Larry C. Johnson
Larry C. Johnson
Johnson testifying in Congress on July 22, 2005
|Known for||commentator on national security topics; former intelligence officer of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency|
|Title||CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC|
Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group). He is best known for spreading a hoax in 2008 that Republican operatives had a videotape of Michelle Obama complaining about "whitey".
Johnson worked at the CIA for four years as an analyst, then moved to the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. In 1993, Johnson left government work to join the private sector, "going on to build a dual career as a business consultant and a pundit on intelligence issues." He appeared on television programs such as The News Hour and Larry King Live, giving his commentary.
Views and controversies
Early 1990s to 2008
In numerous writings and interviews in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Johnson deemphasized the threat stemming from terrorism. In 1998, he commented on Osama bin Laden, saying that he was possessed by "hatred and craziness." If left unanswered, "he would continue to terrorize Americans around the world. He has no compunction about killing women and children. He's a complete egalitarian in his murderous attitude." In later interviews (1999, 2000), Johnson said Americans exaggerated the threats stemming from bin Laden. In July 2001, two months before the September 11 attacks, Johnson wrote a New York Times op-ed entitled, "The Declining Terrorist Threat," arguing that "terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way."
Johnson became a strong critic of the Bush administration in May 2003 for its conduct of the war in Iraq and, a few months later, for its role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. In a July 2006 post at Daily Kos, Johnson harshly criticized ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer (calling him, among other things, "a vicious little prick") and called Israel's invasion of Lebanon "stupid."
After Robert Novak wrote a column identifying Valerie Plame Wilson (the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson) as a CIA operative, the media invited Johnson to comment on the ensuing scandal because he had been a member of the same Career Trainee class as Valerie Plame Wilson. [need cite]. For example, in October 2003, he appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the Plame affair. He told interviewer Amy Goodman that Valerie Wilson's cover should have been respected whether she was an "analyst" or a "cleaning lady": "if she's undercover she's undercover, period. If the media allows themselves to get distracted with those kinds of curve balls, they ignore the issue."
2008 to present
Michelle Obama hoax
Beginning in 2007, Johnson emerged as a strident opponent of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. His rapid swing from the left to the right earned him the enmity of former allies. According to The New York Times, Johnson is "best known for spreading a hoax... in 2008 that Michelle Obama had been videotaped using a slur against Caucasians". His blog, NoQuarterUSA, often criticized Obama's qualifications to be president. On May 16, 2008, Johnson posted an item entitled, "Will Barack Throw Mama From the Train?" which alleged that a tape existed of Michelle Obama "railing against 'whitey' at Jeremiah Wright's church." Johnson claimed that Republicans were in possession of the tape and it "is being held for the fall to drop at the appropriate time." In a subsequent post, Johnson claimed that Obama's appearance had occurred when she was on a panel with Louis Farrakhan. He also explained that he himself had not seen the tape, but had spoken with "five separate sources who have spoken directly with people who have seen the tape." The Obama campaign's "Fight the Smears" website denied the rumor, saying, "No such tape exists. Michelle Obama has not spoken from the pulpit at Trinity and has not used that word."
No tape was ever released, nor has any other evidence emerged of Obama using the word "whitey". On October 21, 2008, Johnson said that, according to one of his sources, the McCain campaign "intervened and requested the tape not be used."
War crime accusations against John Kerry
In 2013, Johnson falsely accused John Kerry of war crimes in Vietnam, alleging that Kerry had "raped some poor Vietnamese woman." To support his claim, Johnson used a YouTube video that contained audio clips from a 1971 debate on The Dick Cavett Show between John Kerry and John O'Neill. The original interview audio was altered to piece together words that Kerry spoke at different times during the debate, falsely making it sound as if he said, "I personally raped for pleasure." When the falsehood was exposed by a reader of Johnson's blog, Johnson deleted the article without apology.
Allegations that British intelligence wiretapped Donald Trump
In March 2017, Andrew Napolitano spread the unfounded conspiracy theory that GCHQ, one of Britain's top intelligence agencies, had wiretapped Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign on orders from President Obama. Johnson was the source for Napolitano's claim. The conspiracy theory was later asserted as fact by President Trump, with him citing Fox News and Napolitano. GCHQ responded, stating that the claims were "nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored". Fox News later disavowed the statement by Napolitano.
- Grynbaum, Michael M. (2017-03-17). "Fox's Andrew Napolitano Stirred the Pot for Trump's British Tempest". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- David Weigel, Larry Johnson's Strange Trip, The American Prospect (June 23, 2008).
- Gail Russell Chaddock, "Why Terrorists Pick On the French," Christian Science Monitor (5 December 1996) p. 1.
- Larry Johnson, "Terrorists Among Us," New York Times (20 August 1996) p. A19.
- Larry C. Johnson, "The Declining Terrorist Threat" The New York Times 10 July 2001: A19.
- Lee Michael Katz, "The Hunt for Bin Laden," USA Today (21 August 1998) p. 1A.
- "Interviews - Larry C. Johnson - Hunting for bin Laden".
- "NO QUARTER: GETTING IT RIGHT ON THE TERRORIST THREAT". 30 January 2008. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Qtd. in Toby Harnden, "CIA 'pressure' on al-Qa'eda chief," The Daily Telegraph 5 March 2003: 16.
- Qtd. in Nicolas D. Kristof, "Save Our Spooks", The New York Times 30 May 2003:A6.
- Ex-CIA official Blasts Bush on Leak of Operative's Name: Democrats' Radio Address Focuses on White House Aides' Role CNN July 23, 2005, accessed November 21, 2006.
- Democracy Now! (3 October 2003) Archived 10 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Johnson, Larry (16 May 2008). "Will Barack Throw Mama From the Train? [Update Two] - NO QUARTER USA NET". Archived from the original on 5 October 2011.
- Johnson, Larry (2 June 2008). "Michelle Obama and Louis Farrakhan Take On Whitey - NO QUARTER USA NET". Archived from the original on 3 October 2011.
- "Organizing for Action".
- Johnson, Larry (21 October 2008). "Whitey Tape, API, Phil Berg, and Andy Martin - NO QUARTER USA NET". Archived from the original on 22 October 2008.
- "John Kerry, Rapist and Liar", No Quarter
- Transcript of 1971 debate between John O'Neill and John Kerry on The Dick Cavett Show
- Video of 1971 debate between John O'Neill and John Kerry on The Dick Cavett Show (part 1 of 6)
- "John Kerry, Rapist and Liar" Archived 2013-09-08 at Archive.today, No Quarter, now removed
- Napolitano, Andrew (2017-03-16). "Did Obama spy on Trump?". Fox News. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
- "Man behind Michelle Obama and John Kerry hoaxes at centre of GCHQ row". The Independent. 2017-03-18. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
- "Britain's GCHQ agency denies wiretapping Donald Trump". BBC News. March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- Bearden, Milt, and Larry Johnson. "A Glimpse at the Alliances of Terror." The New York Times 7 November 2000: 29.
- Iraq and the War on Terror. Frontline PBS. Online featured programs. Accessed 19 November 2006.
- Johnson, Larry C.. "The Declining Terrorist Threat." The New York Times 10 July 2001:A19.
- –––. "The Myth of Terrorism, Part Deux." No Quarter (personal blog) 2 July 2006, accessed 19 November 2006.
- –––. "Setting the Record Straight on Iraqi Terrorism," posted in Booman Tribune: A Progressive Community (personal blog) 27 January 2003. Accessed 19 November 2006.
- –––. "Stories by Larry C. Johnson." AlterNet. (Indexed archive with hyperlinks.) Accessed 20 November 2006.
- –––. "Vindicated At Last, Thank You General Barr" posted in Sic Semper Tyrannis (blog of W. Patrick Lang) 11 April 2019.
- Olbermann, Keith. "'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 25: Read the transcript to the Tuesday show." Guests: Larry Johnson, Greg Mitchell, Rick Klein, Jerry Della Femina, Paul Mooney. Countdown with Keith Olbermann MSNBC 25 April 2006. Transcript posted on MSNBC on 26 April 2006. Accessed 19 November 2006.
- Schmitt, Gary. "Meet Larry Johnson: The CIA official Turned Democratic Spokesman Has a Pre-9/11 Mindset." Daily Standard (blog) 25 July 2005. Accessed November 20, 2006.
- York, Byron. "NR/Digital: The Media: Mr. Counterterrorism Guru: He Says He’s Not, But Others Say He Is." National Review Online 5 June 2006. Accessed 19 November 2006.