, when he and the "lampoon" invited john wayne to campus and it became news. >> walter cronkite: the "lampoon" challenged conservative wayne to come to harvard. >> wertheim: wayne not only accepted, he rode through town on a tank that downey and accomplices had borrowed from a nearby military installation. you still recall the party that night? >> downey: it's traditional for people to get up and dance on the table, and wayne was right up there, with, with-- didn't have to be coaxed. >> wertheim: downey's most lasting contribution? he opened an employment pipeline, hiring and referring countless "lampoon" alumni who now fill writers' rooms at shows from "curb your enthusiasm" to "silicon valley." al jean, class of '81, came through the downey pipeline and now runs "the simpsons," the longest-running comedy in television history. half his writing staff is former "lampoon."
so it is that more than a few subversive references to their alma mater make their way into "simpsons" episodes. >> i'm in! >> maybe i'll get a little respect once i get that harvard diploma. >> al jean: i'll be honest, i read scripts to hire people, and-- i'll read a script and i'll go, "oh, that's great." and then i'll look at the background of the person, and i'll go, "oh, no, 'lampoon.' i didn't want to hire another one." >> wertheim: why, "oh, no?" >> jean: well, because i want the show to be much more diverse. >> wertheim: you're not actively seeking out "lampoon" alumni? >> jean: never, never actively. >> wertheim: we found a motley crew when we visited the castle last may, but the "lampoon" pipeline to tv writers' rooms has been called a mafia, one that favors "lampoon" alumni to the exclusion of more diverse voices. >> spiro: when alumni come back, they're almost all men. sometimes they all feel like clones of each other. it's like, white men of varying ages who are into comedy, and you just feel like, "none of these people look like me." >> wertheim: what do we do about that? >> spiro: i think just, like, saying to the world that we've noticed that we're not diverse.
and that "we aren't happy with that and want to change," could do a lot. >> wertheim: back in hollywood, david mandel is watching, and reading, this current generation. he has two pieces of sage advice. >> mandel: make me laugh. that's all i care about. make me laugh. is it funny? and then, just kind of hoping that the undergrads don't burn the place down. >> wertheim: you're carrying the torch now. your job is not to burn down this place. >> spiro: yes. >> wertheim: can you handle that challenge? >> spiro: well, the fire alarm has gone off... four times in the last year, so that would indicate, perhaps no. but the "lampoon" is still standing, so we'll see. ♪ what is it? the next big thing in food was once a little paper box. now we can easily take out food from a restaurant. let's stay in and binge-watch the snow.
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