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Letters

NEW AGE FRAUD OF THE MONTH

Open your eyes, Dan Kapelovitz. The reason one is asked to remove one’s glasses before receiving the blessing and embrace of Amma [A Considerable Town, “Embraceable You,” July 2–8] should be obvious even to someone who barely passed their PSATs — she hugs thousands in a single meditative sitting and could easily be injured by a person’s spectacles, particularly those of the myopic lightweight who phoned in his little New Age Fraud of the Month rundown. You don’t really need a hug, dear boy; you need a slap — from God. Then maybe you’ll be forced to find another outlet for your absurdities. You’ll go back to school awhile, or live with Mom and Dad. No doubt they will hug the shit out of you — you won’t even have to take a number.

—Bruce Wagner Los Angeles

PHANTOM ABORTION

Howard Blume’s story on Larry Flynt’s apocryphal tale of the Bush abortion [“The Texas Abortion Tango,” June 18–24] is misleading and underinformed. In my capacity as Flynt’s editorial director, I was in charge of the Texas abortion investigation. I hired and directed the reporters who met with the woman Blume’s article refers to as “Susan.” Her story was that in 1971 she had overheard an incoming phone call at the apartment of her then-boyfriend, “Clyde,” which, according to Susan, was an urgent request for Clyde to arrange an abortion for George W. Bush’s girlfriend. Susan further stated that she had visited the putatively pregnant girlfriend in the hospital on the night before the then-illegal procedure.

Our reporters confronted the Bush woman’s current husband with the abortion allegation. After conferring with his wife, the husband denied that there had been any abortion.

The story might have ended there, since the narrative lacks the all-important accuser-victim component, but we flew Susan out to Los Angeles. I arranged for a lunch at the Daily Grill. Under direct questioning, it became clear that Susan had never heard the word abortion used by anyone involved in the 1971 hospitalization incident. Clyde had never told Susan that George W. had impregnated a girl. Clyde never told her that an abortion was requested or on the way. Furthermore, Susan admitted that the hospitalized woman had never said to her, or to anyone she knew — at any time in 1971 or since — that she was pregnant or having an abortion.

The notion of abortion apparently came to Susan pretty much on her own accord.

The abortion investigation was halted not because “the researchers finally told Flynt they could take the investigation no further,” as L.A. Weekly readers are led to believe. The operation was scuttled because the lone source had revealed herself to be a less-than-credible liability. Her belief in the abortion scenario may have been buttressed by her desire to collect a payment that she hoped to receive from Flynt for going public with her charges. Susan was negotiating for a quarter-million dollars.

L.A. Weekly’s account, rather than examining the credibility of Susan as a witness, fails to mention her monetary motivation.

There is no George W. Bush abortion story. Blume wrongly claims that the Flynt team “got tantalizingly close to documenting such an episode.” By Blume’s own reporting, every lead turned into a dead end, and every single firsthand witness — doctor, patient, best friend — unequivocally denied that any abortion had taken place. “None of the major figures were talking,” says one of Blume’s anonymous investigators. A cursory reading of Blume’s article reveals that, in fact, at least three key figures were talking loud and clear. Too bad we didn’t want to hear what they were saying.

The only thing the Flynt team “got tantalizingly close to” was to completely deluding ourselves. Perhaps some of us have stepped over that line into willful denial. In dropping hints to various news hounds about a possible Bush abortion but not naming Susan, Larry Flynt avoided paying Susan her six-figure sum.

If, as Blume believes, “the alleged events of 1971 do say something about the privileges and purview of Bush and his family,” then the recent allegations romantically linking Senator John Kerry to a former female aide might quite as justly be presented as saying something about the privileges and purview of Kerry and his family. Can we agree that this is an absurd and weakly thought-out fallacy?

At Hustler, I didn’t run that Bush abortion story four years ago when I had the chance. Now I am writing partially because I don’t want Larry Flynt to suspect that I am one of the unnamed contradictory sources in Blume’s article. Flynt should know that anything I have to say, I’m willing to sign my name to.

—Allan MacDonell Los Angeles

Blume replies: MacDonell was, for many years, the editor of Flynt’s Hustler magazine. Flynt says he replaced MacDonell as editor for reasons unrelated to the Bush investigation. The two parted on bad terms. Still, Mr. MacDonell was well-situated at the time to reach his own conclusions about the Bush abortion probe — and there’s no disagreement that, ultimately, the investigation failed to deliver proof. Just to be precise, while the alleged Bush girlfriend flatly denied that there ever was an abortion, other alleged firsthand witnesses had a variety of reactions. Some involved in the investigation believed in the credibility of “Susan” based on their repeated contacts with her and also on their collection and review of supporting circumstantial evidence that Mr. MacDonell declines to mention. On the issue of payment to Susan, the article does, in fact, note that Flynt was willing to pay up to $1 million to tipsters. Everyone agrees that Susan had hoped to be paid by Flynt, and that, in the end, her tip could not be sufficiently corroborated. At one point, before Flynt got involved, an attorney with ties to Susan tried to interest a publication — which had no ties to Flynt — in the alleged abortion story. The attorney’s goal was apparently just to get the story out. Paying for the story was never part of that discussion.

CORRECTION

In the Considerable Town article “Burning Desire” [July 9–15], the Rock Rose Gallery was incorrectly referred to as the Rose Rock Gallery.

 

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