28 January 2004. On September 11, 2003 we were contacted by
a "Mary Morrelli" asking us to participate in a televised debate on
the moon landing hoax theory. Her references to "crazy hoax theory
conspirators" and "ridicules [sic] hoax conspirators claims"
seemed unprofessional to us. And conspicuously absent from her
message was any mention of who she worked for or how to get hold of
her except for an anonymous e-mail address.
Frankly it sounded to us like an ambush, so we declined the
invitation and cited discomfort with the format as our reason.
Normally that would have been the end of it. When bona fide authors
or producers find out you don't want to help them, they move on to
greener pastures. But Ms. Morrelli contacted us again to assure us
that the participating conspiracists would be given only a minute to
state their points and we would have plenty of time in which to
respond. We were even given the opportunity to "black-ball" any
conspiracy theorist we didn't want on the program.
Now that sounded too good to be true so we declined again and
heard no more of it. We later learned that Ms. Morrelli had contacted
other Apollo experts at the same time with the same offer. Some of
them had taken her up on it and were negotiating with her the details
of the proposed debate. One of these invitees found an ad for a new
book by Charles T. Hawkins at Authors and
Experts.com. Here is the current entry for the book. But this is
how it read on September 22, 2003:
Charles Hawkins a 41-year-old high-tech
genius, was recently asked by several teen-age kids in his
neighborhood, to help them prove if the America [sic] Moon
Landings were faked. Since then Charlie has spent the last 2 years,
recruiting some of the brightest scientific minds in the world, to
assist him in answering that very question. Together this group of
scientists, geologists, engineers and mathematicians uncovered an
insurmountable amount of NASA evidence, which proves the Moon landings
were indeed faked. The biggest conspiracy of all time, filled with
government corruption and murders to conceal the truth. Charlie has
just completed a 200 page book, documenting all this new
never-before-seen evidence. When his book is releases [sic],
many predict the American Government will be forced to confess to
faking the MOON LANDINGS, the information is it's that good! Can you
imagine the amount of media attention your program will receive, with
an early exclusive? Your audience is simply not going to believe
their eyes and ears; they'll be talking about your show for years to
come. Please note, pre-book release exclusive are [sic]
limited and you must make your request ASAP.
Note that Ms. Morrelli claimed to be the agent for this author -- same
e-mail address and everything. And the questionable grammar in the ad
was similar to the questionable grammar in Ms. Morrelli's letters.
Needless to say we became concerned. Ms. Morrelli had suggested we
would be treated not only fairly but preferentially in her debate.
But while she was placating her invitees she was also apparently
representing a conspiracy theorist author. It seemed to us like a
grave conflict of interest that demanded some answers.
information, please contact Agent "Mary Morrelli"
[withheld by Clavius]
QUICK ACTION AND
In December 2003 Ms. Morrelli informed her pro-Apollo invitees
that the spokesman the conspiracy theorists had selected for the
debate was none other than Charles T. Hawkins. She didn't know then
that her invitees had discovered evidence that she was representing
Mr. Hawkins when she invited their participation. When Bob Braeunig
confronted her with it on 17 December 2003, two things happened.
First, within two days Mary Morrelli's name disappeared from
Mr. Hawkins' Authors and Experts profile page. When we called the
phone number that had been listed along with Ms. Morrelli's name (a
cell phone in Minnesota) we got only anonymous voice mail. The new
contact for Mr. Hawkins was listed as "Brian Wilson", who has no
Second, Mr. Braeunig reports that Ms. Morrelli did not deny her
association with Mr. Hawkings, but explained it away as just a
formality: that she was managing the pre-marketing for all the
participants in the upcoming debate. Since Mr. Hawkins was relatively
unknown, they had to get him some public exposure quickly.
The red flags started flying. It's difficult to believe that the
better-known conspiracists would pass up the opportunity to appear on
national television for free to plug their books and videos. And in
their stead are they really going to send the unknown, untried
Mr. Charles T. Hawkins to represent them and their interests -- and to
plug his book?
Mr. Braeunig said Ms. Morrelli denied any inherent interest in
Mr. Hawkins and explained that she was obligated to act on his behalf
for the purposes of the televised debate. Except that back in
September 2003 the invitees remember being told that she was in charge
of getting together the pro-NASA team, and that someone else -- with
whom she had little contact -- was in charge of the conspiracist's
group. Less and less of Ms. Morrelli's story was adding up.
On 26 January 2004, Ms. Morrelli told us that Mr. Hawkins had yet
another agent, whom she declined to name; but apparently it's
neither herself nor Mr. Wilson. She has declined to explain exactly
what she was doing for Mr. Hawkins back in September 2003 and to
reconcile her conflicting job descriptions in the proposed debate.
We're left in substantial confusion over who really speaks for Charles
PROMPTS HARD QUESTIONS
A little recent Googling produced another "hit":
Here as late as December 2003 Mary Morrelli claimed to be writing a
book herself on the moon hoax. Just what was going on here?
It's alarming enough that the person who offered to represent our
interests was also apparently representing someone else's conflicting
interests. But all of a sudden there was evidence that she had
interests of her own.
Subject:Re: Moon Hoax Book
am trying to writing a book about the moon landing hoax. I was
wondering if you would agree to letting me put your web page example
explaining Tuttles methods in my book. I would be more then happy to
give the author of NASAscam the credit and even add a little story how
he or she made the discovery, if you would like. Thank You, M
Morrerlli PS. I have attached copy of one of the few NASA photos in
existence with Michael J. Tuttle marking on it. I thought you might
like to have a copy, of it to confirm your theory.
The invitees felt obligated to participate in Ms. Morrelli's
debate as agreed, but were understandably concerned over the
escalating evidence of her conflicts of interest. It was clearly time
to question whether Ms. Morrelli was negotiating in good faith.
Mr. Braeunig, acting as spokesman for the invitees, asked her these
and other questions:
- Why didn't Charles Hawkins' name appear on an early list of
candidate conspiracists that Mary Morrelli gave to those who accepted
her offer, even though she was evidently representing him at the time?
- Why did Ms. Morrelli suggest that the selection of Charles
Hawkins as the conspiracist spokesman for the debate was a recent
development as of December 2003, when it was evident that she
represented Mr. Hawkins at least three months prior?
- Why did Ms. Morrelli claim to represent only the pro-Apollo side
of the debate while she was soliciting their participation, but then
claim to represent all the participants after she was asked
about her questionable association with Mr. Hawkins?
- Would Ms. Morrelli certify the intent of her proposed debate as a
fair discussion, and specifically deny any ulterior motive such as
promoting Mr. Hawkins' work or providing "straw man" opponents for
- What is this book Ms. Morrelli claims to be writing?
- Who is Mary Morrelli and for whom does she work?
Although Ms. Morrelli wrote a response, Mr. Braeunig noted that it
did not address the questions. Specifically, the invitees' request
for an "absolute assurance that there will be no effort on the part of
the network or producers to intentionally distort or misrepresent [the
invitees'] views and positions," went apparently unheeded. The
invitees persisted and sent another message reiterating their concerns
and threatening to withdraw from the project if their questions were
not directly addressed.
A week later, Ms. Morrelli assured the invitees she would answer
their questions, but did not provide any answers at that time. After
another week with no promised answers, the invitees withdrew from the
debate. Then some days later Mr. Braeunig received a belated reply
from Ms. Morrelli saying she had been busy and had forgotten to send
the promised answers. Since this was starting to look more and more
like evasion, the invitees concluded that the public should be
informed about Mary Morrelli.
We then decided to take a more active role in obtaining the facts
for ourselves. We contacted Ms. Morrelli to indicate we were willing
to discuss the debate. When she responded, we laid out the evidence
from the web sites and her correspondence with the invitees and
invited her to comment on it for the record.
Abruptly Ms. Morrelli announced that our concerns, which she
characterized as too "sinister" for her employer's comfort, had
prompted them to cancel the debate altogether. She announced that she
had destroyed our letter, and she accused us of threatening to slander
people publicly. Fears over potential lawsuits arising from such
slander convinced them to pull the plug, she said. But if
we're the ones apparently on the verge of committing slander,
why would her comments for the record expose her or her employer to
any liability? If anything, they'd be the victims of such
In response to our questions (see above) she offered nothing
concrete. When asked about the precise nature of her association with
Charles Hawkins she replied only that she had not kept it a secret,
and that if we wished to know who represented Mr. Hawkins we could
find that out for ourselves.
Ms. Morrelli insisted that we didn't know the whole story. Very
well, but the reason for contacting her was precisely to get her side
of it. And Mr. Braeunig and his associates asked for it repeatedly.
If our intent was to defame Ms. Morrelli why would we have contacted
her to solicit her comments in the first place? Why would we have
tried to contact her by phone? It seems everyone is clambering to
hear Ms. Morrelli's side of the story, but now she claims she is "too
busy" to answer questions.
The debate has been cancelled. Mary Morrelli has vanished into
the Internet ether from whence she arose. Shouldn't we just let the
issue die and move on to better things? Perhaps we should, but there
are nagging issues.
Ambush tactics seem to be gaining favor with conspiracy theorists.
It is disturbing when they attempt to win meaningless rhetorical
victories by the underhanded strategy of engaging their critics on
false pretenses or catching them off guard. These authors presume to
safeguard the truth. How is the truth served by trumping opponents on
empty technicalities? The strength of one's argument is how well it
stands up to rigorous criticism, not merely how well it appears
to vanquish a straw man. An author who really believes in his
conclusions should feel confident facing fully-prepared,
accurately-represented critics. Are these authors really as sincere
as they seem?
Suspicion of concerted effort on government's part to distort or
conceal the truth is a common theme in conspiracy literature. The
authors warn us that we "aren't being told the whole story." Given
that type of doomsaying, aren't we justified in wanting to know who
Mary Morrelli works for? Shouldn't we expect these people to be as
forthright with us as they want their government to be with them? We
see a double standard: the conspiracists want us to be suspicious, but
only about the things that make them suspicious. Apparently
we're not allowed to form our own suspicions -- especially about the
conspiracy theorists themselves.
We don't know what Charles Hawkins himself thinks about this Mary
Morrelli business, or even if he knows about it. Frankly we'd like to
hear his opinion. If someone is playing Mr. Hawkins for a stooge, I'm
sure he'd like to know about it. But if Mr. Hawkins knows and
approves of Ms. Morrelli's actions, then this episode indeed casts
doubt on his sincerity. There has even been speculation that "Mary Morrelli", "Brian Wilson",
and "Charles Hawkins" are all one and the same person. If that turned
out to be true, it wouldn't be the first time a conspiracist created a
phantom army. We believe Mr. Hawkins should set the record straight.
The conspiracy theorists ask us to question appearances. They
remind us that not everyone who asks to be believed, ought to be. I
can think of no better application of these principles than to the
case of the elusive Mary Morrelli.
Clavius thanks Robert Braeunig, Jim McDade, Phil
Plait, and Jim Scotti who contributed to this report.