Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Dale Minami Interview
Narrator: Dale Minami
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Margaret Chon (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 8, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mdale-01-0034

<Begin Segment 34>

MC: Now you mentioned that 60 Minutes was interested in doing a story. What was the national media attention once you, once you filed the petition?

DM: Well, there was, before we filed the petition there was none. Don called up all the bureaus and said, "We have this case involving fraud on the Supreme Court, involving the imprisonment of Japanese Americans." And they would say, "You mean, you mean the prisoners from Japan?" And he'd go, "No, no. These were Japanese Americans who were taken from their homes." He goes, "Oh, you mean war criminals?" He goes, "No, no." These people did not understand. They had no inkling of what happened to Japanese Americans. And it took Don a long time to explain.

So when we did our first press conference Don called ABC and told them, and tried to explain to them and they said, "Well, we're not interested." Called NBC; they're not interested. By now he's really ticked. And he calls CBS and he goes, "You know we have this press conference tomorrow. All the major news are gonna be there, ABC's gonna be there, NBC" -- he's lying now. And they go, "Oh, okay, we'll send a crew." And then he calls up ABC and he goes, "I just thought I'd let you know, CBS and NBC are gonna cover this." "Oh, we'll send a crew." He got everybody there. He lied to everybody and got... and it was just a real object lesson about the news. A lot of the national medias didn't get it. They really didn't get it. There were a few people who got it. A New York Times reporter was just totally on top of it and understood it. Well, you know how that could be in terms of the media. Some get it and some don't. Most people were sympathetic because of the hard... we cast it and we held... we controlled the press so tightly as far as what we'd release, who would be saying what, that it's hard for them to come to any other conclusion from seeing these documents from the government's own files saying, "We're lying to the Supreme Court." I mean, it made it, for a sexy story and it's hard to spin that any other way.

MC: Did, I've seen pictures of photographs of that press conference, and three plaintiffs are sitting -- well, not really plaintiffs, I guess --

DM: Petitioners.

MC: -- they were the petitioners, were sitting in the front row. Did they say anything?

DM: Yes. All of them said. All of them talked and, I remember that was a really moving moment because the Asian Law Caucus was doing a fundraiser and they brought in all three people for the first time. It was the same time... I think it was the same time, yeah, the 60 Minutes crew was there, because they were filming about the same time. So Fred, Gordon, and Min.

MC: So they had not met each other.

DM: The first time they met. And there's a series of pictures that are taken of them. We had a professional photographer take their picture. And the kind of interesting... I saw this, on this film that was done during the course of our case called Unfinished Business by director, guy named, filmmaker named Steve Okazaki, and he was Dennis Hayashi's friend. And he said, "Do you think we should, we could bring in my friend? He's a filmmaker. He wants to film what we're doing." So early on in the case we got, we started getting filmed, what we were doing. We didn't know whether we were gonna win or lose. We don't know what's gonna happen. We had to get waivers on the attorney/client privilege. So he's filming all this stuff all the time. He eventually got nominated for an Oscar but he didn't win 'til next year 'til he did Days of Waiting. But he's a brilliant filmmaker. Anyways, and in that, in that... I saw this just the other day. You could, he's filming people taking pictures of these guys. And there's great, just some great pictures. I don't know where those pictures went. But they were great pictures.

MC: I thought --

DM: And that's the first time they met. I remember Fred did something really funny. This is typical Fred. He went up on stage at the Asian Law Caucus, he says, "I'd like to thank the Caucasian Law Caucus for letting me come here." That's really funny. But at that press conference Fred had just come out of stomach surgery. He had a third of his stomach removed. That's why he looked so, so sick. And we said, "Fred" --

MC: Uh-huh. He does look frail.

DM: "Fred, you don't have to come. You really don't. Don't jeopardize your health." And sure enough, the dude shows up. You know, this is a man who does not want to talk, very shy, almost dying, I saw him in the hospital, almost died. And yet he shows up as sick and weak as he is. Min was himself, thumping the Constitution, saying, "My father gave me this Constitution and in the Constitution men have rights in this country." It was great showmanship. And Gordon gave a very erudite argument about... it wasn't just erudite, it was well-done, 'cause it was very personal about how he was arrested... "I was a student at the University of Washington," in his really soft-spoken way. And Fred just said, "Well, I think what they did to me was wrong." Fred was very simple 'cause he was, he wasn't prepared, really.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.