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The news hounds at CNN/Time sniffed at the blood trail leading from
Arkansas state prisons to the hemophiliac AIDS killing fields of Canada
and found no reason to inquire about the role of former Gov. Bill
You shouldn’t be. CNN is becoming known as the Clinton News Network.
And this latest report — full of errors of omission, rather than
commission — is a perfect illustration of why.
The CNN report was not without some interesting details that help us
sort out the jigsaw puzzle of corruption that permitted the contaminated
prison blood to be sold on the open market in Canada and overseas.
It reported, for instance, that the Arkansas state prison system was
considered so bad through the 1970s that it was actually declared
unconstitutional by federal courts.
“It remains a relic of another era,” reported correspondent David
Lewis. “Guards ride horses on patrol. Prisoners are taken out in farm
wagons each morning to work the fields by hand. Inmates here are not
paid for farm work or most other jobs.”
They were paid, however, for donating blood. And the fact that most
had no other way to earn money for cigarettes and candy, made the blood
donations that much more appealing to inmates.
Worse yet, the CNN report showed, the prisoners themselves helped
administer the program — meaning who got to donate and when was often
subject to bribery, kickbacks and payoffs.
What the Time-CNN report failed to mention even one time was the very
thing that makes the Blood Trail story so volatile — the governor of
Arkansas at the time of this scandal was a man named Bill Clinton.
Believe it or not, his name was never mentioned in the report. And
Clinton’s links with the blood scandal go deeper than just his role as
chief executive of the state and overseer of the prison system.
It was Bill Clinton’s administration that awarded the contract to
Health Management Associates to provide medical care to the state’s
prisoners. The president of the company was, naturally, a long-time
friend and political ally of Clinton and was later appointed by him to
the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. Later, he was among the
senior members of Clinton’s 1990 gubernatorial re-election team.
As part of the deal HMA struck with Arkansas, in addition to treating
the prisoners, the company collected their blood and sold it. Because of
the exploding AIDS crisis, U.S.
regulations didn’t permit the sale of prisoners’ blood within the
country. But HMA found a willing buyer in Montreal, which brokered a
deal with Connaught, a Toronto blood-fractionator, which didn’t know the
source of the supplies. The Red Cross distributed the blood throughout
Canada. Sales continued until 1983, when HMA revealed that some of the
plasma might be contaminated with the AIDS virus and hepatitis. The
blood was also peddled overseas.
In fact, the Arkansas prison blood continued to be sold until 1994,
according to the CNN report, more than a decade after it was discovered
to be a dangerous — often lethal — practice. Arkansas, that bastion
of progressive thinking that gave us Bill Clinton, was indeed the last
state in the union to stop selling prison blood.
Also missing from the CNN report was any mention of Michael Galster,
the medical professional and author who blew the lid off this story with
his novel, “Blood Trail.” He charges HMA officials knew the blood was
tainted as they sold it to Canada and a half-dozen other foreign
countries. He also alleges that Clinton knew of the scheme and thinks he
can prove the president benefited from it financially.
Galster says Clinton organized a payoff plan to various officials,
including a judge, to make sure the blood sales continued. He claims
millions were made from the conspiracy because between 5,000 and 8,000
units of blood were shipped every week from one prison alone. He has
eyewitness reports that inmates were even drawing blood from each other
with dirty needles.
The death toll from this practice — be it the result of gross
negligence or criminal greed — is uncertain. But in the last 16 years,
two-thirds of Canada’s hemophiliacs have been diagnosed with AIDS or
hepatitis. A few have even been able to document that the exposure came
from Arkansas prison plasma.
With all this evidence, with all these questions, it is beyond
astonishing that CNN/Time could produce a report on this topic without
mentioning the name Bill Clinton. But, then again, this is the news
organization that gave us Tailwind.