We recently stumbled upon perhaps the most noxious video in the history of the Internet--and that's saying something.
It was a segment from MSNBC's Morning Joe, featuring an interview with host Joe Scarborough and Alabama Governor Bob Riley. The whole purpose of the interview apparently was to allow Scarborough to tout Riley as a GOP presidential candidate in 2012. To make the segment particularly nauseating, the cameras at one point panned to show Riley's oily son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley, in the background.
The interview was supposed to be about political issues. But I could not help but think about one thing Scarborough and the Rileys have in common--dead bodies seem to show up in their general proximity.
Scarborough went apoplectic earlier this year when he got into a Twitter face-off with Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos. It started when Scarborough made several sanctimonious Tweets about the story of the Obama White House possibly offering jobs to Congressman Joe Sestak in an effort to keep him out of a U.S. Senate race. Moulitsas fired back with a Tweet that took Scarborough to task and referenced "a certain dead intern."
Scarborough proceeded to allege that Moulitsas had, on several occasions, suggested he is a murderer. Moulitsas replied that he had done nothing of the sort, but had pointed out the media's tendency to tread carefully on sensitive stories about Republicans while providing blanket coverage on similar stories involving Democrats. As an example, Moulitsas cited the wall-to-wall treatment of the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy story.
According to a post from Moulitsas, Scarborough became so unhinged that he persuaded MSNBC officials to ban the Daily Kos founder as a guest on their programs.
Why is Scarborough so sensitive about this subject? Because he does have a "dead intern" problem--sort of. When Scarborough was a Congressman from Florida, Lori Klausutis worked for him as constituent services coordinator; she was a full-time employee, not an intern. Her tenure with the Congressman, however, had an unfortunate ending in summer 2001. Here is how American Politics Journal reported it:
Then, on Friday, July 20th, the body of Lori Klausutis, 28, was found slumped next to a desk on the floor of Florida Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach office where Lori had served as a constituent services coordinator since May, 1999. Her body was found around 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning by a couple arriving for an appointment. She had been dead for some time. A second employee, who would have normally arrived for work at around the same time, was away on vacation. Police cordoned off the area for investigation, later announcing that there was no reason to suspect foul play, nor were there signs of suicide.
What caused Lori Klausutis' death? Here is how the Online Journal reported it:
Lori Klausutis, 28, had been the picture of health and vitality, an avid runner who ran five miles a day. She was highly regarded by friends and co-workers who called her “Little Miss Mary Sunshine.”
On the day Lori Klausutis’ body was found, police denied finding any sign of trauma to the body or any indication of foul play. In an August 6 press release, Dr. Michael Berkland, the Okaloosa County associate medical examiner, acknowledged that there was “a scratch and a bruise” on her head, and said the original denials “were designed to prevent undue speculation about the cause of death.” He declared that the death had been an accident, with the proximate cause a subdural hematoma caused by a blow to the head. The blow to the head, he said, probably happened when Klausutis’ head had hit a desk after she fainted. The fainting, he proposed, was due to a prolapsed mitral heart valve which, he added, would have killed her even had she not fallen and struck her head.
Following this news release, further police investigation was effectively halted. The official
police report contains only a few notes after August 6 pertaining to interviews with the security guard of the building in which Klausutis worked and with employees at a nearby restaurant.
The mainstream press largely has ignored the death of Lori Klausutis. But a few reporters, including lawyer/author Jennifer Van Bergen (writing at Truthout), have taken a serious look at the story and concluded the medical examiner's explanation does not add up. We will examine in future posts the work of Van Bergen and other reporters who have concluded that the head trauma that killed Lori Klausutis probably was not the result of an accidental fall.
Does that mean Joe Scarborough is a murderer? No. But the investigation was handled in a highly irregular manner, raising this question: Did someone with access to Scarborough's office have reason to want Lori Klausutis dead? That is not CT (conspiracy theory). That is a clear question raised upon reading the few serious articles about the case.
What about Moulitsas? An MSNBC official accused him of taking an "ugly cheap shot" at Scarborough and then said the network would take a break from booking him as a guest. But did Moulitsas' reference to a "dead intern" constitute a cheap shot? Not if you read up on the facts surrounding the case. It's a fact that a woman died of head trauma and was found in Joe Scarborough's office. It's a fact that the medical examiner's finding of an accidental death is highly questionable.
If anything, Moulitsas was being charitable to Scarborough. After all, Lori Klausutis was not an intern, the sort who might work part-time on a "come and go" basis. She was a full-time employee, a full-fledged adult, who was close to the entire Scarborough operation.
Some background about the story: Scarborough was divorced in 1999 amid reports that his personal life did not match his conservative rhetoric. In May 2001, five months into his fourth term in Congress, he announced his resignation. Roughly two months later, Lori Klausutis was found dead in Scarborough's office.
Perhaps it is fitting that Scarborough shares a kinship with the Rileys For one thing, he went to the University of Alabama at about the same time as Rob Riley. But consider some of the curious events that have taken place in 2010, as Bob Riley's final term as governor was winding down.
We addressed the issue in a post titled "Suspicious Deaths Are Piling Up on the Political Front in Alabama." The post focused mainly on Ralph Stacy, a former executive with the Business Council of Alabama who reportedly committed suicide at BCA headquarters in Montgomery back in September. The BCA has been a major backer of Bob Riley, and we noted other alarming events:
Is Stacy's death part of a disturbing pattern? It's hard to tell, but we know of at least two (and maybe three) other cases that raise questions:
* Major Bashinsky--The 63-year-old son of one of the state's best-known businessmen was reported missing in early March. About two weeks later, his body was found floating in a golf-course pond on Birmingham's Southside, and his death was ruled a suicide. His father, the late Sloan Bashinsky Sr., was the CEO of Golden Enterprises, the maker of Golden Flake potato chips and snack foods. In the months leading up to Major Bashinsky's disappearance, the Estate of Sloan Bashinsky was involved in a lawsuit with W and H Investments of Birmingham, seeking an accounting of some $37 million the elder Bashinsky had invested with the firm--mostly in oil wells. A settlement was approved in the lawsuit on March 1, two days before Major Bashinsky was reported missing. One of the partners in W and H Investments is William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, who once had a campaign contribution to Bob Riley returned when it was discovered that Hazelrig was a founding partner of a company called Paragon Gaming. Both Hazelrig and Rob Riley, the governor's son, had ties to a company called Crimsonica, which is based in Tuscaloosa and run by a man named Robert Sigler.
* Zoa White--A former Riley campaign worker, the 69-year-old White was found dead in her midtown Mobile home on June 28. News reports have said she was beaten to death with a hammer. White had worked in the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) under Bill Johnson, who went from being a member of the Riley administration to one of the governor's harshest critics. Johnson was so close to White and her family that he helped notify friends about funeral arrangements. Mobile police recently made an arrest in White's murder, but they have said little about evidence found in the case. The prosecution will be led by Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, who is commander of Riley's anti-gambling task force. Suspect Carlos Edward Kennedy has been denied bond in the case and is represented by a court-appointed lawyer.
What about that other possible curious death we mentioned earlier? Suzanne (Pilkerton) Bashinsky-Ash, age 57, died in mid June in Birmingham. She was Major Bashinsky's stepsister and the biological daughter of Joann Bashinsky, who was Sloan Bashinsky Sr.'s second wife and now is director of Golden Enterprises. Associates of Joann Bashinsky were heavily involved in the lawsuit against W and H Investments. The only reporting on Suzanne Bashinsky-Ash's death has been a standard obituary, and we've seen nothing to indicate it was anything other than a natural death. But she was adopted by Sloan Bashinsky Sr., meaning two of his four children died between March and July of this year, within roughly four months of settlement in the W and H Investments lawsuit. The surviving children are Elisabeth Burford Bashinsky and Sloan Bashinsky Jr., a lawyer who lives in Key West, Florida, and has written extensively about Major Bashinsky's disappearance and death at the blog goodmorningfloridakeys.com.
With that as a backdrop, try watching the recent Morning Joe segment at the link below. As you watch Scarborough and the Rileys yuck it up, think about some of the disturbing events that have connections to them and see if it doesn't make your stomach squirm--at least a little bit.
We actually have received reports from multiple sources about another death in Alabama that appears to be mysterious and politically connected. We still are researching that one. But when Joe Scarborough encourages Bob Riley to "do for America what he's done for Alabama," that should send chills down the spine of any human with a functioning conscience.
Bob Riley on MSNBC's Morning Joe