Kaczynskis share their anguish on '60 Minutes'

September 16, 1996|By Mike Littwin

WE GOT WHAT we came to see. David Kaczynski told us last night on "60 Minutes" what it was like to turn in his brother Ted, the alleged Unabomber, to the FBI.

It was hell.

It remains hell.

He's a man in anguish. And hardly anything makes better television than real-life, from-the-gut anguish.

Kaczynski spoke freely of that anguish to Mike Wallace and Leslie Stahl. The program teased with it in the opening. Kaczynski was tortured, he said, by the thought of "how it must feel to him, to be turned in by his own brother." You felt the knife twisting in his heart.

David had vowed we would never see him like this. He had promised to keep his pain to himself and not serve as a spectacle for the voyeurs. He wasn't going to write a book. He wasn't going to tell all to Barbara Walters. He wasn't even going to take the million-dollar reward: blood money.

But there he was last night on "60 Minutes" with his mother Wanda and with his wife Linda Patrik. They told all -- the story from start to finish.

It began, Wanda posited, when Ted was 9 months old and had to spend a week in the hospital by himself. He went in the hospital a happy baby and returned, deprived of his mother, a "rag doll." He was never the same, she said. Never laughed, rarely smiled. He was a recluse before he learned the meaning of the word.

It's a fascinating story of the son and the boy genius, with the 170 IQ, who slowly devolves into madness, who becomes a recluse, who rejects his family, who blames his family, who says he hates his family, who even blames his mother because he's short. Rejection in adolescence, he writes his mother, can stunt your growth.

It's a fascinating story, but, even as I watched, I couldn't help hoping that David Kaczynski had been the one person to resist the media's siren song.

He might have been, too. But he and his family were on "60 Minutes" for a reason. The Kaczynskis want to save Ted's life.

If Ted turns out to be the Unabomber, the family agrees he should be locked up. But they hope his life would be spared. They hope by humanizing Ted, they can better make their case.

"What an awful irony," David said, "if I were to have taken action to prevent further loss of life and it ends up taking my brother's life."

I do wonder, though, how they came upon this campaign. What reporters often do, when faced with a reluctant subject, is to persuade him that his side of the story isn't being told. Certainly in half its show, "60 Minutes" gave the Kaczynskis the opportunity to say whatever was on their minds.

And, so they told. They told of a Ted Kaczynski who became ever increasingly removed from his family.

And they told of David's dilemma. He was worried, he said, not only that he was turning in his brother, but that the news might kill his mother.

Oh, yes, we got anguish, and even a few tears.

It was real. And the hurt was real. And the motive was real, too. And I'm sure it goes even deeper.

There may be, in a twisted way that only families can understand, a kind of penance in this.

And there may be an attempt to reach out to Ted, to let him know that his family, despite everything, still loves him.

It was Linda who first suspected him. One day, she said half-jokingly to David: You've got a screwy brother. Maybe he's the Unabomber.

Then, when the Unabomber's manifesto was printed in two newspapers, she took David to a library to read it. He saw what could have been Ted's fingerprints all over it. You know the story from here: how he called in investigators, how the investigators came to believe it's Ted, how David called in the FBI, how the FBI arrested Ted on his brother's tip.

What you didn't know was the scene between David and his mother, just a half-hour before the FBI came to interview Wanda. David had kept his suspicions from his 79-year-old mother. He didn't want to worry her. And he didn't know how she would take the news of one brother turning in another, especially when both brothers are her sons.

As the story was being told before the cameras, mother and son were holding hands.

Wanda didn't believe Ted was guilty. But she also believed David had done the right thing.

David had done the right thing and the courageous thing and what all of us hope that we could do ourselves.

And then we'd hope that we'd never have to go on TV to talk about it.

Pub Date: 9/16/96

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