Charles C. Thompson II is a network news veteran, both as a founding producer of ABC's "20/20" and as Mike Wallace's producer at
CBS's "60 Minutes."
An experienced print journalist, Tony Hays' recent 20-part series on narcotics trafficking received an award from the Tennessee Press Association.More ↓Less ↑
SAVANNAH, Tenn. — In this city of some 6,000 residents, reports are
running riot of planned violence and lawsuits against one of the authors
of a WorldNetDaily article and local sources quoted in it.
According to reports, a top Tennessee fundraiser for Vice-President
Al Gore, named in a
recent WND story, has threatened to sue “everybody that made statements” for the piece.
The article alleged that Clark Jones, a Savannah car dealer and longtime Gore friend and supporter, had killed a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation narcotics probe in Hardin County, Tenn. The recent threats — which local officers take seriously — appear designed to convince WND sources to retract their statements. However, not one has done so.
“Anybody can threaten a lawsuit or even file one,” said WorldNetDaily Editor Joseph Farah. “Winning on the evidence is another story. In our stories from Tennessee, not one material fact has been challenged by anyone. I think that speaks for itself. It seems to me some people involved in this story are more interested in bullying tactics and intimidation than in the law and truth. As a news organization, we’ve seen plenty of that in the last eight years. It doesn’t surprise us one bit that we’re seeing it now, following the explosive reporting on the political machinations and corruption associated with friends and associates of Al Gore in Tennessee.”
According to Savannah police officers, Tony Hays, one of the authors of the WND article, has been followed on numerous occasions since last April when word spread that he and co-author Charles C. Thompson II were working on the story. His local movements have been monitored periodically by Tennessee Highway Patrolman Tony Barham, a close friend and associate of Clark Jones. One area resident said publicly at the Tollhouse restaurant in front of a deputy sheriff that the Joneses [Clark and his brother Charlie] were going to “give Tony Hays an ass-whupping.” When questioned later, the witness said he couldn’t remember where he heard it, “but it’s just what I’d expect from the Jones brothers.” He denied any connection with the Joneses.
Contacted at his Savannah car dealership, Jones, who raised $100,000 for Gore in 1999, vehemently denied any truth to the rumors of physical violence.
“Those stories are absolutely false,” said Jones. “I would never do anything like that. That’s just not me.” The car dealer said, regarding the proposed lawsuits, “we’re going to wait and see how the chips fall.”
Jones has demonstrated convenient lapses of memory in the past. When WND reporters asked him if he was acquainted with anyone in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Jones denied knowing anybody at the law enforcement agency. Later, however, Jones acknowledged that he and his brother were questioned by then-TBI agent and now Director Larry Wallace in a brutal 1980 double murder. According to sources close to that case, the Jones brothers were believed to have been the last ones to see the murder victims, and the defendant in the case, Eddie “Ace” Davis fired a pistol while intoxicated at the Jones Motor Company. Jones has also referred to hearing from “my friends at the TBI.”
New details have also emerged on the 1980 arson that demolished the Jones Motor Company lot, reported in an earlier WND article. In that piece, it was revealed for the first time that a state tax auditor had arrived in town the day previous to the fire to inspect the dealership’s tax records because of suspicions that the Joneses were underpaying their sales taxes. The acknowledged arsonist was Junior Ray Sweat, a violent career criminal who once lived with the Jones’s mother and was closely connected to them up until the time of his death in July 1999, after being arrested in the largest methamphetamine lab ever discovered in Tennessee. Sweat, who suffered from chronic heart disease, was inexplicably denied his medication while in the Jackson-Madison County, Tenn. Jail. He died of heart failure about six weeks after his arrest.
A source close to the 1980 investigation now has revealed that Sweat admitted to investigators that he and Gary Wilson, currently a sales manager with Jones Motor Company, burned the office.
“Yeah, me and Gary burned it,” he said, “but I’ll never give you anything on the record. They’d [the Joneses] kill me if I did.” Vital forensic evidence was contaminated shortly after that during a break-in at the state crime lab in Nashville. Investigators were unable to charge Sweat with the arson, although he was later arrested and convicted on numerous counts including arson and drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Alexander, publisher of the Decatur County Chronicle, which is running all the WorldNetDaily articles, was contacted by Savannah attorney Curt Hopper, acting for Clark Jones, in an attempt to prevent the Chronicle from publishing the article about Jones in its October 3 edition. Hopper referred to “serious unsubstantiated allegations,” but did not detail which allegations were considered serious or how their substantiation was lacking. Alexander published the story as scheduled.
Gore is now slipping behind George W. Bush in recent Tennessee polls published by the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. The paper cited a dramatic slippage in the western third of the state. The slide began two or three weeks after the WND series began appearing.