Leslie Cockburn

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Leslie Cockburn
Leslie Corkill Redlich

(1952-09-02) September 2, 1952 (age 67)
EducationYale University (BA)
University of London (MA)
Political partyDemocratic
Andrew Cockburn (m. 1977)
Children3, including Olivia Wilde

Leslie Cockburn (/ˈkbərn/ KOH-bərn born Leslie Corkill Redlich; September 2, 1952) is an American investigative journalist, and filmmaker. Her investigative television segments have aired on CBS, NBC, PBS Frontline, and 60 Minutes. She has won an Emmy Award, The Hillman Prize, Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the George Polk Award.

She was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Virginia's 5th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, losing to Republican Denver Riggleman.

Early life[edit]

Leslie Cockburn (née Leslie Corkill Redlich) was born in San Mateo, California and raised in Hillsborough, California. She is the daughter of Jeanne (Fulcher) and Christopher Rudolph Redlich, a shipping magnate.[1][2] She grew up in a family of hunters and supports gun control.[3]

Leslie attended the Santa Catalina School.[4] She then studied at Yale, entering in the second class of women allowed at the university.[5] She went on to earn a master's degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


Cockburn is a former investigative journalist for NBC, CBS, and PBS Frontline.[3] While living in London, she started working for NBC News. Among her early reports was an interview with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.[6] In 1978, Cockburn moved to CBS. During her career, she covered six wars including the U.S.-directed Contra War against Nicaragua.[3]

Documentary films[edit]

In 1987, Cockburn began producing and reporting documentaries for PBS Frontline in collaboration with her husband, Andrew Cockburn. They created Guns, Drugs, and the CIA (1987), a documentary which claimed the CIA assisted and encouraged drug trafficking.[7][8] In 1990, Cockburn produced and co-wrote "From the Killing Fields" with Peter Jennings and Tom Yellin for the ABC News documentary show Peter Jennings Reporting. The film alleged that the U.S. had covertly supported the Khmer Rouge in its return to power in Cambodia during a genocidal movement responsible for the deaths of millions in the 1970s.[9]

In 1991, she and her husband produced the PBS Frontline documentary The War We Left Behind, which showed the effects of the Gulf War on Kurdish and Iraqi civilians.[10] In 1997, Cockburn conceived and co-produced The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, a thriller positing a terrorist attack on New York City with a stolen nuclear weapon.[11] In 1998, Cockburn served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.[12][13] In 2000, she produced "America's Worst Nightmare," a 60 Minutes report on political instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan and fundamentalist groups linked to the Taliban, a piece that was recognized as "strikingly prophetic" in receiving the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 2001.[14][15]

Dangerous Liaison - The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship[edit]

In 1991, Cockburn and her husband, Andrew, published their first book together on the military and intelligence relationship between the U.S. and Israel after 1948. This book detailed how, over several decades, Israel had served U.S. interests both through espionage operations in the former Soviet Union, as well as covert operations in Central America and other third world regions where the U.S. was loath to intervene directly. The book also detailed Israeli nuclear activities, including U.S, assistance to its bomb-making program and Israeli cooperation with the South African apartheid regime's nuclear weapons program. The book was a national bestseller in the U.S. and Canada. Kirkus Reviews said the book was "no thrown-together post-Gulf product, but an unflinching, fact-packed, closely reasoned exploration of our relations with our strongest ally in the Middle East."[16] The Chicago Tribune said the book "should stand for a long time as the alpha and omega of the relationship between the United States and Israel...the Cockburns present the history in rich detail."[17] Other reviewers in the U.S. attacked the book on grounds that it was critical of Israel, often making their case with selective misquotation of what the book actually said.[18] In Israel itself, the response was more measured.  Haaretz reviewed it favorably at length, calling it "credible" [19] Maariv acquired the serial rights.

American Casino[edit]

In 2009, Cockburn directed and co-produced (with husband Andrew Cockburn) her first feature documentary for theatrical release, American Casino. It follows the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States which led to the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Cockburn and her husband began filming in January 2008, and documented the financial machinations and miscalculations on Wall Street that produced the disaster, and also documented its effects on several Baltimore homeowners struggling to stay afloat. The film premiered at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in April 2009.[20]

Variety described it as a "searing expose of the subprime mortgage crisis (matching) Wall Street's numbers and graphics to the flesh-and-blood individuals whose lives have been devastated by the deliberate machinations of bankers and traders."[21] The New Yorker said it was "a terrific documentary chronicling the subprime-mortgage mess and the financial collapse."[22] The New York Times said it was "a meticulously structured film."[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Cockburn has won The Hillman Prize (1984),[24] the George Polk Award (2010),[25] and the 1991 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, along with Peter Jennings and Tom Yellin.[26] Cockburn's work has received multiple Emmy nominations, and her 1998 documentary Yuri The Great won an Emmy Award in 1999.[27][28][29]

Political career[edit]

United States House of Representative[edit]

2018 election[edit]

Cockburn was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Virginia's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. Cockburn announced her candidacy in July 2017,[30] and secured a large majority of delegates over several rival candidates for the party's nomination in May 2018 at the district Democratic convention to succeed the outgoing Republican representative Tom Garrett.[31]

After winning her party's nomination, she was accused of antisemitism by Republicans and the Republican Jewish Coalition[32][33] in regards to her 1991 book Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship.[34][35] Aaron Davis, political director of the pro-Israel peace PAC J Street, which endorsed Cockburn, called the charges of antisemitism "an absurd smear."[36]

She lost her election bid to her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, in the 2018 general election; Riggleman garnered 165,339 votes (53.2%) compared to Cockburn's 145,040 votes (46.7%) and 547 votes (0.2%) were cast as write-ins.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Cockburn lives in Rappahannock County, Virginia, with her husband, Andrew Cockburn, a journalist and film producer. They married in San Francisco in 1977 and have co-authored several books.[38] They have three children together: Chloe Francis Cockburn (April 3, 1979), Olivia Wilde (March 10, 1984), and Charles Philip Cockburn (January 31, 1993).[39]

Cockburn had two brothers-in-law, the late Alexander Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, and the mystery writer Sarah Caudwell was her half-sister in law. Her former son-in-law was Tao Ruspoli and her current son-in-law is Jason Sudeikis, and journalists Laura Flanders and Stephanie Flanders are her half-nieces by marriage, daughters of her half-brother in law Michael Flanders. Her parents-in-law were Claud and Patricia Cockburn. She has four grandchildren.


  • Cockburn, Leslie (1998). Looking for Trouble: One Woman, Six Wars and a Revolution,[40] Anchor Books, ISBN 0-385-48355-4
  • Cockburn, Leslie (with Andrew Cockburn) (1997). One Point Safe, the True Story of Russian Nuclear Security, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-48560-3
  • Cockburn, Leslie (with Andrew Cockburn) (1991). Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 0-06-016444-1
  • Cockburn, Leslie (1987). Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in Nicaragua, the Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug Connection


  1. ^ San Francisco Chronicle obituary December 20, 2000
  2. ^ https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/REDLICH-Jeanne-Fulcher-2877728.php
  3. ^ a b c Gallorini, Marguerite. "Rep. Tom Garrett's Challengers in the 5th District". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Alumnae in the Arts: Leslie Cockburn '70",
  5. ^ "Learning to do a double flip: From red to blue and from reporter to politician". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  6. ^ Grove, Lloyd. "Leslie Cockburn Is the Only Candidate Who’s Dined With Mick Jagger and Saddam’s Sons", The Daily Beast, July 22, 2017.
  7. ^ Guns, Drugs, and the CIA full transcript PBS Frontline page
  8. ^ Corry, John. "Review/Television; Program Links C.I.A. to Drug Trafic". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Goodman, Walter. "Review/Television; Jennings Says U.S. Helps Khmer Rouge". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  10. ^ Cockburn, Leslie; Cockburn, Andrew; LC Off-Air Taping Collection (Library of Congress); Copyright Collection (Library of Congress) (1991), Frontline., WETA-TV, OCLC 32544497
  11. ^ "gulftoday.ae | Michael Jansen: Leslie Cockburn's brave crusade". gulftoday.ae. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Princeton in the News Article, May 12, 1998
  13. ^ McPhee, John (August 5, 2001). The Princeton Anthology of Writing: Favorite Pieces by the Ferris/McGraw Writers at Princeton University. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691086811.
  14. ^ Carter, Bill. "Broadcasts On Terrorists Win Awards", The New York Times, December 19, 2001. Accessed December 28, 2007.
  15. ^ 2002 duPont-Columbia Awards Recognize Reports on Political Turmoil Among Winners, Article, Columbia News, January 12, 2002, accessed December 24, 2007
  16. ^ DANGEROUS LIAISON by Andrew Cockburn, Leslie Cockburn | Kirkus Reviews.
  17. ^ "The secret agent: a simple tale". Choice Reviews Online. 28 (6): 28–3158–28–3158. February 1, 1991. doi:10.5860/choice.28-3158. ISSN 0009-4978.
  18. ^ Codevilla, Angelo (1992). "A Second Italian Republic?". Foreign Affairs. 71 (3): 146–164. doi:10.2307/20045235. ISSN 0015-7120. JSTOR 20045235.
  19. ^ Malkin, Irad (March 7, 2016). "libations". Oxford Classical Dictionary. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.3676.
  20. ^ "Washington Couple Behind 'American Casino,' a Documentary of U.S. Financial Woes". May 3, 2009. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "American Casino Review - Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie American Casino". April 30, 2009. Archived from the original on April 30, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  22. ^ "Out of the Shadows". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  23. ^ Holden, Stephen (September 1, 2009). "Homeowners Left in the Lurch: a Documentary by Leslie and Andrew Cockburn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "The Hillman Prize Previous Honorees". Sidney Hillman Foundation. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  25. ^ "Another Polk Award For "60 Minutes"". CBS News. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  26. ^ "Winners Announced for Kennedy Awards". New York Times. April 16, 1991. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  27. ^ "PBS, CBS Garner News Emmys". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  28. ^ "20th Annual News Documentary Emmy Awards For Programming Originally Aired in Calendar Year 1998 -Winners" (PDF). Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  29. ^ "Leslie Cockburn". IMDb. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  30. ^ McCaslin, John (July 15, 2017). "Rappahannock resident Leslie Cockburn launches bid for U.S..." Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  31. ^ Hammel, Tyler (May 5, 2018). "Cockburn receives 5th District Democratic nomination". The Daily Progress via roanoke.com.
  32. ^ "Virginia Republican ad accuses Democratic House candidate of hating Israel, America - Jewish Telegraphic Agency". www.jta.org. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  33. ^ Virginia Democrat Faces Charges of Anti-Semitism over Anti-Israel Past, Michelle Moons, Breitbart News
  34. ^ Kaplan, Thomas; Tackett, Michael (May 29, 2018). "Democratic Candidate Who Criticized Israel Faces Charges of Anti-Semitism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  35. ^ Shaw, Adam (May 29, 2018). "As Garrett steps aside, GOP resolves to beat 'anti-Semitic' Dem and Hollywood mom". Fox News. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  36. ^ Davis, Aaron (June 4, 2018). "No, Smearing Democratic Candidates as 'Anti-Israel' Won't Sway Voters". The Forward. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  37. ^ "2018 November General". Results.elections.virginia.gov. January 1, 1980. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  38. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 120
  39. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 120.
  40. ^ "Interview with Leslie Cockburn". Democracy Now!. April 27, 1998. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

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