U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney Photo:
Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images
the News That Fits the Agenda
The New York Times and other U.S. media distorted the story
of U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, driving her from office and
protecting the Bush administration from tough questions
about Sept. 11, the Florida election fraud, and the Bush
family’s shady friends
you heard about Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. congresswoman
According to those quoted on National Public Radio, McKinney
is “a loose cannon” (media expert) whom “the people of Atlanta
are embarrassed and disgusted” by (politician), and she
is also “loony” and “dangerous” (senator from her own party).
Yow! And why is McKinney dangerous/loony/disgusting? According
to NPR, “McKinney implied that the [Bush] administration
knew in advance about Sept. 11 and deliberately held back
New York Times’ Lynette Clemetson revealed that her
comments went even further over the edge: “Ms. 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.”
That’s loony, all right. As an editor of the highly respected
Atlanta Journal Constitution told NPR, McKinney “practically
accused the President of murder!”
Problem is, McKinney never said it.
That’s right. The “quote” from McKinney is a complete fabrication.
A whopper, a fabulous fib, a fake, a flim-flam. Just freakin’
Lynette. My name is Greg Palast, and I wanted to follow
up on a story of yours. It says, let’s see, after the opening—it’s
about Cynthia McKinney—it’s dated Washington byline August
21. “McKinney’s [opponent] capitalized on the furor caused
by Miss McKinney’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.” Now,
I have been trying my darndest to find this phrase . . .
I can’t . . .
Clemetson, The New York Times: Did you search the
Atlanta Journal Constitution?
but I haven’t been able to find that statement.
heard that statement—it was all over the place.
know it was all over the place, except no one can find it
and that’s why I’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.]
did you confirm this with McKinney?
I worked with her office. The statement is from the floor
of the House [of Representatives]. . . . Right?
did you check the statement from the floor of the House?
mean, I wouldn’t have done the story. . . . Have you looked
at House transcripts?
Did you check that?
did check it?
No such McKinney statement can be found in the transcripts
or other records of the House of Representatives.]
Clemetson: 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 didn’t fake:
The McKinney “quote” 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 McKinney’s mouth.
Nor was it in the Congressional Record, nor in any
recorded talk, nor on her Web site, nor in any of her radio
talks. Here’s the congresswoman’s statement from the record:
Bush had no prior knowledge of the plan to attack the World
Trade Center on September 11.”
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
Months before the 2000 presidential elections, the offices
of Florida Gov. 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
can’t vote in Florida. There was one problem: 97 percent
of those on the list were, in fact, innocent.
They weren’t felons, but they were guilty . . . of not being
white. Over half the list contained names of nonwhites.
I’m not guessing: I have the list from out of the computers
of Katherine Harris’ office—and the “scrubbed” voter’s race
is listed with each name.
And that’s how our president was elected: by illegally removing
tens of thousands of legal African-American voters before
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
Gov. Jeb Bush
the United States, 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
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 can’t say The New York Times always makes up
the news. Sometimes the news just doesn’t make it.
At BBC Television, we had Florida’s computer files and documents,
marked “confidential”—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—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
ChoicePoint, one of the richest, most powerful companies
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 11 seconds
of Gore’s impromptu remarks . . . which we’d been given
two hours earlier by his advance ladies. They wore blue
The man for the Associated Press wrote a lead paragraph
of Gore’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.
we got Al Gore’s 11 seconds and footage of someone in the
crowd saying, “Wow, Al Gore really talked different from
the way Al Gore usually talks,” 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
I can’t remember what I said.
He can’t remember what he said.
No one can remember what we said.
No one should.
Did I mention that (ex-) Congresswoman McKinney is black?
And not just any kind of black. She’s the uppity kind of
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 guy’s got to work. But there were a
couple of questions about Barrick, to say the least. For
example, was Barrick’s Congo gold mine funding both sides
of a civil war and perpetuating that bloody conflict? Only
one congressperson demanded hearings on the matter.
You’ve guessed: Cynthia McKinney.
That was covered in the . . . well, it wasn’t covered at
all in the U.S. press.
McKinney contacted me at the BBC. She asked if I’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: They’d sued the Guardian
for daring to run a story I’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.
New York Times wrote of McKinney that Atlanta’s “prominent
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
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 Web site at Bond’s request).
But that left Atlanta’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 Bush’s former gold-mining
company, the target of McKinney’s investigations? Did I
mention to you that Andy Young and Vernon Jordan are both
on Barrick’s payroll? Well, I just did.
Did the Times mention it? I guess that wasn’t fit
I suppose it’s my fault, McKin-ney’s electronic lynching.
Unlike other politicians, McKinney, who’s earning her doctorate
at Princeton’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, enjoys
doing her own research, not relying on staff memos. She’s
long been a reader of my reports from Britain, including
transcripts of BBC Television investigations. On Nov. 6,
2001, BBC Newsnight ran this report with a follow-up
story in the Guardian the next day:
Wednesday, November 7, 2001
Before 11 September
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 U.S. 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
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.
And so on. There was not one word in there that Bush knew
about the Sept. 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 onscreen a copy of a top-secret
document passed to us by disgruntled FBI agents, directing
that the agency would not investigate a “suspected terrorist
organization” headed in the United States by a member of
the bin Laden family. The FBI knew about these guys before
Sept. 11 (with their office down the street from the hijackers’
The CIA also knew about a meeting in Paris, prior to Sept.
11, involving a Saudi prince, arms dealers, and Al Qaeda.
Although the information was in hand, the investigation
was stymied by Bush’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 Sept. 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-Sept. 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
administration’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,
D.C., seems influenced by the Bush family ties, and Republican
donors’ 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 “loony” 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; it’s on the Web.
Her charge that Bush knew about the Sept. 11 attacks in
advance and deliberately covered it up can’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 Bush’s big arms-industry donors and
business partners. Fair questions. But asking them is dangerous
. . . to one’s political career.
The BBC report that got McKinney in hot water mentioned
the Bush administration’s reluctance to investigate associates
of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which the
FBI secret document termed “a suspected terrorist organization.”
They may be. They may not be. McKinney’s question was only,
why no investigation?
Just after McKinney’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, “There is no extremism in the
defending of the faith.”
So if you listen to U.S. radio and read U.S. papers, you
are told this: Abdullah’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
Ted Koppel’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.
Koppel’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
Hey, if true, then you have to report it. But it wasn’t.
It was a fib, a tall tale, made-for-TV mendacity, polite
liberal electronic cross-burning intellectual eugenics.
Here’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 wasn’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
out your watch,” said the Fox man.
get 90 seconds,” he said. “That’s what you get. You got
an intro, 40 seconds of narration, two sound bites, and
end with a stand-up to camera.”
I repeated, “Forty seconds narrate, two sound bites, stand-up.”
He said, “Two sound bites and a stand-up. Every story. Every
He said, “What do you think?”
I said, “I think I’m leaving the country.”
Greg Palast is an investigative reporter for BBC television
and author of the New York Times bestseller The
Best Democracy Money Can Buy (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.