Back in September we began sharing a series of posts from Narco News on their friend, the late journalist Gary Webb and the new movie about his career, released this month, "Kill the Messenger," starring Jeremy Renner.
Narco News founder Al Giordano, in his first essay about his friend and the movie, predicted that the big news outlets that attacked Webb and his ground-breaking work, would be back to defend themselves and bring Webb down once again:
“In the coming weeks we can expect more such panicked response to the Kill the Messenger movie from the same career apparatchiks that smeared Gary Webb to begin with, doubling down on their worn and rusted hatchets.
“Like Wile E. Coyote, they’ll hoist the piano over their heads one last time, and predictably the piano will fall back down upon them.”
And sure enough, in Giordano's latest, with Narco News writer and editor Bill Conroy, that attack came from Washington Post's Jeff Leen, assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's investigations unit. Why would Leen get in on the anti-Webb action?
According to his Oct. 17 essay in The Washington Post, he was there and of course remember all of it very differently than what was portrayed in the move:
I had a ringside seat to the Webb saga. As an investigative reporter covering the drug trade for the Miami Herald, also a Knight Ridder newspaper, I wrote about the explosion of cocaine in America in the 1980s and 1990s, and the role of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel in fueling it.
Beginning in 1985, journalists started pursuing tips about the CIA’s role in the drug trade. Was the agency allowing cocaine to flow into the United States as a means to fund its secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua? Many journalists, including me, chased that story from different angles, but the extraordinary proof was always lacking.
And, of course, lucky for us Giordano and Conroy see it differently:
Poor Jeff Leen had to report to work each day and seek some other path to the Hollywood stardom and millions he thought being a journalist would someday bring him. How many times he sent his resume to the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times while cursing his fate in Miami is a number between him and his god. In his desperate plea for their attention, according to a book by the late Gary Webb, he cooked up a fake idea in his Herald reporting: That Miami was the birthplace of the crack cocaine explosion in the United States. In Miami, a city that would like to be first in something, anything, even crack, they inhaled those fumes eagerly.
Then along came Gary Webb, over on the West Coast, with the documents that proved Jeff Leen’s entire journalistic gambit had been a fraud.
Why are we telling you about this Jeff Leen character? You’ve probably never heard of him or read any his work or, if you did, found it important or memorable, not even during his 17 years at the Washington Post. You might be able to name other Post writers and columnists, including people who’ve been there far less time than Leen. But for good reason, you’ve never heard of this guy.
A few days ago, Leen wrote an opinion column for the Post, a newspaper whose shameful behavior in 1996 is now topic of the major motion picture, “Kill the Messenger.” Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner portrays Leen’s old imaginary nemesis, Gary Webb, and convincingly depicts the latter’s reporting of the most important investigative news story of the 1990s, and the turmoil that engulfed Webb when the big three daily newspapers in Washington, New York and Los Angeles then ganged up to destroy Webb’s career.
Leen apparently burst a spleen when he saw “Kill the Messenger” on the silver screen. There was the late Gary Webb. Although he never made the “millions” Leen said back in 1997 that he aspired to win through journalism, Webb is suddenly occupying the heroic space in Hollywood’s star pantheon that Leen told us in 1997 was his dream to fill. And so Leen took his butthurt grievance to the Washington Post editorial pages last Friday.
“Gary Webb was no journalism hero despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says,” shouted the headline on Jeff Leen’s essay.