Friday, May 21, 2004

Harold Ford and the Reverend Moon

This week's Memphis Flyer has an odd politics short from Jackson Baker, in which he talks with Representative Harold Ford, Jr. about a Reverend Sun Myung Moon event and his purported participation in it.
Only problem: Ford -- one of eight congressmen supposedly honored at the event as an "Ambassador of Peace" -- said categorically he wasn't there, never heard of it, never got any such award, and has never met the Reverend Moon.

Unfortunately, said Ford, public officials' names often get used without their permission.
Which is odd. The event was held on March 23 of this year -- two months ago. What reason is there for putting out this blanket denial statement now? If he hadn't done this, 99% of his constituents would never have known, so what is important enough to make it public now? Is it Baker's deliberately vague and vaporous "and in other media outlets" that covers the problem? What's going on out there?

You can read the original Washington Times story on the event here. This is the relevant passage:
Nearly 90 other religious, civil, political and educational "ambassadors for peace" were cited for their regional efforts. Members of Congress assisting at the event included Sen. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Democrat, Reps. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, Christopher B. Cannon of Utah and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, all Republicans, and Democratic Reps. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Harold E Ford Jr. of Tennessee and Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia.
I found another story which is similarly inconclusive at Alternet, dated May 11th:
On the evening of March 23, a group of the Rev. Moon's powerful political friends gathered at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. There, the Reverend presided over a ceremony presenting "Crown of Peace" awards to a number of honored guests. Seven U.S. Congressmen – Democrats Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Rep. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Harold E Ford Jr. of Tennessee, Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia and Republicans Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, Christopher B. Cannon of Utah, and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania – received "Ambassadors for Peace" awards.
Notice that this story says "awards were presented." You don't have to be present to win. Did this story just work from the Times story without fact-checking and new reporting of its own?

The Alternet story also says:
On his way to becoming a powerful, influential and controversial political figure, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon has developed a special relationship with the Bush family. After supporting Dubya's election through his flagship publication, The Washington Times, the newspaper's foundation sponsored a prayer luncheon attended by some 1,700 religious, civic and political leaders the day before Bush's inauguration. The guest list contained a host of religious right luminaries including the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former National Evangelical Association President Don Argue, Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul Crouch and a host of leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention.
Ford is a staunch Democrat, but he's been known to make overtures to Republicans (He signed a pro-Iraqi War petition with a small group of conservative Republicans before the war was launched.) and is a member of the centrist-y Democratic Leadership Council, President Clinton's organisation that successfully shifted the Democrats to the right and got him elected. Has Ford gotten snared in there somewhere with a Moon-connected group that he now needs to disassociate from?

I found a Moon website that had lots of pictures from the March event, but nowhere can I spot Representative Ford in there, although some commenters on a Moon-watch blog have spotted other Congressmen and a governor there. That page has screen caps from a Moon video that has clips from the March event, which you can find a link to on this FreeRepublic discussion thread. I've tried playing the video, but my Windows Media Player has problems that render it unusable. You might have better luck.

John Gorenfeld has been all over this story from the beginning. John even has a picture of the official event program, listing eight Congressmen, including our Harold. Moe Gorenfeld here and here.

Curiouser and curiouser, as they say. What, if anything, is going on? Why was Ford so bothered as to make a fuss over a decidedly obscure thing? I have sent out some email to see if I can find pictures or some corroboration of Ford's presence at this event, if he did in fact attend.

I had noted and dismissed the Flyer story as an oddity from the Ford-philic Jackson Baker, a long-time Democratic shill. Watching the news locals fawn over Ford is nothing new. Lots of local reporters and commentators have been trying to get in on the ground floor with the rapidly rising Harold Ford, who will be a national political figure for years to come, maybe even a Senator, Cabinet member or Presidential candidate. Who can say? All these locals are locking in future access now.

I figured this was some obscure bit of coverage by Baker until I saw a post from Brock at Signifying Nothing pointing me to John Gorenfeld's website. Thanks Brock! Good catch.

I'll let you know if I learn anything more.

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