A former FBI agent who specialized in Tennessee political corruption
and wrote one of the earliest and most positive biographies of Vice
President Al Gore has taken out ads in the Nashville Tennessean
newspaper publicly withdrawing his support from Gore.
Henderson “Hank” Hillin, a 26-year veteran of the FBI and a one-time
sheriff of Davidson County, Tenn. (Nashville), took the extraordinary
step because, as he said in his ads, “I no longer admire the VP, no
longer trust his character or integrity. Al, I mistook your ambition for
leadership. Your struggle with the truth is depressing.”
His 1988 biography,
“Al Gore Jr.: Born to Lead,” was a highly flattering account of Gore’s life leading up to his aborted run for the presidency that year.
Hillin is considered one of the straightest arrows of the “old” FBI, a man committed to law, honesty and ethics. His abrupt turnaround shocked some of his acquaintances, but Hillin talked to WorldNetDaily about why he ran the ads.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Hillin said. “There was just so much of it [Gore's exaggerations].” Gore’s dishonesty, said Hillin, plus revelations of the vice president’s fundraising activities among Chinese groups and his
association with Soviet agent and American
entrepreneur Armand Hammer, made Hillin’s decision for him.
“When Gore took all that money from the Chinese, that was the end of it. One of the last communist powers in the world and here was Gore cozying up to them,” Hillin said. “When I wrote the biographies of Gore Jr., I wasn’t aware of how closely connected he was with Armand Hammer. Hammer was definitely a Soviet agent,” continued the former FBI agent. “I’m not campaigning for anyone. I just feel like he really let me down. I feel like Al has gotten under the influence of bad people.”
And in a blow straight to the heart of Gore’s credibility gap, the ads say, “Sorry, Mr. VP, but Bill Bradley said it first and best: ‘If we can’t trust you as a candidate, then how can we trust you in the White House?’” The ads also take Gore to task for such moves as “flip-flopping on abortion” and his ill-considered tolerance of President Clinton’s ‘immorality’ in the White House.
Hillin led the investigation into the infamous Tennessee pardons and paroles scandal of the late 1970s and ’80s. Aides to then-Gov. Ray Blanton were selling releases from Tennessee state prisons for as much as $10,000 each. The FBI probe resulted in the unprecedented early swearing-in of Blanton’s successor, Lamar Alexander, in 1978, three days before the planned inauguration. Tennessee officials, including current Lt. Gov. John Wilder and then-house speaker (and later governor) Ned McWherter, were afraid Blanton was set to sign another batch of pardons on the eve of his departure from office.
Eventually two top Blanton aides and a high-ranking state trooper were indicted and convicted in the scam. Author Peter Maas wrote a fluff book called “Marie,” detailing the story of Marie Ragghianti, a member of Blanton’s pardons and paroles board, which Frank Capra Jr. filmed in 1985. Hillin himself penned his first book on the case called “FBI: Codename TennPar.” Blanton eventually went to prison, convicted of selling liquor licenses in Davidson County. The pardons and paroles case spawned a federal bid-rigging investigation that resulted in indictments against 249 corporate defendants and 251 individual defendants in 20 states.
After his retirement from the FBI, Hillin began work on an unauthorized biography of Gore in preparation for his run for president in 1988. His book lauded Gore as “America’s most promising and outstanding candidate for national office since President John F. Kennedy.” A rework of the book,
“Al Gore Jr.: His life and
career,” appeared in time for the 1992 campaign.
Hillin’s ads come at a critical time in the campaign for Tennessee, just as Gov. George W. Bush is showing a slight lead in the state. What impact, if any, this major defection will have on the Gore numbers is yet to be seen, but Gore campaign spokesperson Tina Moffat expressed disappointment at Hillin’s decision.
“It’s unfortunate that he feels that way,” she told the Nashville Scene, “but he’s entitled to his own opinion.”