The Magazine

Cynthia McKinney (D-Conspiracy)

From the January 3 / January 10, 2005 issue: She's back.

Jan 3, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 16 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Her father did not. Over and over again, Billy McKinney called Mitnick a "racist Jew." As Slate's Chris Suellentrop noticed, when the New York Times asked Billy McKinney to elaborate on his comments, he simply repeated that Mitnick "is a racist Jew, that's what he is, isn't he?" The controversy over Billy McKinney's comments lasted weeks. Disgraced, he resigned from his daughter's campaign. That year, Cynthia McKinney won 58 percent of the vote.

In 2002, though, thanks to McKinney's interview with Pacifica radio, the tiny streams of anti-McKinney criticism that had been collecting in pools for years turned into a flood. The September 11 attacks were vibrant and terrifying memories when McKinney accused the president of profiting from them. Remember, too, that when McKinney accused the president of being a calculating war profiteer, his approval rating was over 75 percent.

But times change. Two years later, McKinney is still her old self, while the world has become a lot more accommodating to loony theories about President Bush. Apparently her own district is no exception. The 4th District this year was an open seat; Denise Majette, who defeated McKinney in 2002, decided to run for the Senate instead, but McKinney still faced five opponents in last summer's Democratic primary and dispatched them all without a runoff. And while she avoided making any controversial statements, and politely deflected criticism of things she had said in the past, her conspiracism and racialism were still there beneath the surface.

Occasionally they would bubble up. McKinney is defensive about the Pacifica interview, and there are links on her campaign website to two articles by the left-wing BBC journalist Greg Palast that attempt to absolve her of conspiracy-mongering. One of these articles is entitled "The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney." The other is entitled "Re-lynching Cynthia McKinney." Palast writes that McKinney has never actually said President Bush had foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks. Which is true. She hasn't. She's just implied it repeatedly.

What's striking about McKinney's website is that, even as it attempts to "debunk" a variety of "misinformation" about her, it also takes great pains to claim vindication for that same misinformation. There is a link, for example, to "Exposed: The Carlyle Group," a 48-minute documentary that purports to reveal "the depth of corruption and deceit within the highest ranks of our government." There is a link to an article in the South DeKalb County CrossRoads News entitled "Where is Cynthia McKinney During 9/11 Hearings?" in which the author describes being "enraged" that McKinney was not included in the public hearings of the 9/11 Commission, since she "was the only elected official who had the guts" to "bring President Bush's war profiting scheme to the light."

A few links more, and you wind up at McKinney's speech "Democracy Is Under Attack--Let's take it Back." The speech is a sort of lodestone for McKinniacs. It is a rambling series of remarks delivered at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem in July 2003. It is an angry speech. "I can't be calm when I drive through sections of Atlanta that look more like Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, than America," McKinney explains. Yet the speech is notable mainly for the way in which it references McKinney's conspiracy theorist guru, a man named Michael Ruppert.

Michael Ruppert is a former LAPD detective who is best known for his theories on CIA drug trafficking. Those theories--namely, that the CIA was behind the crack cocaine epidemic in America's inner cities--briefly made headlines in mainstream newspapers in 1996, and Ruppert is hoping for a sequel. Since 9/11, he has toured the country discussing how the Bush administration, Enron, Israeli intelligence, the Pakistani ISI, the Saudis, and Osama bin Laden were behind the terrorist attacks. Ruppert's theories are lucrative. Chip Berlet, who studies conspiracism as a senior analyst at Public Research Associates, a progressive group, told me that Ruppert speaks regularly to sold-out crowds.

"As you may know, I'm involved with Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness," McKinney says in her "Democracy Is Under Attack" speech. From the Wilderness is the title of Ruppert's newsletter and website. McKinney probably got the idea that the USS Abraham Lincoln was "really in San Diego harbor" when Bush landed on it in May 2003 from Ruppert. So, too, her idea that Bush and his friends stood to profit from the 9/11 attacks, which she expands upon in another manifesto, the March 2002 "Thoughts on Our War Against Terrorism":