This is the interview Rob Redding conducting with former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, on Friday – June 21, 2002. The conversion took place at a Metro Atlanta grocery store, as part of a promotion for the new, computerized voting machines. This was months before McKinney was defeated in her bid for re-election to congress, by Democratic challenger Denise Majette. It is significant interview because she said she never meant to imply that President George W. Bush had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 or September 11th attacks. This interview was so hard hitting that it was picked up by BET and MSNBC. 

I’ve got, on my left-hand side, as I told you before, the woman The New York Post called, “Spacewoman.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls, “Nutty”; and our Senator Zell Miller, former governor, who of course is supporting her challenger, Denise Majette (with a $1,000 contribution), says is “very dangerous and irresponsible”, “dummer than rock salt, and more repugnant than Arafat’s week-old underwear!” 

Cynthia McKinney: You know what, it just shows you how cruel some people can be to African American people who are only trying to do our job. 

Absolutely. She’s Georgia’s first African American Congresswoman, and the only woman – the only woman - serving in the state’s Congressional Delegation: internationally renowned advocate for voting rights, human rights, and strengthening the economic ties between Africans and African people in the United States…Atlanta native, right? 

Cynthia McKinney: I was born and raised here! 

And of course, a member of the Armed Services Committee and the International Relations Committee: ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Cynthia McKinney! Everybody!! 

The sound of clapping and cheering citizens is heard around the broadcast site. 

Cynthia McKinney’s here! This is great!! 

Cynthia McKinney: Yay!! How’re you doin’ thank you, very much!! I’m fannin’ with my 1380 WAOK fan!! It’s warm out here, but I would certainly like to encourage everybody to come on to Candler Road, Wayfield Foods, and try out these new voting machines!!! Cause we’ve got to vote! Remember, if we don’t vote, we don’t count! But then, you know what, we also have a responsibility to make sure our vote counts!! When you do vote, we must extract from the system, everything that our community needs! If we don’t do that, then it’s our fault! 

Now this is a very important engagement here. Wayfield Foods has been doing this, and I have to give a lot of credit to Wayfield Foods and the NAACP for providing these voter registration machines out here. I think it’s important that African Americans - especially older African Americans, don’t get deterred by just on-site, looking at these new machines. Have you gotten a chance to look at these new machines? 

Cynthia McKinney: I had one chance to look at them; and I’m about to go in and try it again! And make sure that I can have a good set of questions to ask our Secretary of State. Because of course, you know, with what happened to us in Florida, and what happened to us in Georgia – particularly in DeKalb County, at Stoneview Precinct…not only do we want to make sure that we vote, but we want to make sure that our votes are counted! And so, one of the questions that we have to ask and have answered, is the integrity of our vote…when we use these new machines! 

Now, of course, I have a few questions to ask you: I alluded to earlier when I mentioned Zell Miller; and the giving of $1,000 to Denise Majette…do you think that’s a slap-in-the-face from the Democratic Party? How are you taking that? Is it Zell Miller himself, or what do you think about him giving money to Denise Majette? 

Cynthia McKinney: Well, you know…they deserve each other. And thank goodness that we live in a country where people have the freedom to choose who represents them. Of course, today is the first day of summer, the election season for us in Georgia, and the people will have the opportunity to decide! But let me just talk about why it’s so important for us to go and vote; and then, after we vote, to stay engaged in the process! So that our communities reflect the ballot power that we truly have! CNN did a stormy Inside Politics on April 25th; and they asked the question: what would have happened if no blacks had voted in the 2000 Presidential Election. And we know we saw all that was going on in Florida, and how it was critical that George W. Bush win Florida, so he could assume the Presidency! And, if no blacks had voted however, then George W. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes – and Florida would not have assumed the importance it had! But then, let’s look at how the Congress, particularly the Senate, would have looked if no African Americans had voted (thank you!) in 1996, 1998, or the year 2000: Of course, we wouldn’t have Max Cleveland or Zell Miller as our Senators in Georgia…but then, we would not have had as many Democratic Senators as we have today! In fact, the number would drop, from the 50 that we have today, to about 37. 

Good point! 

Cynthia McKinney: Now the question I pose though, because this demonstrates that we have ballot power, why is it that our communities still suffer racial profiling? Racial profiling when it comes to treatment by the judicial system; racial profiling when it comes by the economic system; racial profiling by the cultural system – by the jobs we have…we always get second-best in our communities…why is that? It’s because we’re not extracting from those that we put into power, that which we rightfully deserve! 

We’re not holding their feet to the fire!! You’re exactly right about that. Now, I allowed you for that, now…getting back to the importance of voting…as a matter of fact, you are holding, tonight, a campaign kick-off party. I guess, you’ve officially declared your candidacy today…

Cynthia McKinney: We officially declared today – this morning! 


Cynthia McKinney: Thank you very much! And we’ve got our campaign kick-off party, which we want everybody to come and have a good time at! Now, I know I wasn’t supposed to end that sentence with an “at”, for all the young people; I did go to school and I did attend my English class that day!! 

Yes you did. Now there’s one thing that concerns me: I’ve followed very closely, your September 11th comments, that you said that were taken out of context; and I want to play a piece of the Chris Askew Show, you were on Chris Askew’s show, first…and basically, let me sum up what you said: You said the quotes were a kind of mischaracterization from the media; and from the conservative interests. Do you still stand by that? 

Cynthia McKinney: Oh, absolutely! They have made this gross allegation with the use of the word “plot.” Which I never uttered in any of my op-eds, nor did I utter on the radio interview. What I said that…I asked the question, what did the Bush Administration know, and when did it know it. The Bush Administration includes the Executive Branch of government. The Executive Branch of government includes the FBI, CIA, the National Security Agency…the question is, what information was in the possession of the Administration, and when did they have it? Now, of course, we’re beginning to learn the answers to that question. However, what I did not say was that Bush sat back and let it happen – because he wanted to allow his friends to make money. That’s a cruel twisting…not even of my words, but of what the rightwing, radical talk show hosts wanted to portray, of what I said. 

Just because I want to get this right, I know that you were on Chris Askew’s show; I want to roll cut two – because I have the actual interview out at Berkeley; I want it to just let it speak for itself:

Chris Askew: Since you made those comments, there’s been so much conjecture on what you said, what you didn’t say; what you meant to say…what exactly did you say? Could you set the record straight? 

Cynthia McKinney: Ha-ha. You know, I would absolutely love to set the record straight! There were…forces working inside the media that deliberately twisted my words! I did not say that George Bush knew what was going to happen, let it happen – so his friends could make money. 

Now, cut two: Cynthia McKinney: Interestingly, prominent officials explained to us that September 11th happened to us because we’re free! And they hate us because we’re free! Moreover, persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits, off America’s new war. Former President Bush sits on the board of the Carlyle Group…The Los Angeles Times reports that on a single day last month, Carlyle earned $237 billion, selling shares to United Defense Industries, the army’s fifth largest contractor. The stock offering was well timed: Carlyle officials say they decided to take the company public, only after the September 11th attack. The stock sailed past then, on increased congressional support. A hefty defense spending, including one of United Defense’s cornerstone weapons programs. Now is the time for our elected officials to be held accountable. Now is the time for the media to be held accountable. Why aren’t the hard questions being asked? We know there were numerous warnings. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, delivered one such warning. Those who engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11th knew enough to make billions of dollars, from United Airlines and American Airlines. Certain insurance and brokerage firm stocks, for example…what did this Administration know, and when did it know it? Who else knew, and why did they not warn innocent people up North, who were innocently murdered? 

That…now that sounds like you’re saying someone in the Administration; if not Bush himself, knew. Who are you talking about within the Administration? 

Cynthia McKinney: I was talking about the warnings that were coming in: who was told that? Now we know, that the FBI received warnings; the CIA received warnings; now we know – after all of this furor, that Bush received a briefing in the White House – that there was a possibility of having hijackings. 

So he did know; you’re saying he did know! 

Cynthia McKinney: No, I didn’t say that. What I said was, what did the Bush Administration know, and when did it know it? 

But do you see how people can say from that, that you’re trying to have the best of both worlds; you’re trying to say… 

Cynthia McKinney: No, lemme tell you how this came up; it came up because I wrote two op-eds – one of the op-eds had to do with the war on terrorism; the other had to do with the $48.1 billion increase in military spending. It was in the context of the increase in military spending, that the discussion of the Carlyle Group took place. That was a separate discussion in a separate op-ed that came together at the same time.

So you’re saying that Flashpoint, the people that we received these from, kind of spliced these two together. 

Cynthia McKinney: Well…I’m not say they spliced it together; what I am saying is there were two, separate op-eds. One was an op-ed that I wrote and read on the radio on the air; the other was to have been read on the air as well. There were two separate op-eds for two separate broadcasts. 

Which one does that sound like it’s from; does it sound like it’s from the first op-ed, or the second op-ed? 

Cynthia McKinney: The $48.1 billion that I discussed was from the second op-ed; the first op-ed is from the war against terrorism. What I objected to – was Secretary Rumsfeld came to the House Arms Services Committee – and suggested that America needed to spend $48.1 billion increase in defense spending! The Secretary also went on to say that the mission of the U.S. Military changed; and that the Military should become poised to go into foreign capitals, and overthrow regimes! Of course, I questioned that as well; whether or not they we as a country need to endorse and become involved in, without serious discussion! 

We want to finish up here; because I understand that Ms. McKinney has to go to this campaign kick-off, let’s play cut three, and it will provide more clarity here; cut three – roll it:

Cynthia McKinney: It is clear that America had warning…and did nothing! Did nothing, to protect the lives of the people who serve in our foreign service; and who serve us in other ways in embassies around the world. And now the United States Government is being sued, and we’re going to have to pay for that; as those families are now paying everyday for the loss of their loved ones. There was adequate warning…there were people who failed to act on that warning! And that’s what ought to be investigated. But instead of requesting that Congress investigate what went wrong and why, we had President Bush (painful for me to say that) place a phone to call to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, requesting him not to investigate the events of September 11th. Then, hot on the heels of the President’s phone call, was another phone call, this one from the Vice President – asking also that Tom Daschle not investigate the events that led to September 11th. 

Now that simply sounds like there’s more there than just implying or saying “someone” within the Bush Administration! You’re naming names, there – you’re saying Bush, you’re saying Cheney. You’re saying that they called Tom Daschle; asked him not to investigate. That’s more of a quote than what we actually saw in the press. 

Cynthia McKinney: No, it’s not! The one thing that I get paid to do is to pay attention to what’s happening – and I read the press! If you go to you will see that. That was reported on, and I read the report. Sadly, I did make a mistake. The request from the President came at a meeting in the White House; and I the week before, the Vice President made a call to Tom Daschle. made the report, and The Los Angeles Times made the report about the Carlyle Group profits. So basically, what I have done is to collect all of the mainstream news reports, and put them together, and say, look – we need to investigate all of this. And now, of course, I’m pleased that all my colleagues in Congress have all joined together, and they are saying the same thing, “Wait!! Wait!! Waitaminnit!!” We’ve got CIA agents who are saying, “Oh my goodness you know, we were trying to tell folks, but we weren’t listened to!” We must, the Congress must know what happened so we can stop this from happening again! But even more important, is what we’re doing here today! And let us not 

Ms. McKinney… 

Cynthia McKinney: Let us not lose sight of what we are here doing today. 

We’re here to make sure we hold these people accountable, and that’s what we need to know! The bottom line: do you think Bush orchestrated these attacks? 

Cynthia McKinney: Oh, of course not!! I wouldn’t say that! I never said that, and I never intended to say that!! I would never say that he orchestrated the attack; that’s not what I said! However, what I did say (which I think has been borne out by the facts now), is that were some people asleep at the wheel; asleep at the switch; and we pay a tremendous amount of money, to an intelligence infrastructure that we hope works everyday, and that needs to work everyday – in order to protect us! 

And thank you for coming out and spending your time out with this brand new voting machine; and again, I have to stress and let you have the last word, how important it is, to hold our politicians accountable for what’s going on in Government. 

Cynthia McKinney: Let me say; you mentioned something to me that one day, we may be able to talk about…and that is independent politics! I have a bill before Congress, and it’s called the Voters’ Choice Act. It will give the United States the kind of electoral system that other, particularly newly emerging democracies, have chosen over our own system. Which gives the entire political spectrum the opportunity to not only cast a vote; but also to be represented in the legislative body…that’s very important – that everyone feels that their vote counts, and they have political representation. 

Would you consider becoming an independent, at some point if the backing was there? Given what’s happened in the party after Sept. 11th, and the Al Gore statement, and all the things that have happened in your career? 

Cynthia McKinney: Well you know, what I watched was the treatment of Maynard Jackson, when he ran for Democratic Party Chairman. And, I know that I had the pleasure of introducing him before the Congressional Black Caucus, while he was engaged in that race; and allowing him to have an opportunity to plead his case before the Black Caucus. I thought the challenge was important, because anyone who observes politics today knows that the African Americans and the votes of minorities constitute one of the bases of the Democratic Party. And so, not only is it enough for us to cast a vote; we have to receive a dividend for that vote; so that the people in the community can see that their vote actually does count! So that, they can vote for me and I can go to Washington, and I can get $22 million, so that Candler Road, the street we’re on right now, doesn’t have to be devoid of businesses. And we can get revolving loan funds, so that businesses can spruce up, and look good. This is the gateway to the most affluent African American community in the entire United States, and we have to make it look like that. And that’s the role of the federal government, the state government, and our local government; to work together – so we can get that dividend on behalf of our community! 

Will you bring that dividend as an independent? 

Cynthia McKinney: I would try to bring that dividend no matter what I am! 

So it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a Democrat or not? 

Cynthia McKinney: I accept the words of Michael Moore, who proclaimed in his book, Stupid White Men, that I was his favorite member of Congress, and he hoped I would run for President; and he didn’t say on what party ticket!!