With Clint Eastwood’s new film, "Richard Jewell," one of the most tragic and disgraceful chapters in the FBI’s long and troubled history comes rushing back into America’s collective consciousness, and draws eerie parallels to our current political moment.
On Thursday, Ned Ryun, the founder of American Majority, shared a video on Twitter of Richard Jewell’s opening statement when he testified before a congressional subcommittee on crime in 1997, and smartly compared Jewell’s experience to today’s impeachment process directed against President Trump.
Jewell was testifying that day to the mistreatment and abuse he suffered at the hands of federal law enforcement and the American media in the case of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Jewell went from anonymity to celebrity when he became a national hero for spotting a suspicious package at the epicenter of the Summer Olympic grounds in Atlanta in 1996. Jewell was working as a security guard and upon spotting the package he alerted law enforcement and helped to begin clearing the area.
When the bomb went off, two people were killed in the blast, and more than 100 were injured. Were it not for Jewell and his courage in helping to clear the area, those numbers would have been much higher.
Jewell’s hero status didn’t last long.
Without a clear suspect for the bombing, lazy and corrupt FBI agents decided that it would make sense to pin the incident on Jewell. How convenient was it, after all, that he had found the device and been able to make himself a hero? This terrorist FBI spin was gladly seized upon by the mainstream media, including CNN, making Jewell America’s most notorious villain.
It was only after his life was painfully destroyed that Jewell was finally cleared of the crime. On July 30, 1997, one year after the event, Jewell got his moment to speak before Congress and tell his story. Jewell’s words that day should send a chill down the spine of any decent American who has watched in real-time the results of a corrupt FBI under James Comey, Bruch Ohr, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page.
As in the Jewell case, the media has joined in by buying every lie fed to it by law enforcement, but also by embellishing and making up their own lies. While Jewell’s case is even more personally tragic than is the president’s, at least he didn’t have the U.S. House of Representatives also fabricating stories about his guilt.
Consider Jewell’s opening statement to Congress: "One year ago today, the FBI and the media joined together to launch an attack on me of unparalled proportion in the history of this Nation, an attack calculated to betray me to the world as some type of abnormal person with a bizarre employment history who was guilty of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. It was all a lie."
It's striking, and frankly terrifying, how many of Jewell’s sentiments could just as easily be expressed today by President Trump in the context with the Mueller investigation and the Ukrainian farce.
Jewell added: "I am also here to ask you to commit yourselves and the resources of this committee to a legitimate investigation into the very disturbing questions raised by the FBI investigation of me — unanswered questions that will remain unanswered unless an objective third party investigates the FBI and the Justice Department's conduct."
Jewell was the original advocate for investigating the investigators! The striking parallels of Jewell’s testimony to our current moment continue: "Who leaked to the media confidential information about me contained in the sealed search warrant affidavits? ... And the leaks were carefully selected to only provide information to the media which appeared to be prejudicial to me. It was not enough to just leak my name — law enforcement officials leaked information clearly calculated to bolster the idea that I was the bomber. The media attributed most of those leaks to high ranking officials in Washington. Who were these people?"
Jewell might as well be talking about the FBI’s handling of the FISA warrants and their selective use of the press in spinning the story.
After his congressional testimony, Jewell’s name was largely forgotten until it resurfaced with a blip in 2007 with the news of his death at the age of 44. Jewell died too young as a result of complications of his diabetes. If stress and a “broken heart” can exacerbate the effects of chronic illness, certainly the sham FBI investigation and subsequent media pile on contributed to his death.
Now the name Jewell is back and with a vengeance. Clint Eastwood tells the whole story, names the villains, and makes a definitive statement as to how corrupt the unholy alliance between crooked cops and corrupt media can be when they go after the innocent.
Jewell as a person was a sympathetic figure. Trump, with his relentless use of Twitter and his constant counterpunching, is not. That said, no human being deserves to be treated by our nation the way that Jewell was treated, and that includes Trump. Weaponizing law enforcement and unleashing defamatory tabloid journalism upon any individual is unacceptable whether it is aimed at a private citizen or a public figure.
In 1996, the government and the media were hoping Richard Jewell would give up and confess to something he didn’t do. He didn’t. In 2019, the same groups have the same hopes regarding President Trump.