Comedian Jackie Mason may not even know this but it was a joke he told on the Smother’s Brothers Comedy Hour that led to peace in the Middle East.
It seems a joke Mason told blasting the Vietnam War made the CBS censors nervous. And the joke was clipped from the show before it aired.
Mason was so incensed, he decided to sue CBS. So he went to noted New York lawyer Leon Charney, claiming his First Amendment rights were being violated.
“Leon filed a lawsuit against CBS and it got picked up by the newspapers,” says Elliott Gordon, who was the producer of 200 episodes of The Leon Charney Report, a privately syndicated Dick Cavet-like interview show that focused on government affairs' in the Middle East.
“Charney told me there was an out-of-court settlement and that was pretty much the end of it.”
But it wasn’t. Because a Democratic U.S. Senator from Indiana, Vance Hartke, read the story. Hartke, who was a big proponent of the First Amendment, gave Charney, who died in 2016, a call to lend his support.
“Leon and Hartke hit it off from the start,” Gordon says. “And the senator was so impressed by Leon, he hired him as his attorney to work on things in the Senate.”
Along the way, Gordon says, Hartke, who died in 2003, introduced Charney to Robert Lipschitz, who was a highly regarded attorney in Atlanta. So highly regarded that he represented the then-governor of Georgia in a number of matters. That governor was Jimmy Carter.
When Carter was elected president, he brought Lipschitz to Washington as personal counsel.
“There are people around any president who just can’t reach him,” Gordon said. “But the one person whose call the president will always take is his personal attorney’s.”
As it turns out, Charney was representing Ezer Weizman, an Israeli war hero.
“He was an ace pilot and an architect of Israel’s modern day air force. And he had a book deal going and he wanted Leon to negotiate the deal,” Gordon said.