Leslie Cockburn

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Leslie Cockburn
Leslie Corkill Redlich

(1952-09-02) September 2, 1952 (age 69)
EducationYale University (BA)
University of London (MA)
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1977)
Children3, including Olivia Wilde

Leslie Cockburn (/ˈkbərn/ KOH-bərn; born Leslie Corkill Redlich on 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.

Cockburn 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 University, entering in the second year that women undergraduates were admitted to the university.[5] She went on to earn a master's degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the 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 that 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 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]

External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Leslie and Andrew Cockburn on Dangerous Liaison. C-SPAN, September 1, 1991.

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.[citation needed] Kirkus Reviews said it 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 U.S. reviewers attacked the book on grounds that it was critical of Israel, often making their case with selective quotations.[citation needed] In Israel, the response was more measured. Haaretz reviewed it favorably at length, calling it "credible".[citation needed] Maariv acquired the serial rights.[citation needed]

American Casino[edit]

External video
video icon Q&A interview with Leslie and Andrew Cockburn on American Casino. C-SPAN, January 3, 2010.

In 2009, Cockburn directed and co-produced (with her husband) 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 its effects on several Baltimore homeowners struggling to stay afloat. The film premiered at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in April 2009.[18] Variety called it 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."[19] The New Yorker said it was "a terrific documentary chronicling the subprime-mortgage mess and the financial collapse."[20] The New York Times said it was "a meticulously structured film."[21]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Cockburn has won The Hillman Prize (1984),[22] the George Polk Award (2010),[23] and the 1991 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, along with Peter Jennings and Tom Yellin.[24] Her work has received multiple Emmy nominations, and her 1998 documentary Yuri The Great won an Emmy Award in 1999.[25][26][27]

Political career[edit]

Cockburn was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Virginia's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She announced her candidacy in July 2017,[28] and secured a large majority of delegates over several rival candidates for the nomination in May 2018 at the district Democratic convention to succeed the outgoing Republican representative, Tom Garrett.[29]

After winning her party's nomination, she lost to Republican nominee Denver Riggleman in the general election; Riggleman garnered 165,339 votes (53.2%) to Cockburn's 145,040 (46.7%). 547 votes (0.2%) were cast as write-ins.[30]

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.[31] They have three children together: Chloe Francis Cockburn (April 3, 1979), Olivia Wilde (March 10, 1984), and Charles Philip Cockburn (January 31, 1993).[31] She has four grandchildren.

Her parents-in-law were Claud and Patricia Cockburn. 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. Journalists Laura Flanders and Stephanie Flanders are the daughters of her half-brother in law Michael Flanders.



  • Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in Nicaragua, the Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug Connection. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987.
  • Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship. with Andrew Cockburn. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. ISBN 0060164441.
  • One Point Safe: The True Story of Russian Nuclear Security, with Andrew Cockburn. New York: Doubleday, 1997. ISBN 0385485603.
  • Looking for Trouble: One Woman, Six Wars and a Revolution. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. ISBN 0385483554.[32]
  • Baghdad Solitaire (novel). Los Angeles, CA: Asahina & Wallace, 2013. ISBN 978-1940412009.

Book contributions


  1. ^ "Obituary: Christopher Redlich". San Francisco Chronicle. December 20, 2000.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Redlich, Jeanne Fulcher". San Francisco Chronicle. February 5, 2002.
  3. ^ a b c Gallorini, Marguerite. "Rep. Tom Garrett's Challengers in the 5th District". WMRA. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Alumnae in the Arts: Leslie Cockburn '70". Santa Catalina School.
  5. ^ Fisher, Marc (September 24, 2018). "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 (July 22, 2017). "Leslie Cockburn Is the Only Candidate Who's Dined With Mick Jagger and Saddam's Sons". The Daily Beast.
  7. ^ "Guns, Drugs, and the CIA (full transcript)". PBS Frontline. May 17, 1988.
  8. ^ Corry, John (May 17, 1988). "Review/Television; Program Links C.I.A. to Drug Traffic". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Goodman, Walter (April 26, 1990). "Review/Television; Jennings Says U.S. Helps Khmer Rouge". The New York Times. 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, ISBN 9780751523744, OCLC 32544497
  11. ^ Jansen, Michael (June 4, 2018). "Leslie Cockburn's brave crusade". Gulf Today. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Merriman, Ann Lloyd (May 3, 1998). "Between The Bookends". The Richmond Times Dispatch – via Princeton in the News.
  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. Leslie Cockburn Ferris Professor of Journalism Princeton University
  14. ^ Carter, Bill (December 19, 2001). "Broadcasts On Terrorists Win Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
  15. ^ "2002 duPont-Columbia Awards Recognize Reports on Political Turmoil Among Winners". Columbia News. January 12, 2002. Retrieved December 24, 2007.
  16. ^ "Dangerous Liaison by Andrew Cockburn & Leslie Cockburn". Kirkus Reviews. June 1, 1991.
  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. ^ "Washington Couple Behind 'American Casino,' a Documentary of U.S. Financial Woes". The Washington Post. May 3, 2009. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  19. ^ "American Casino Review - Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie American Casino". Variety. April 30, 2009. Archived from the original on April 30, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Out of the Shadows". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "The Hillman Prize Previous Honorees". Sidney Hillman Foundation. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  23. ^ "Another Polk Award For "60 Minutes"". CBS News. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  24. ^ "Winners Announced for Kennedy Awards". The New York Times. April 16, 1991. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  25. ^ "PBS, CBS Garner News Emmys". CBS News. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  26. ^ "20th Annual News Documentary Emmy Awards For Programming Originally Aired in Calendar Year 1998 -Winners" (PDF). Emmy Online. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  27. ^ "Leslie Cockburn". IMDb. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  28. ^ McCaslin, John (July 15, 2017). "Rappahannock resident Leslie Cockburn launches bid for U.S..." RappNews. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  29. ^ Hammel, Tyler (May 5, 2018). "Cockburn receives 5th District Democratic nomination". The Daily Progress – via Roanoke.com.
  30. ^ "2018 November General Election". Government of Virginia. January 1, 1980. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  31. ^ a b Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Vol. 1 (107th ed.). Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. p. 120.
  32. ^ "Interview with Leslie Cockburn" Democracy Now!, 27 April 1998. Audio available. Archived from the original.

External links[edit]