‘60 Minutes’ Charges Refuted
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“‘60 Minutes’ Charges Refuted,” Ensign, Feb. 1980, 79–80

“60 Minutes” Charges Refuted

In response to an unfair and slanted feature in the CBS-TV program 60 Minutes, Wilford W. Kirton Jr., general counsel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued the following statement:

The CBS Television show 60 Minutes, which was aired throughout the United States on December 9, included a segment about a Utah cherry processor, Garn Baum, who has for several years had an antitrust suit pending against a competing fruit processing plant, a number of individuals, the state of Utah, and two corporations owned by the Church.

Lawyers for Mr. Baum spent more than three years investigating the case and taking sworn depositions of all possible witnesses. On 28 November 1979, a U.S. District Court judge was asked to dismiss the case for the reason that there was no evidence to support Mr. Baum’s action against the Church corporations.

The federal judge listened to the entire argument of Mr. Baum’s lawyer. After the lawyer, with Mr. Baum in attendance, stated that he had no case against the Church corporations, the judge said:

“As I understand it, counsellor, you concede that you’ve been able to discover nothing in the records in reference to the so-called ecclesiastical corporations.”

Mr. Baum’s attorney, who is not a member of the Church, replied: “Yes, Your Honor. I have to be candid. I can find nothing in the depositions which show the requisite matters [essential facts necessary to support a legal claim] as to the two church corporations.”

The above statements of the judge and Mr. Baum’s lawyer were communicated to the CBS-TV producer of the 60 Minutes television program, who refused to use them.

In order to correct the unfairness against the Church in the 60 Minutes TV program, a chronological review of events in the case will be helpful.

1. In 1975, First Security Bank, which held a mortgage on Mr. Baum’s property, obtained a judgment against him and an order to sell the property.

2. Mr. Baum asked Deseret Title Holding Corporation, a Church-owned firm, to buy his property for a specified amount of money. Deseret Title officers made a counter offer which was refused by Mr. Baum.

3. When Mr. Baum failed to meet his obligation to the bank, a sheriff’s sale was conducted. Deseret Title was the only bidder and offered the same amount of money earlier offered to Mr. Baum. This amount was in excess of the amount owed by Mr. Baum to the bank.

4. The bank was paid the amount due and Mr. Baum received the excess money—an amount which he would not have received had Deseret Title not purchased the property.

5. Mr. Baum was granted, by law, a six-month period during which he could redeem his property. He failed to do so within the specified period.

6. After the redemption period expired, the sheriff granted deed to the property to Deseret Title Holding Corporation.

7. Deseret Title allowed Mr. Baum to remain on the property for an additional six-month period and later extended that period several months, at Mr. Baum’s request.

8. In early 1976, Mr. Baum filed the antitrust lawsuit.

9. Mr. Baum agreed, in late 1976, to vacate the premises by 1 February 1977.

10. In March of 1977, Mr. Baum advised that he would never voluntarily vacate the property.

11. A portion of the television report focused on a cherry orchard on the property wherein the trees had died due to a lack of irrigation. The TV reporter said that it was a sin to let the trees die, after stating that it was unclear which of the parties was at fault. He could have easily reported the truth. When representatives of the Church corporations attempted to turn the water in to save the trees, Mr. Baum claimed that he owned the water rights and threatened them with bodily harm if they tried to water the trees. They peaceably withdrew.

12. During the program, much was said to lead viewers to believe that it is impossible to engage lawyers in Utah to accept employment in a case against a Church-owned institution. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the TV reporter had interviewed any number of reputable lawyers in Utah, he would have been told that parties claiming to be aggrieved by Church institutions have no trouble at all in securing highly skilled lawyers to represent them.

13. The television report implied that Mr. Baum has found it impossible to get justice in a federal court in Utah because of the influence of the Church and so is taking an appeal to a Colorado court. This knowingly misrepresents the fact that an appeal of a U.S. District Court ruling in Utah routinely goes to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is situated in Colorado.

These facts were explained to the producers of the CBS-TV 60 Minutes production, who ignored them.