Joseph Getty remembers the “King of the Muckrakers,” as the Columbia Journalism Review once crowned investigative journalist Jack Anderson, from Anderson’s reign in the ’70s and early ’80s. Back then, Getty was beginning his career in the nation’s capital at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. And Anderson was the accomplished master of putting official Washington, over and over again, into a tizzy.
Anderson’s syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, ran on the comics page in the Washington Post, but the White House hardly considered the muckraker’s reporting a joke. After a succession of stinging Anderson columns, Jeb Stuart Magruder, a special assistant to President Richard Nixon, once commented that “the president would sure like to get rid of that guy”—a statement that Nixon staffer G. Gordon Liddy mistakenly interpreted as a directive to snuff out the offending columnist. Or so Anderson bragged in his 1999 memoir, Peace, War, and Politics: An Eyewitness Account.
“I knew the reputation of Jack Anderson as a journalist,” says Getty, an attorney who now serves as one of Carroll County’s elected representatives in the Maryland House of Delegates. So when Getty received an invitation from fellow lawyer W. Bradley Bauhof to have lunch with Anderson on June 25, 1999, Getty eagerly accepted. The lunch would take place in Westminster—the county seat of Carroll County, about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore—at Cockey’s Tavern, a restaurant owned by Bauhof’s family.
Bauhof told the state delegate that people involved with Anderson were filming a movie or television program in Carroll County and that Bauhof wanted to involve some local officials interested in economic development.
“That’s why I was there—because of Jack Anderson,” echoes Doug Mathias, executive director of the Greater Westminster Development Corp. Mathias says he, too, was lured by the opportunity to lunch with one of the biggest names in American journalism—a man who had tussled with J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, and Lucky Luciano.
But Anderson, then 76, didn’t dwell on his storied journalistic past at the lunch meeting. Instead, he chatted about Futureman.
A concept for a science-fiction action hero, Futureman was a collaboration between Anderson and Westminster resident Scott Caruthers, who attended the lunch with his wife, Dashielle Lashra, and his attorney, David Pearl. According to Anderson’s notes on Futureman, the action hero would be a nonviolent spy, “an Indiana Jones who takes off on impossible adventures” and “a man of mystery, whose resume is a blank sheet of paper.” Lucasfilm and Disney had expressed interest in developing Futureman, according to coverage of the lunch meeting in the Carroll County Times.
It seemed a little strange that a crusading journalist—a man America had read for hard news and biting commentary for many years—now seemed to be turning his sights to Saturday-morning television. But the lunch conversation took an even more bizarre twist, Getty recalls. Toward the end, Caruthers and Pearl mentioned legal troubles they were experiencing. An affidavit was presented to Getty moments later, with Anderson’s name at the top, which stated that Anderson had not witnessed “worship of cats, aliens, or other such nonsense” in visits to Caruthers’ home.
Caruthers had sought out local officials and the press to build enthusiasm and support for Futureman, a hometown action hero who was supposed to boost Westminster’s reputation. “But there’s one hitch,” Getty remembers Caruthers and Pearl warning him. “People are organized against us, who are calling us a cult.” Those people—who Getty later learned were former spouses of the alleged cult members—compared Caruthers to Marshall Applewhite, leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult, 39 of whose members committed mass suicide believing their spirits would be lifted by spaceship to a higher plane of existence during the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet. Caruthers, they claimed, preached that only members of his cult would survive the coming apocalypse.
Later that afternoon, Anderson signed the affidavit, which also affirmed that the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist had been working with Caruthers “on a TV series and video games using a super hero concept” as well as “a science fiction novel, which speculates on the possible cultural impact that contact with space aliens, off-world life might have on the people of Earth…”
Aliens? Cat worship? Cults? Had Anderson, an investigative journalist renowned for a career spent sniffing out scandal, lost his sense of smell? A little over a week prior to the Futureman lunch, in fact, Caruthers’ name had surfaced in Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.’s chambers in two child-custody disputes. In one, plaintiff Timothy Hackerman alleged in his custody petition that Caruthers headed a cult out of his Westminster home, where Hackerman’s ex-wife, Dulsa Naedek (formerly Debra Hackerman), and their 9-year-old daughter lived:
In addition to acknowledging Caruthers and Lashra as their “Commander” and “Queen,” the cult members including the Defendant worship cats, believe in spaceships, believe that Caruthers and Lashra are able to transport themselves back and forth between Earth and spaceships and other bizarre beliefs for which there is no scientific foundation.
Hackerman argued for immediate, temporary custody of his daughter, Jenna, fearing for her health and safety while in the care of her mother. “Jenna is in training to be the ‘princess’ and is referred to by Caruthers, Lashra and other cult members as ‘our daughter,’” he alleged. “The plaintiff believes that Jenna is being groomed to become a sexual object of Caruthers.” The judge ruled in favor of Hackerman.
Another man, Lewis Dardick, sought and received custody of his three children on similar grounds. “Part of the cult plan is for all members to move into a central compound with Caruthers as the ‘Commander,’” Dardick argued in his custody petition. “It is my strong belief that this will pose extreme danger for the children.”
Bauhof, the lawyer who issued the invitations to the Futureman lunch, represented the ex-wives of both Dardick and Hackerman in the custody cases. Asked about Anderson’s participation at the event, Bauhof gives a forthright reply: “Wouldn’t you think that a project led by Jack Anderson would be credible? He’s an icon. He’s a most credible person—certainly credible, brilliant, and accomplished.”
Exactly. Who would make a better character reference for someone than one of America’s most trusted newsmen, Jack Anderson?
Scott Caruthers not only writes science fiction, allege former acquaintances—he lives it. He started by reinventing his name: Scott Caruthers was actually born Arthur Brook Crothers, in 1945. His father worked for the B&O Railroad. His mother stayed home and tended to lots and lots of cats.
In the past year, first the Baltimore Jewish Times and then the Baltimore Sun published lengthy exposes on Caruthers. Both newspapers depicted him as a charismatic con artist who seems to possess an extraordinary talent for romancing women, business partners, and investors. He also has quite a healthy imagination, reporters Dan Fesperman and Ann LoLordo wrote in their two-part Sun series: “Since age 17, Caruthers has fashioned a far more exotic version of himself. According to dozens of people who’ve met him over the years, he has posed as an astronaut, a war hero, an Air Force test pilot, a CIA agent, a clairvoyant and a space alien.”
Caruthers also fancies himself a successful businessman. After spending his early adulthood drifting through hourly jobs, Caruthers had an epiphany: In 1984, after an accident supposedly sidelined his weightlifting hobby, Caruthers dreamed up an idea for a nongrip exercise dumbbell. He named the bowling-ball-like contraption, which slips onto the hand like a mitten, “Strongput,” and over the next few years, he cultivated several hundred investors for his company, Strongput Inc.
The device would revolutionize the workout world, Caruthers persuaded investors, because it made weightlifting less strenuous and more accessible to, say, arthritic seniors and the mall-walking set. Howard University physical education Professor Marshall Banks even co-authored The Strongput Workout System: Gain Without Pain in 1995, with Caruthers and Naedek.
National publications, including the New York Times and Newsweek, heaped praise on the invention. The Sun reported in 1993 that Strongput would soon appear in GNC stores all over the country, as well as in Jenny Craig and Nordic Track catalogs. “The company projects $400 million in sales over the next four years,” the article quoted Strongput executive Bob Bonnell saying.
But the Strongput investors, who ended up pumping an estimated $2.57 million into the idea, never realized bulging returns—or any profit at all. When Strongput Inc. folded, in 1998, the investors all lost their money, according to a $10 million lawsuit filed by Strongput investors in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City last November.
In the lawsuit, the investors claim that most of their money landed in Caruthers’ pocket or in offshore accounts and companies in which Caruthers had investments. For example, investors later found out that Strongput’s patent belonged not to Strongput Inc. but to DAR Products Corp., according to the lawsuit. And who were DAR Products executives? Caruthers and Pearl, among others, according to the suit. Then, in maneuvers akin to Olympic gymnastics, DAR was acquired in 1996 by Carnegie International Corp. and subsequently spun off to TimeCast Corp., of which Caruthers was also an executive, according to Carnegie International’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Caruthers and Pearl ended up with 792,500 and 645,000 shares, respectively, of Carnegie International stock and were named director and secretary of the corporation. Though originally incorporated under another name as a business involved with solar energy, Carnegie International now says it is an “Internet support and computer telephony holding company.” At one point, right before Carnegie International’s April 1999 listing on the American Stock Exchange, Carnegie International stock was worth more than $6 per share.
But the SEC halted trading of Carnegie International stock on April 29, 1999—a day after the company debuted on the stock exchange—pending an investigation into financial irregularities. On May 5, TheStreet.com’s Herb Greenberg placed Carnegie International in his “Something Smells” department. The company resumed trading on the over-the-counter market last year. As of Carnegie International’s last SEC filing, in November, Caruthers and Pearl are no longer executives. Carnegie International’s stock now trades below 10 cents per share, according to the company’s Web site. Carnegie International shareholders have filed several lawsuits against the corporation. Carnegie International, in turn, blames its accounting firm for its troubles and has filed a $2.1 billion lawsuit against the firm.
The plaintiffs in the Strongput suit cite more than 20 alleged offenses, including conspiracy to defraud, fraud, deceit, and negligence, and claim that
[A]ll of the individual Defendants falsely and fraudulently promoted Scott Caruthers as an astute businessman, inventor, promoter of the company and military hero. In fact all of the Defendants knew or should have known of Caruthers’…poor business and financial history, complete and absolute fabrication not only of his military record, but of his entire life so much so that his entire background was fabricated and his name had been changed with their assistance to cover-up his untoward past.
One of the plaintiffs in the Strongput suit, Kathleen T. Cover vs. Scott Caruthers, is Timothy Hackerman, who invested approximately $45,000 in Strongput. The case bears
a striking resemblance to Hackerman’s child-custody dispute in one respect—the cult allegations. “All the Defendants were engaged in raising money not for the business of Strongput, Inc., but for Caruthers’ personal benefit, for the creation and running of a cult,” the plaintiffs contend.
The case has not yet been assigned a hearing date. Both Caruthers and Pearl, who is also named in the suit, refused to comment to the Washington City Paper on the allegations.
A true muckraker possesses two distinct qualities, Anderson’s mentor and longtime Washington Merry-Go-Round collaborator Drew Pearson professed, according to Anderson’s 1979 book, Confessions of a Muckraker: “an instinct for penetrating the fraud behind men’s pretenses, and a sense of outrage, which, though it must grow weary, is ever resilient.” So how did Caruthers pass through Anderson’s bullshit detector without setting off any beeps?
It’s a question that outrages Doug Cohn, Anderson’s current partner in the newspaper column. Anderson announced a few years ago that he has Parkinson’s disease, yet the column, with his and Cohn’s names atop it, is still distributed by United Feature Syndicate to newspapers across the country.
“You don’t attribute any of [his involvement] to the fact that he’s nearly 80 years old and is seriously ill?” asks Cohn. “Did an elderly public figure do a kindness for [Caruthers]? Yes. But he’s not in any way, shape, or form endorsing Caruthers’ activities.”
“You can nail him for not doing the due diligence,” Cohn adds. “I’ll give you that one.”
Cohn stops short, however, of saying that Anderson was duped. And it would be a hard case to make, because Anderson not only spoke, along with Caruthers, about the Futureman project at the Westminster luncheon but signed the affidavit on Caruthers’ behalf. And he also wrote a laudatory foreword to Caruthers’ self-published book and was a featured guest at an exhibit of Caruthers’ artwork—another of Caruthers’ career incarnations.
Anderson’s son-in-law Peter Bruch first introduced Caruthers to Anderson at an International Platform Association convention more than 10 years ago. Bruch was briefly involved, he says, in the financing and manufacture of Strongput. “My father-in-law would do anything for anybody when asked,” Bruch explains. “[Caruthers] keeps trying to tie himself to him.”
Anderson himself, in a telephone interview, offers a more straightforward explanation of how he got involved with Caruthers: “We both have an interest in space,” he says.
Anderson is the founder of the Young Astronaut program, an international aerospace-education project for children. He pitched the idea in a private chat with President Ronald Reagan in 1982, after noticing his grandchildren’s interest in all things related to space. “All I had to do to get into the Oval Office, I learned, was to tell Reagan’s handlers that I needed to see the president on Young Astronaut business,” Anderson wrote in Peace, War, and Politics. “He would always let me in—even when my column was battering him over the arms-for-hostages debacle.”
Caruthers employed a similar strategy to get Anderson’s attention. He approached the Young Astronaut program in 1999, offering to donate proceeds from sales of his “cyber art”—brightly colored Photoshop-created drawings of space aliens and UFOs—which would be on exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania later that summer. He also invited officers of the Young Astronaut program, including Anderson and director Wendell Butler, to attend the exhibit’s opening and accompanying events. (Butler did not return calls for comment.)
Anderson says he saw no reason to decline Caruthers’ offer at the time. “All I knew was that the University of Pennsylvania had sponsored it, and they had done due diligence,” Anderson says now. “We didn’t attempt an investigation—didn’t have any belief an investigation was necessary—and we didn’t conduct one.”
Caruthers later presented Anderson with a concept for a science-fiction novel. “He came up with a whale of an idea,” Anderson says. “I hadn’t done any novels that were space-oriented. It made sense to do it. I had no reason not to.” Anderson declined to offer specifics about the novel or Caruthers’ idea, saying that he was not at liberty to discuss it.
Beyond his syndicated newspaper column—the Washington Post dropped it in 1997, but the version written with Cohn runs locally in the Common Denominator—Anderson has also become a prolific author of both fiction and nonfiction books. The muckraker’s fiction works, which sport such ominous titles as Control and Zero Time, share a narrative thread involving conspiracies and coverups.
In 1994, Anderson published Millennium, a sci-fi novel about an extraterrestrial who tries to save the human race from itself. The alien’s message? If humanity fails to come to terms with its frailty, the empire will strike back. The alien lands in Washington, D.C.: “Where money meant nothing. And everything….Where character and morals meant nothing. And everything.”
While attempting to deliver his warning to the White House, the alien gets mixed up with young roughnecks, a debutante, government agents, an ambitious young investigative reporter, and her muckraking mentor, Mick Aaronson. In the end, it’s all up to Aaronson, who triumphs and saves the free world. At one point in the novel, a government spy discusses the investigations into unidentified flying objects and other evidence of alien life on Earth:
“The incident at Roswell was the most notorious. Any insider can tell you that the bodies were supposed to have been moved to an air force base in Ohio. But the Pentagon prefers to suppress mysteries it cannot solve. So it swept the strange happenings under the secrecy stamp and discredited anyone who reported a UFO sighting.”
Millennium did not elicit favorable reviews from Anderson’s colleagues in the press corps. “Jack Anderson’s new science-fiction thriller, about a kind-hearted alien who tries to save earthlings from ‘escalating moral decomposition,’ might not be the worst book ever written,” wrote Dwight Garner in the Post. “It’s probably safe to say, however, that it’s the worst book ever published by any writer who has a Pulitzer Prize at home in his or her study.”
Anderson’s interest in extraterrestrials and possible government coverups veered over into his other writings as well. In 1997, the journalist wrote an introduction to Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Facts About UFOs the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know, by U.S. Air Force Capt. Kevin D. Randle (retired). Randle’s book alleges a government conspiracy to conceal information confirming the existence of unidentified flying objects and other evidence of alien life.
The book reads like an educational supplement to The X-Files. “Have we been visited here on Earth by aliens from faraway planets? What is the truth about flying saucers?” Anderson asks in his six-page introduction to the book. “I know a government cover-up when I see one, and I am compelled to say that the Air Force’s handling of the UFO reports has all the earmarks of a cover-up.”
Caruthers shares Anderson’s openmindedness about the possibility of alien contact with our planet. “While I cannot answer on behalf of Mr. Anderson,” Caruthers wrote in one e-mail response to a list of questions from the City Paper, “my own opinion is that in a limitless universe, it would be the height of arrogance to believe that humanity is the only sentient species.” But Caruthers declined repeated opportunities to respond to questions about his business ventures or activities at his home.
On Thursday, June 17, 1999, then-Mayor Ed Rendell proclaimed “Cyber Art Month” in the city of Philadelphia. The mayor presented Caruthers personally with the proclamation, which commemorated his “Awakening” art exhibit opening at the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania.
Caruthers had announced his intention to donate proceeds from sales of his art to the Young Astronaut program as well as to the University of Pennsylvania, because Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine had treated one of his cats. The university reciprocated by hosting Caruthers’ exhibit in one of its galleries.
Caruthers planned a lavish affair. He hired Bruce Nichols’ Museum Events Inc. to coordinate the exhibition and Thursday’s press conference, and Nichols’ Museum Catering Co. to cater Friday night’s gala dinner, which featured a caviar bar, lobster medallions in saffron broth, filet mignon with ginger-plum sauce, and rose-petal ice molds filled with mango sorbet. Caruthers paid for a highway billboard on Interstate 76 to advertise the exhibit. And he hired the public relations firm Tattar Cutler to handle the press. “Caruthers will be hosting a private preview gala on June 18 at the Chinese Rotunda, University of Pennsylvania Museum, where dignitaries like George Bush and celebrities like Rush Limbaugh are expected,” boasted a draft of one press release for Awakening.
Neither Bush—the former president or the current one—nor Limbaugh attended. But many of Philadelphia’s most prominent socialites did, as well as astronaut Gordon Cooper, cosmonaut Leonid Kadenyuk, and Ukrainian politician Oleg Petrov, who is also head of the Ukrainian Youth Aerospace Association, according to coverage of the dinner in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They came at the request of Anderson and Butler, on behalf of the Young Astronaut program.
Anderson spoke kind words about Caruthers at Friday night’s opening party. “‘This makes for a better platform than any amount of political rhetoric—East and West embracing through the artistic, cosmic vision of my friend, Scott Caruthers,’” Caruthers quotes Anderson as saying, in an article about the exhibit posted on Caruthers’ Web site, www.lightspear.com.
In addition to the catering and event arrangements, Nichols says, Caruthers made an unusual request: He asked Nichols to round up local academics to talk with Caruthers and Anderson about a futuristic Web-site project. Nichols expressed hesitation. He said he needed to know more details before he would expend the energy to persuade academics to attend. So, Nichols says, Pearl told him to call Caruthers’ friend Anderson. Pearl gave Nichols Anderson’s home phone number in Potomac.
Nichols says he called and chatted with Anderson for about a half-hour about the project. “Jack was considered to be the guru behind this whole Web-site operation,” says Nichols. “He was the person who could draw in academics—people with credentials.” In the end, Anderson and Caruthers did not meet with the professors because Nichols remained skeptical about the project and didn’t coordinate the brain trust.
At the Thursday press conference in Philadelphia, Anderson stood prominently behind the podium. “[Caruthers] is friends with muckraking columnist Jack Anderson, ‘my mentor,’ and astronaut Gordon Cooper,” explained the Inquirer in an article about the exhibition. “He spoke of a television show in collaboration with Anderson, but offered few details on its content other than that ‘I want it to be OK to put the innocence back into our children and the childishness back into adults.’”
In the introduction to Caruthers’ book about his cyber art, Truth Notes, Anderson was effusive: “The art that reflects Scott’s cosmic vision is—what can I say?—out of this world. I believe you will find the art stunning and his vision inspiring.” Caruthers also praises Anderson in the book’s acknowledgements: “Jack Anderson—who’s tellurian wisdom reminds me that our mortality has a greater goal.”
Caruthers’ pixel-driven works of art—which he claims take hundreds of hours to create—did not overwhelm the critics, however. “[E]ven though intelligent beings probably are out there, the slit-nosed, big-eyed, bald-headed stereotypes recycled here by Caruthers are hard to take seriously,” wrote Philadelphia City Paper reviewer Robin Rice.
Later, after Caruthers failed to pay the bills for the lavish gallery-opening event, Nichols and a few other contractors forced Caruthers into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. According to the bankruptcy filing, Caruthers owes Nichols approximately $230,000 for services rendered. Caruthers owes another $15,000 altogether to the public relations firm and to a photographer as well.
In the child-custody case files of both Hackerman vs. Naedek and Dardick vs. Dardick at the Carroll County courthouse, the defense offered only one document to contradict the statements made by the plaintiffs alleging that Caruthers leads an apocalyptic, cat-worshipping cult at his two-story colonial house on a cul-de-sac in Westminster.
That would be the affidavit signed by Anderson.
My name is Jack Anderson and I am a resident of Bethesda, Maryland. I am a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. I have been a newspaper reporter for 55 years and I have known Scott Caruthers, who is a resident of Westminster, Maryland, for more than ten (10) years….
When I first saw the allegations made…
alleging a celestial based, cat worshipping, apocalyptic cult, I could not suppress a laugh. But, then I realized that the parties making these ludicrous allegations are playing a joke on the Court, and it is my responsibility to explain the facts to the Court.
Anderson says that he did not write the affidavit but that he did make some corrections to the text. “I probably shouldn’t have written one, because I didn’t know him well enough,” Anderson now admits. “He talked me into it.”
Anderson says that he detected something amiss with Caruthers after Caruthers made claims about being involved in a CIA project. Anderson says he checked with sources in the agency, who had never heard of Caruthers. “The red light went on,” Anderson says.
“Yes, of course he regrets having done that,” answers Cohn, when asked about the affidavit. “Subsequent to him doing that, all these things came out about Caruthers. He didn’t know it beforehand. He does not endorse Caruthers’ questionable activities.”
Caruthers still exploits Anderson’s acquaintance, however. Anderson’s name appears on Caruthers’ Web site, which features “Just a Few Words from a Friend by Jack Anderson—America’s most widely syndicated columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.” And Caruthers continues to name-drop the famous muckraker to defend himself. In a letter dated Dec. 18, 2000, to the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland concerning Lewis Dardick, Caruthers writes:
[Dardick] manufactured allegations of cult-like activity at my home that included his former wife, using portions of privileged copyrighted science fiction manuscript material as the basis of his accusations. These allegations harmed my ability to continue with my co-author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jack Anderson, in the publication of a novel already approved by an editor of Saint Martin’s Press.
Though Anderson says that Pearl recently called him, he notes that he no longer has any business with Caruthers.
Caruthers admits that the Futureman project is now defunct. “I haven’t heard of it,” says Lynn Hale, director of communications for Lucasfilm.
And a spokesperson for St. Martin’s Press says he can find no contracts relating to any such book project. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Paul G. Joslin.