J. Hutton Pulitzer Demands "Biased" Media Listen to Him While He Deflects Hard Questions about "Roman" Sword
Earlier today I appeared on the Sheldon MacLeod Show on News 95.7 radio in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to discuss the “Roman” sword J. Hutton Pulitzer and the Curse of Oak Island have made famous over the past several weeks. We discussed the provenance of the supposedly ancient sword, J. Hutton Pulitzer’s involvement with it, and the confidentiality agreements put in place, as MacLeod notes, to try to preserve the mystery in order to generate higher ratings. Canada is apparently a few weeks behind the U.S. in Oak Island airings, and MacLeod said that the no one associated with the show was allowed to discuss the sword with him until after the episode airs in Canada. Lucky us: We get to hear all about it on Tuesday!
[Do you ever get the feeling that J. Hutton Pulitzer is making it all up as he goes along? In a podcast last night Pulitzer has adopted almost all of the tactics of the right wing outrage machine. He alleges that the U.S. and Canadian media are in cahoots with academic elites in order to suppress the truth. He went on a rant about how the media are biased against fringe history. “When the press decides to attack, are they attacking on facts or are they trying to distract you from the truth about history?” Pulitzer asked (more or less… my recollection might be a word or two off). He sounded pretty much like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or other talk radio hosts, though with many more “ums” and “uhs.” To be entirely honest, I have no idea what Pulitzer was talking about through much of the podcast because, in his outrage, he simply assumes that the audience knows details about his interactions with media and media coverage that even I, who followed this closely, simply did not recognize, not least because I do not subscribe to Canadian tabloid magazines and have not read the article that got him so upset.
Anyway, Pulitzer called Mike Gorman, a journalist for Frank magazine, in a gonzo stunt where he tried to get Gorman to expose his “bias” in a piece published last week (to subscribers only) that questioned Pulitzer’s claims about the sword by recording and broadcasting two phonecalls he made to Gorman. [Update: As Andy White points out, the phone calls were actually about an earlier Pulitzer claim, about the Spear of Destiny, which Pulitzer deceptively implied were from the sword story.] Pulitzer and Gorman seemed to be speaking at cross-purposes, with Gorman telling Pulitzer than he gave him the opportunity to respond to direct questions in writing, which he declined to do, while Pulitzer maintained that the type was too small (!) and then insisted that Gorman remain on the phone to hear his rambling self-justification about why he cannot respond in writing on his cellphone due to the small size of the keyboard. Apparently Pulitzer, the self-described tech mogul and great inventor, did not know how to enlarge the text or respond via email from his laptop, or even respond by phone with direct answers.
Gorman hung up on Pulitzer twice, claiming that Pulitzer was too evasive in his non-answers, while Pulitzer sputtered about how Gorman needed to hear him talk regardless of the answers he would not provide. Pulitzer declared Gorman’s attempt to get Pulitzer to answer direct questions in writing on his own timeline and at whatever length he chose to use to respond to them an act of media bias. Since that is in no way an example of media bias, it’s evident that Pulitzer is simply drawing on talk radio tropes in the hopes of distracting his listeners.
But this wasn’t his only attack on his critics this week. In a missive he delivered on Medium.com this week, Pulitzer blasted his critics for investigating his past, arguing that it was not relevant to his claims about the alleged “Roman” sword he says will rewrite the history of Canada (or the U.S.; he isn’t always sure where Oak Island is). “As they have nothing to slash at yet, since they have not seen the upcoming peer-reviewed white paper, they are now attempting to attack my birth name and question my identity. I know, but they think it’s an important historical subject.” Pulitzer spent hundreds of words explaining why we shouldn’t hold his failed tech businesses like CueCat against him, and then in the same breath says that his own personal achievements, outside traditional academia, are the reason to believe him!
Sometimes it takes people from outside of the system to change it. This has been true in government, business, and yes even in history. If I have a degree in this and it is all based on lies and half truths, what good is my degree and what good will it be for me going forward. […] Since my career as a business leader, media producer, and inventor, I decided to follow my passion and true calling as an historic investigator, author of over 300 history and treasure books, technical consultant to the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island, inventor of archaeological technologies, publisher of Investigating History Daily, host of History Heretic Radio show viewed by over 13 million, and given lectures and presented my research at academic conferences such as AAPS.
So which is it? Is it irrelevant and unfair to investigate Pulitzer’s past to judge his credibility, or are his past “accomplishments” (exaggerated though they are) the reason for his credibility? He wants to have it both ways, with all of the negative parts of his past declared void and the parts he likes heralded as proof of his self-confessed genius.
Nothing in Pulitzer’s past is directly relevant to judging whether the sword found in Nova Scotia is a genuine Roman artifact, but Pulitzer has made himself the story by asking us to accept his word for his claims and offering no evidence to support them. As a result, the only judgments we can make are judgments of whether to give Pulitzer’s assertions even minimal credence.
As I mentioned the other day, Pulitzer’s claims to credibility as a historian read like the puffery of a confidence artist. He is deliberately deceptive about all of his alleged accomplishments. Pulitzer claims, for example, to have written 300 history books since he started treasure hunting in 2002. The earliest book I’ve found is dated 2010, which means that he claims to write 60 books per year—more than one per week—which would mean he must compose more than 10,000 words per day to produce standard-length books. Of course that’s untrue; many of his books are simply cut-and-paste jobs that repeat content from other books and add a few pages of new material. His state-by-state treasure guides follow that model and account for the vast majority of his “300” books.
As for being a consultant for the History Channel: Big deal. I’ve been a consultant (paid or unpaid) with the History Channel, NatGeo UK, whatever the name of the history-themed channel in Canada is, and the American Heroes Channel. Giorgio Tsoukalos is the “consulting producer” on Ancient Aliens. In other words, it’s not exactly the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Being the “publisher” of Investigating History Daily, a website composed of links to other websites, is hardly a credential. My website covers history in more depth and with more original reporting than Pulitzer’s link farm, and the news sections of every fringe site from The Daily Grail to Ancient Origins to Graham Hancock’s website produce similar lists of daily links and commentary on the day’s history news.
Pulitzer claims 13 million listeners for his podcast, but there is no evidence of this from a reputable third party monitoring service. Yesterday’s podcast, for example, had two comments and 623 plays on SoundCloud as of this writing. The 13 million figure might be true, or it could simply be puffery based on total listens across platforms over the life of the podcast, which would count many of the same listeners multiple times. At worst, it’s possible on several platforms to buy fake listens from robot accounts. Again, without any sort of verification, there’s no way to evaluate Pulitzer’s claims, but the totals on SoundCloud don’t speak to 13 million unique listeners, even if we extrapolate them across his many different platforms.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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