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 ↑
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
supervisor in charge of the 1974 arrest of a black city councilman has
revealed to WorldNetDaily that the investigation was phony, designed to
aggrandize young Al Gore’s reputation as an ace investigative reporter
working for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, while ruining the
reputation of an innocent man.
The former agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he
still feared for his life from “the same clique of people who are behind
Al Gore.” This agent has a legendary reputation among older and retired
TBI agents for candor and bravery.
“He’s the real thing. If he tells you something, then you can bank
on it,” said John Carney, who headed the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Carney also said this
supervisor played a major role in apprehending then-Tennessee Gov. Ray
Blanton for selling pardons, paroles and liquor licenses during the
According to the case supervisor and other former agents, the TBI was
investigating alleged corruption — namely, widespread solicitation and
acceptance of bribes in return for zoning concessions — on the part of
members of the Metro Council.
However, Nashville was a loose-lipped, incestuous town 30 years ago,
and the TBI secret investigation of the council quickly leaked to John
Seigenthaler, editor of the Tennessean. Word of the probe also leaked to
two council members — Avon Williams, a black council leader who was a
particular favorite of Seigenthaler’s, and Mansfield Douglas, another
black council member — as well as to Gilbert Merritt, a young attorney
who would be appointed at the age of 28 to be U.S. attorney in
(Merritt’s legal career later skyrocketed, largely through his
political wheeling and dealing. He went on to be named a U.S. District
judge in Nashville and a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge in
Cincinnati. He was also on President Bill Clinton’s short list to be
appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A friend of Al Gore’s family for
most of his life, he was known affectionately as “Buddy” by Albert Gore
Council member Douglas was delegated to alert the entire 42-member
council about the state law enforcement agency’s sting operation. This
discussion allegedly took place at Seigenthaler’s home where the
participants watched a Super Bowl Game. Douglas, a well-respected Metro
Council member, refused to talk with WorldNetDaily.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents assigned to the Metro
Council case said they were aware that their investigation had been
compromised. They also said they were sure Al Gore knew that all the
potential targets on the commission had been tipped off.
Nevertheless, Gore told Seigenthaler that he had the makings of a
spectacular investigative news story involving bribery of a Metro
At the time, Gore, who was considered a mediocre writer and reporter
by other staff members at the paper, was by all journalistic standards
uniquely unqualified to handle such a sensitive story. At
Seigenthaler’s insistence, Gore had attended a two-week-long seminar on
investigative reporting at Columbia Journalism School in New York in
1972. That was about the sum total of his journalism education, and he
had very little on-the-job experience.
According to “Gore: A Political Life,” by former ABC News reporter
Bob Zelnick, Gore claimed he had been approached by a wealthy Nashville
land developer, Gilbert Cohen. (Cohen had previously leaked secret
information to Gore about police misbehavior while Cohen was foreman of
the local grand jury. That was a clear violation of criminal law, but
Gore and The Tennessean were still grateful for the tidbits.)
Cohen told Gore that Morris Haddox, a popular, young African-American
Metro Council member, who also owned a pharmacy, was shaking him down
for $1,000 to secure a construction permit. Gore wanted to wire Cohen
and send him in with some of the alleged extortion money to entrap
The TBI agents, knowing full well that Haddox and all the other Metro
Council members had been tipped off, wanted nothing to do with the
operation. Seigenthaler then leaned on his lifelong friend, District
Attorney General Tom Shriver, for help. Shriver, who had once been a
Tennessean copy boy, held TBI’s and the Metro Police’s feet to the fire
and had them go along with Gore’s scheme.
Wearing a wire, Cohen met Haddox with a $300 down payment on the
bribe. Haddox told prosecutors that he had been tipped in advance about
the attempted entrapment and was merely holding the $300 (which had been
supplied by the Tennessean) to turn it over to the police. The paper and
the prosecutors held the story while they attempted to sort out problems
with their evidence. For one thing, the tapes were virtually inaudible.
The African-American community was outraged, charging the case had
been a political “scenario” written by Seigenthaler and Gore. And there
was another matter: Haddox and Williams were political opponents who
were expected to run against each other in an upcoming state senatorial
race. Seigenthaler supported Williams over Haddox, and as a result of
the indictment, Haddox was forced to leave the race, his reputation
ruined for many years, while Williams was elected.
The first trial ended in a mistrial. Haddox was acquitted in a
retrial a month later. His attorney, William C. Wilson called the case,
“the meanest, vilest, sneakiest method of law enforcement.”
“It was John Seigenthaler’s way of making his boy, Al Gore, into a
hero, but it backfired,” said the TBI supervisor who participated in the
Haddox sting. “However, it dragged a man’s life through the mud for 26
years, and that’s a crime.”
“I don’t hate Al Gore,” Haddox told WND. “I’m probably going to vote
for him. I just wish he’d be more open about saying that he was sorry
for what he did to me.”
Shortly after these crushing verdicts by two juries, Gore turned in
his investigative hat. He took a leave of absence from the paper and
began a course of study at Vanderbilt Law School, which he never
finished. He also wrote editorials part-time for the Tennessean.
But that wasn’t the end of Gore’s version of what happened during his
days at the Tennessean. When Seigenthaler called Gore in 1976 and
convinced him to run for Congress, they both realized that Gore’s
credentials were thin. He had only held two jobs as an adult. He had
been a junior non-commissioned officer pushing papers in a rear echelon,
non-combat billet, and he had failed as an investigative reporter.
However, both of those jobs were burnished to the point that Gore was
repelling Viet Cong onslaughts and sending malefactors to jails all over
Eventually, he was taken to task on both counts, especially during
his 1988 first presidential campaign, when he bragged to the Des Moines
Register that his investigating reporting “got a bunch of people
indicted and sent to jail.” He was forced to admit that was hyperbole,
but he never admitted framing an innocent man for self-aggrandizement.
Repeated efforts to contact Gore’s campaign were unsuccessful.
Attempts to reach Judge Merritt in his chambers in Nashville and
Cincinnati were unsuccessful. Avon Williams is deceased. Cohen moved
away from Nashville some years ago, and WND’s repeated efforts to reach
him failed. Seigenthaler, who is chairman emeritus of the Tennessean and
an official on Gannett’s Freedom Forum First Amendment Committee, also
refused to answer WND’s telephone calls.