The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney
Have you heard about Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman?
According to those quoted on National Public Radio, McKinneyâ€™s â€œa loose cannonâ€ (media expert) who â€œthe people of Atlanta are embarrassed and disgustedâ€ (politician) by, and she is also â€œloonyâ€ and â€œdangerousâ€ (senator from her own party).
Yow! And why is McKinney dangerous/loony/disgusting? According to NPR, â€œMcKinney implied that the [Bush] Administration knew in advance about September 11 and deliberately held back the information.â€
The New York Timesâ€™ Lynette Clemetson revealed her comments went even further over the edge: â€œMs. McKinney suggest[ed] that President Bush might have known about the September 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.â€
Thatâ€™s loony, all right. As an editor of the highly respected Atlanta Journal Constitution told NPR, McKinneyâ€™s â€œpractically accused the President of murder!â€
Problem is, McKinney never said it.
Thatâ€™s right. The â€œquoteâ€ from McKinney is a complete fabrication. A whopper, a fabulous fib, a fake, a flim-flam. Just freakinâ€™ made up.
Hi, Lynette. My name is Greg Palast, and I wanted to follow up on a story of yours. It says, letâ€™s see, after the opening -- itâ€™s about Cynthia McKinney -- itâ€™s dated Washington byline August 21. â€œMcKinneyâ€™s [opponent] capitalized on the furor caused by Miss McKinneyâ€™s suggestion this year that President Bush might have known about the September 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.â€ Now, I have been trying my darndest to find this phrase . . . I canâ€™t. . .
Lynette Clemetson, New York Times: Did you search the Atlanta Journal Constitution?
Yes, but I havenâ€™t been able to find that statement.
Iâ€™ve heard that statement--it was all over the place.
I know it was all over the place, except no one can find it and thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m concerned. Now did you see the statement in the Atlanta Journal Constitution?
[Note: No such direct quote from McKinney can be found in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.]
And did you confirm this with McKinney?
Well, I worked with her office. The statement is from the floor of the House [of Representatives].... Right?
So did you check the statement from the Floor of the House?
I mean I wouldnâ€™t have done the story. . . . Have you looked at House transcripts?
Yes. Did you check that?
You did check it?
[Note: No such McKinney statement can be found in the transcripts or other records of the House of Representatives.]
I think you have to go back to the House transcripts.... I mean it was all over the place at the time.
Yes, this is one fact the Times reporter didnâ€™t fake: The McKinney â€œquoteâ€ was, indeed, all over the place: in the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and needless to say, all the other metropolitan dailies--everywhere but in Congresswoman McKinneyâ€™s mouth.
Nor was it in the Congressional Record, nor in any recorded talk, nor on her Website, nor in any of her radio talks. Hereâ€™s the Congresswomanâ€™s statement from the record:
â€œGeorge Bush had no prior knowledge of the plan to attack the World Trade Center on September 11.â€
And I should say former Congresswoman McKinney.
She was beaten in the August 2002 Democratic primary. More precisely, she was beaten to death, politically, by the fabricated quote.
Months before the 2000 presidential elections, the offices of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris ordered the removal of 90,000 citizens from the voter rolls because they were convicted felons . . . and felons canâ€™t vote in Florida. There was one problem: 97 percent of those on the list were, in fact, innocent.
They werenâ€™t felons, but they were guilty . . . of not being white. Over half the list contained names of non-whites. Iâ€™m not guessing: I have the list from out of the computers of Katherine Harrisâ€™ office -- and the â€œscrubbedâ€ voterâ€™s race is listed with each name.
And thatâ€™s how our President was elected: by illegally removing tens of thousands of legal African American voters before the race.
But you knew that . . . at least you did if you read the British papers -- I reported this discovery for the Guardian of London. And I reported again on the nightly news. You saw that . . . if you live in Europe or Canada or South America.
In the USA, the story ran on page zero. Well, let me correct that a bit. The Washington Post did run the story on the fake felon list that selected our President -- even with a comment under my byline. I wrote the story within weeks of the election, while Al Gore was still in the race. The Post courageously ran it . . . seven months after the election.
The New York Times ran it . . . well, never, even after Katherine Harris confessed the scam to a Florida court after she and the state were successfully sued by the NAACP.
So, I canâ€™t say the New York Times always makes up the news. Sometimes the news just doesnâ€™t make it.
At BBC Television, we had Floridaâ€™s computer files and documents, marked â€œconfidentialâ€ -- stone-cold evidence showing how the vote fix was deliberately crafted by Republican officials. Not a single major U.S. paper asked for the documents â€“ not from the state of Florida nor from the BBC. Only one U.S. Congressperson asked for the evidence and made it public: Cynthia McKinney of Atlanta.
That was her mistake.
The company that came up with the faux felon list that determined the presidency: a Republican-tied database company named â€œChoicePoint,â€ one of the richest, most powerful companies in Atlanta.
Before I started with the BBC in London, I took a one-day television training course with the Washington correspondent for Fox News.
We filmed Al Gore. Specifically, we filmed the eleven seconds of Goreâ€™s impromptu remarks . . . which weâ€™d been given two hours earlier by his advance ladies. They wore blue suits.
The man for the Associated Press wrote a lead paragraph of Goreâ€™s impromptu remarks one hour before Al walked in and said them. The network reporter copied down the AP lead line. I copied down the AP lead line.
After we got Al Goreâ€™s eleven seconds and footage of someone in the crowd saying, â€œWow, Al Gore really talked different from the way Al Gore usually talks,â€ we set up in front of the hotel where Al Gore talked. The important network reporter looked sternly into the camera and spoke in a very important voice. I squinted into the camera and spoke in a very important voice.
I canâ€™t remember what I said.
He canâ€™t remember what he said.
No one can remember what we said.
No one should.
Did I mention to you that (ex-)Congresswoman McKinney is black? And not just any kind of black. Sheâ€™s the uppity kind of black.
What I mean by uppity is this:
After George Bush Senior left the White House, he became an advisor and lobbyist for a Canadian gold-mining company, Barrick Gold. Hey, a guyâ€™s got to work. But there were a couple of questions about Barrick, to say the least. For example, was Barrickâ€™s Congo gold mine funding both sides of a civil war and perpetuating that bloody conflict? Only one Congressperson demanded hearings on the matter.
Youâ€™ve guessed: Cynthia McKinney.
That was covered in the . . . well, it wasnâ€™t covered at all in the U.S. press.
McKinney contacted me at the BBC. She asked if Iâ€™d heard of Barrick. Indeed, I had. Top human rights investigators had evidence that a mine that Barrick bought in 1999 had, in clearing their Tanzanian properties three years earlier, bulldozed mine shafts . . . burying about 50 miners alive.
I certainly knew Barrick: Theyâ€™d sued the Guardian for daring to run a story Iâ€™d written about the allegations of the killings. Barrick never sued an American paper for daring to run the story, because no American paper dared.
The primary source for my story, an internationally famous lawyer named Tundu Lissu, was charged by the Tanzanian police with sedition, and arrested, for calling for an investigation. McKinney has been trying to save his life with an international campaign aimed at Barrick.
That was another of her mistakes.
The New York Times wrote about McKinney that Atlantaâ€™s â€œprominent Black leaders -- including Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP and former Mayor Maynard Jackson -- who had supported Ms. McKinney in the past -- distanced themselves from her this time.â€
Really? Atlanta has four internationally recognized black leaders. Martin Luther King III did not abandon McKinney. I checked with him. Nor did Julian Bond (the Times ran a rare retraction on their website at Bondâ€™s request). But that left Atlantaâ€™s two other notables: Vernon Jordan and Andrew Young. Here, the Times had it right; no question that these two black faces of the Atlanta Establishment let McKinney twist slowly in the wind -- because, the Times implied, of her alleged looniness.
But maybe there was another reason Young and Jordan let McKinney swing. Remember Barrick? George Bushâ€™s former gold-mining company, the target of McKinneyâ€™s investigations? Did I mention to you that Andy Young and Vernon Jordan are both on Barrickâ€™s payroll? Well, I just did.
Did the Times mention it? I guess that wasnâ€™t fit to print.
I suppose itâ€™s my fault, McKinneyâ€™s electronic lynching. Unlike other politicians, McKinney, whoâ€™s earning her doctorate at Princeton School of Diplomacy, enjoys doing her own research, not relying on staff memos. Sheâ€™s long been a reader of my reports from Britain, including transcripts of BBC Television investigations. On November 6, 2001, BBC Newsnight ran this report with a follow-up story in the Guardian the next day:
Wednesday, November 7, 2001And so on. There was not one word in there that Bush knew about the September 11 attacks in advance. It was about a horrific intelligence failure. This was the result, FBI and CIA/DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) insiders told us at BBC, of a block placed on investigations of Saudi Arabian financing of terror. We even showed on-screen a copy of a top-secret document passed to us by disgruntled FBI agents, directing that the agency would not investigate a â€œsuspected terrorist organizationâ€ headed in the US by a member of the bin Laden family. The FBI knew about these guys before September 11 (with their office down the street from the hijackersâ€™ address).
Probes Before 11 September
Officials Told to 'Back Off' on Saudis Before September 11.
FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the US before the terrorist attacks of September 11. US intelligence agencies have come under criticism for their wholesale failure to predict the catastrophe at the World Trade Centre. But some are complaining that their hands were tied.
FBI documents shown on BBC Newsnight last night and obtained by the Guardian show that they had earlier sought to investigate two of Osama bin Laden's relatives in Washington and a Muslim organisation, with which they were linked.
The CIA also knew about a meeting in Paris, prior to September 11, involving a Saudi prince, arms dealers, and al Qaeda. Although the information was in hand, the investigation was stymied by Bushâ€™s intelligence chiefs. This is what McKinney wanted investigated.
Why were the Saudis, the bin Ladens (except Osama), and this organization (the World Assembly of Muslim Youth) off the investigation list prior to September 11, despite evidence that they were reasonable targets for inquiry? The BBC thought it worth asking; the Guardian thought it worth asking -- and so did Congresswoman McKinney. Why no pre-September 11 investigations of these characters?
And what was the reason for the block? According to the experts we broadcast on British television, it was the Bush Administrationâ€™s fanatic desire to protect their relations with Saudi Arabia -- a deadly policy prejudice which, according to the respected Center for Public Integrity of Washington, DC, seems influenced by the Bush family ties, and Republican donorsâ€™ ties, to Saudi royalty. McKinney, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, thought the BBC/Guardian/Observer investigation worth a follow-up Congressional review.
According to NPR, her â€œloonyâ€ statement was made on the radio news show Counterspin. (Not incidentally, Counterspin is produced by an NPR competitor, the nonprofit Pacifica Radio Network.) I have the transcript; itâ€™s on the web. Her charge that Bush knew about the September 11 attacks in advance and deliberately covered it up canâ€™t be found.
What can be read is her call for a follow-up on the revelations from the BBC and USA Today on the information about a growing terror threat ignored by Bush . . . and whether the policy response -- war, war, war -- was protecting America or simply enriching Bushâ€™s big arms industry donors and business partners. Fair questions. But asking them is dangerous . . . to oneâ€™s political career.
The BBC report which got McKinney in hot water mentioned the Bush Administrationâ€™s reluctance to investigate associates of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which the FBI secret document termed â€œa suspected terrorist organization.â€ They may be. They may not be. McKinneyâ€™s question was only, Why no investigation?
Just after McKinneyâ€™s defeat, the courier of Osama bin Laden's latest alleged taped threat against the United States was busted in Africa: He was on the staff of WAMY. Shortly thereafter, Prince Abdullah, the Saudi dictator, invited WAMY leaders to his palace and told them, â€œThere is no extremism in the defending of the faith.â€
So if you listen to U.S. radio and read U.S. papers, you are told this: Abdullahâ€™s protector and godfather, George W. Bush, is sane and patriotic, and McKinney, who wants to investigate these guys, is a loony and a traitor. Got it?
Ted Koppelâ€™s Nightline did a kind of follow-up to the BBC elections story. Our BBC team discovered that of the 180,000 votes never counted in the Florida 2000 presidential race, a sickeningly disproportionate number came from black counties. In Gadsden County, where more than half the population is black, one in eight ballots was marked "spoiled" and, thus, never counted.
Koppelâ€™s team got on the case, flying down to Florida to find out why thousands of black votes were never counted. They talked to experts, they talked to important white people, and Koppel reported this: Many blacks are new to voting and, with limited education, have a difficult time with marking the sophisticated ballots. In other words, ABC concluded, African Americans are too fucking dumb to figure out how to vote.
Hey, if true, then you have to report it. But it wasnâ€™t. It was a fib, a tall tale, made-for-TV mendacity, polite liberal electronic cross-burning intellectual eugenics.
Hereâ€™s the real scoop: All races of voters make errors on paper ballots. But in white counties like Leon (Tallahassee), if you make a stray mark or other error, the vote machine rejects your ballot, and you get another ballot to vote again. But in black counties like Gadsden, you make a mistake and the machine quietly accepts and voids your ballot.
In other words, it wasnâ€™t that African Americans are too dumb to vote but that European American reporters are too dumb to ask, too lazy to bother, too gutless to tell officialdom to stop lying into the cameras.
Back in the edit room with Mr. Washington Network TV Reporter, we were ready to bake the cake, the Gore story. We had all the ingredients.
â€œTake out your watch,â€ said the Fox man.
â€œYou get 90 seconds,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s what you get. You got an intro, 40 seconds of narration, two sound bites, and end with a stand-up to camera.â€
I repeated, â€œForty seconds narrate, two sound bites, stand-up.â€
He said, â€œTwo sound bites and a stand-up. Every story. Every time.â€
He said, â€œWhat do you think?â€
I said, â€œI think Iâ€™m leaving the country.â€
Greg Palast is an investigative reporter for BBC television and author of the New York Times bestseller, â€œThe Best Democracy Money Can Buyâ€ (Penguin/Plume 2003). This article is based on his contribution to the compendium, "Abuse Your Illusions," released this month by Disinformation Press. Oliver Shykles, Fredda Weinberg, Ina Howard, and Phil Tanfield contributed research for this report.