Transcript of Chris Ruddy Segments on Ron Brown, CNBC: Rivera Live!, Was the former Commerce Secretary killed by a bullet to the head?, Dr. Cyril Wecht renound forensic pathologist, Why no autopsy?, Newsmax December 31, 1997

Transcript of Chris Ruddy Segments on Ron Brown, CNBC: Rivera Live!, Was the former Commerce Secretary killed by a bullet to the head?, Dr. Cyril Wecht renound forensic pathologist, Why no autopsy?, Newsmax December 31, 1997


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From NewsMax December 31, 1997.

“Transcript of Chris Ruddy Segments on Ron Brown
CNBC: Rivera Live!”

“Good evening. I’m Larry Elder filling in for Geraldo Rivera.

On April 3, 1996, an Air Force plane carrying former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and a trade delegation of more than thirty other people crashed in Bosnia. It seemed like a simple and tragic accident, but now a growing chorus of voices is asking a stunning question.

Was the former cabinet member killed by a bullet to the head rather than by injuries sustained in the crash. This x-ray of Ron Brown’s head appears to some experts to show a wound at the top of the skull consistent with a bullet hole. Other graphic photos which we will not show you depict a circular kind of injury at that spot.

Earlier this month the chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus and several other prominent blacks asked the Clinton Administration to review the claims, which were made initially by two military pathologists. The government’s position so far? Steadfast.

This program spoke today to Chris Kelly of the Armed Forced Institute of Pathology. Mr. Kelly verified the authenticity of the still photos we are showing you tonite, then said, and I quote, “It is a blunt force injury that was sustained by an aircraft mishap. There is no evidence of bullet fragments. This was confirmed through multiple full body x-rays, both head and the rest of the body. They rule out any ballistics, bullet track or bullet. There was no trace of a bullet wound at all”. End of quote.

As for the suggestion of a bullet hole by a medical expert Kelly commented, and I quote, “the second pathologist said it looked suspiciously like a gunshot. Everyone saw it. We performed extensive forensic tests. We concluded it was not a gunshot.” End Quote.

My first guest deserves most of the credit – some might say blame – for firing up this highly debatable controversy. Christopher Ruddy is an investigative journalist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and he is also the author of the book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster in which he rejected the original government finding that Foster, the White House deputy counsel, killed himself back in 1993.

Alongside Mr. Ruddy in Fort Lee tonight is former Manhatten prosecutor, Eliot Spitzer, now in private practice. And Denver-based criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt. Joining us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is Dr. Cyril Wecht, an attorney and one of the country’s best known forensic pathologists. And with me here in Los Angeles is criminal defense attorney Michael Nasatir, a former federal prosecutor.

Mr. Ruddy, let’s begin with you. Was Ron Brown murdered?

RUDDY: Well, I think the answer and the jury’s still out on that, uh, my stories in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have reported that two high ranking military officers, both Lt. Cols., one in the Army and the other in the armed forced – in the Air Force. Both said that there was a suspicious hole that looked like a gunshot, looked like a .45 caliber entry wound, at the very top of Secretary Brown’s head when his body was examined at Dover Air Force Base.

ELDER: Right at the top of the head? (Pointing to his own head)

RUDDY: Right at the top of the head.

ELDER: Now, were these two military pathologists involved in the investigation of Ron Brown’s death?

RUDDY: Absolutely. One of them examined the wound at Dover Air Force Base. The other one was in Croatia looking for a part of the plane that could explain this hole. He said that there was no part of the plane that could explain it. And, um, Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell has also alleged that the frontal x-ray that you showed at the beginning of the program showed little fragments of metal on the left side of Secretary Brown’s head which would be consistent with a bullet. The AFIP which is claiming the x-rays show no fragments of a bullet — well, they are really being a little deceptive. In fact, all of the head x-rays of Secretary Brown are now missing from the case file. And the ones that exist….. (interrupted)

ELDER: Wait, wait, excuse me. All the head x-rays are now missing?

RUDDY: Absolutely. The original head x-rays of Secretary Brown are missing from the case file. The ones that exist are images that I have, uh, obtained that were published in our paper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which clearly show something — very, very, possibly similar, consistent with – a bullet and that should have necessitated an autopsy and no autopsy was conducted on Secretary Brown.

ELDER: Now, let’s back up. These two gentlemen, these two military pathologists, whom you say feel there might have been a bullet wound in Ron Brown’s head, they were not the lead investigators, correct?


ELDER: The lead doctor was who?

RUDDY: Col. Gormley, William Gormley.

ELDER: And what does he say now?

RUDDY: Well, let’s start with what he said originally to me. He said that it wasn’t a gunshot wound because nothing penetrated the skull – it only pressed in the bony material of the skull. He said it was perfectly circular and at first glance it did look like a gunshot but he said you couldn’t see brain. Since we have published the photograph of the hole that shows the brain — since we have published the x-rays that show whatever hit the head punctured into the brain — he has changed his story and he says, “well, there’s no sign of an exit wound and there were no metal fragments in the head. Well, we have his word to base that on — we don’t have the x-rays. They’ve all disappeared from the case file.

ELDER: But Chris Ruddy, he has not changed his conclusion that Ron Brown died in a plane crash. Is that correct?

RUDDY: Well, absolutely. And he is basing it on very flimsy evidence. Just basically his word and testimony. And we have now two medical pathologists that said clearly an autopsy should have been conducted. And I think we’ve gotta stress, Larry, no one is saying here that Ron Brown was murdered. No one was saying there was a conspiracy involved with Brown’s death. It could well have been caused by the plane crash. Do the autopsy! Don’t not do the autopsy and destroy the x-rays, which apparently happened here.

ELDER: Dr. Cyril Wecht. You are a renound forensic pathologist. If I were qualifying you as a witness and I asked you how many cases you’ve been involved in, you would say what?

WECHT: Well, I’ve done thirteen thousand autopsies myself. I’ve reviewed, signed-off, supervised thirty thousand others. In this case I’ve looked at the x-rays and the photos…. (interrupted)

ELDER: I thought Christopher Ruddy just said the x-rays had been destroyed.

WECHT: Well, no, the copies that he’s talking about that he says he had previously obtained. I don’t, I haven’t seen the originals. But, I would like to make a couple of points … (interrupted)

ELDER: Dr., let me jump in here for a second, and perhaps Chris is the best person to put this question to. How did you obtain all these records that you examined?

RUDDY: Well, I don’t want to explain how I obtained all of these sensitive documents and information relating to this case. The x-rays, OK, what I obtained in terms of the x-rays, were photographs of the head x-rays when they were on the light box at Dover Air Force Base. The originals have all been destroyed. The first two x-rays which I have copies of that are somewhat indicative to a bullet in the head, and I think Dr. Wecht will agree with that. That’s what we have. Now, Dr. Gormley and Chris Kelly at the AFIP says that new x-rays were taken, the original x-rays were the result of a defective x-ray machine and that they show no bullet fragments. But, they are missing those x-rays, those have disappeared from the case file.

ELDER: OK. Dr. Wecht, back to you then. Gormley has not changed his conclusion although I guess he’s altered his observations somewhat. The pathologist from the Armed Forces Institute confirms that this plane crash is what killed Ron Brown. What did you look at and what is your conclusion?

WECHT: Well first of all, technically, they’re incorrect. This is not blunt force trauma — whatever it is, is what we call penetrating trauma. It does go through the calvarium, (sp?), the top of the skull. Number two – it has the appearance, in terms of the circular symmetrical nature and some inward beveling that is entirely consistent with a gunshot wound of entrance. This is not to say that it is, simply to say it is consistent with. The fact of the matter is that while the language that they gave to you, Mr. Elder, that they did all these forensic tests, um, that could be done. There’s something that’s a little more basic.

WECHT: It’s the beginning. It’s the autopsy. You know, what are all these forensic tests? Why not do the autopsy? The lead fragments, or a shower of snow that is slightly left to the midline may or may not be an x-ray defect. That’s all they have to do. Just show us some films taken with that same x-ray machine previously, whether it was some soldier’s broken wrist or some chest x-ray. Let us see that there is that same artifact in those films, and then we can know that. I am very troubled by the missing original x-ray films. The point is I’m not saying this was a gunshot wound. It well could be an artifact simulating a gunshot wound from some penetrating metallic object on the inner core – the lining of the airplane. And what I’m saying is and this is something the AFIP knows full well and has known for 40 years that I am aware of that you do an autopsy in a case like this. You don’t try to cover- up later on. You don’t try to explain and rationalize and get into this kind of situation. And today the body should be exhumed, the autopsy can still be done and you would have done with this in twenty-four hours.

ELDER: Doctor, why was there no autopsy? We’re talking about a sitting member of the Cabinet!


ELDER: We’ve got two medical pathologists who were on the site who said something looked suspicious. Why in God’s name is there no autopsy done?

WECHT: There is no explanation for this. I want to point out, too, that Lt. Col. Cogswell and Lt. Col. Hause are not just military pathologists. They are board-certified forensic pathologists. I happen to know both of them. They are competent, experienced people who are career military officers. You’re not talking about some schnooks here. You’re talking about people that got solid credentials. For them to have the courage to speak out on this is admirable. And, isn’t it amazing that they are in some kind of a quasi house arrest; a kind of a quasi AFIP stick to your office and keep your mouth shut and be muzzled arrest? What is going on here? How long do we have to deal with this kind of thing?

RUDDY: Larry, and Larry, I think it is also important to mention that both of these gentlemen are experienced in gunshot wounds. Lt. Col. Hause was a combat surgeon during the Gulf War. Steve Cogswell trained in Miami under Joe Davis. Dr. Wecht will testify that he is one of the premiere experts in gunshot wounds. Even Col. Gormley…. (interrupted)

SPITZER: Larry – can we break in for a minute here? We’ve had ten minutes of sort of blather from the extreme right. Let’s make a fundamental point here… (interrupted)

WECHT: Wait, wait, wait, wait, I resent that. Don’t give me that extreme right. I was a U.S. Senate Democratic nominee in 19…….(interrupted)

SPITZER: Doctor, let me finish for a minute.

WECHT: Don’t give me that extreme right stuff and get away with that and throw it in gratuidously. Extreme right! I happen to be a Democrat, perhaps before you were out of high school.

ELDER: Eliot Spitzer, I take it you think that Christopher Ruddy has seen one too many Oliver Stone movies.

SPITZER: I think that if you listen to Christopher Ruddy, the President of the United States was a drug dealer, personally murdered Vince Foster; has been involved in every criminal act in the past 20 years. There is an industry that has grown up trying to tar Bill Clinton with possible criminal acts, with every possible immoral act, it is funded with millions of dollars from the far right. Chris Ruddy spent years trying to get Vince Foster’s suicide turned into a murder and only when his own hand-picked special prosecutor, Ken Starr, refuted it. Said it’s hogwash – not a shred of evidence and lo and behold, he moves on to the next one. He says, gee Ron Brown suffered a terrible tragedy – let’s turn that into a crime.

This is a cottage industry. Years ago, this would have been dismissed as the ramblings of the far right. Now it is funded by very powerful forces…..


ELDER: When we come back we’ll be talking to Jeralyn Merritt to get her take, and also of course, Michael Nasatir right here. I would like to know from you Michael, whether or not you think its a case of one too many Oliver Stone Movies. One of Chris Ruddy’s articles on the death of Ron Brown quotes U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Hause, who was present while Brown’s body was being examined, Hause says a commotion erupted in the room when someone exclaimed: gee, that looks like a gunshot wound! We’ll take our title from that and we’ll be right back. Don’t go away.

The Clinton Administration officially addressed the questions about Ron Brown’s death at a press briefing on December 17th when White House Press Secretary, Mike McCurry, was asked quote “Does the administration give any credence to these allegations that Ron Brown might have been shot?” His Answer: “Absolutely none. And credence is only given to those reports by entities associated with Richard Mellon Scaife, publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. And we are right back into another one of these chasing a story that’s been ginned up by people who no doubt, for whatever reason, hate the President of the United States. It’s time to knock this stuff off”. End of quote.

Jeralyn Merritt – Is this an example of Clinton haters beating up on Clinton or is there something here?

MERRITT: You know, I don’t really know. I guess my basic thoughts are I have three questions. One, why would somebody want Ron Brown dead? Two why would someone want him dead enough to kill 32 other people along with him? And three, assuming that it would be appropriate to do an autopsy, who does his remains belong to? What if his family doesn’t want him exhumed to have an autopsy done. Can anyone override that?

RUDDY: I’d like to ask two more basic questions in that 1) why was there no autopsy conducted and who gave the orders for that; and 2) where are the head x-rays? I think the issues that Eliot is raising and the White House — this venom that they are spewing. No one is accusing Bill Clinton. I’ve never said — my book is out, people can read it. They can read all of my articles on the Internet. I have never said that Vince Foster was murdered. I have questioned the official version — I think it’s a cock and bull story and all I’m saying here is, and I guess Eliot would believe in the White House, is that I am in a conspiracy as well as Richard Mellon Scaife, with two high-ranking military officers and we are promoting this now with hard evidence — x-rays, photographs. We even have Dr. Cyril Wecht, who is a prominent Democrat from the State of PA, and how dare Eliot come here and say that Dr. Wecht is a part of the far right?

SPITZER: No, you are.

RUDDY: How am I? What are my credentials as part of the far right?

SPITZER: You and The Scaife Foundation have been spinning these crazy stories.

RUDDY: Tell me what’s crazy about them. Give us one example – give us one example.

SPITZER: The Foster suicide where you have never relented. You have never once said there is no evidence…..(interrupted)

RUDDY: The public has a right to know about the death of a high government official.

SPITZER: Absolutely, and there have now been two…. (interrupted)

RUDDY: I think they have done a very poor job and the former director of the FBI has….


SPITZER: The reason people claim that they would want Ron Brown murdered, as outrageous as this is, there was a special prosecutor inquiring about Ron Brown. The theory was — the theory being spun by the far right, is that Ron Brown was going to be indicted. Ron Brown would have turned — and Ron Brown would have given up the President, and that is the allegation.

RUDDY: Show me Eliot, you’re a lawyer Eliot, habeas corpus. Show us the evidence!

ELDER: OK — just hold on a second gentlemen. Michael Nasatir — we’ve seen enough trials now — the OJ Simpson case — mistakes were made. No matter how much evidence is gathered something is going to be left out. Look at the Jonbenet Ramsey case. Mistakes were made. OK, here we have a case, where according to Christopher Ruddy, lots of mistakes were made. X-rays are missing and there should have been an autopsy. Is this not yet another example of if you go over something with a fine toothed comb, you’re gonna find something that smells?

NASATIR: Well, it might be. Because nobody’s ever questioned Lt. Col. Gormley, his expertise, and, uh, he was the examining pathologist. And, you know you just wonder why don’t we just ask Ron Brown’s family if they would object to an autopsy? That would be one quick and easy way to find out the answer, even according to Mr. Ruddy’s people.

ELDER: Christopher Ruddy — has Ron Brown’s family been approached and what is their position?

RUDDY: Well, they have been asked by the press — no comment. I fully — I wouldn’t be surprised, and Dr. Wecht I think will agree, in other high profile cases that the family will probably not want this further investigated. But I think there is a potential of homicide here…. (interrupted)

ELDER: But why would the family, Christopher, why would the family not want this further investigated if they are shown x-rays that you have? If the two experts you have come up with say there is something suspicious it seems to me, if I were related to Ron Brown, I’d sure as hell want the body exhumed to determine the truth or falsity of this whole thing.

RUDDY: Listen carefully to what I am saying, Larry, which is that I wouldn’t be surprised if they wouldn’t want it. I would hope they want a full investigation. I hoped that the Foster family would have wanted — but that didn’t happen either. The bottom line is that there are possible allegations involving high government officials. That affects all of society, all of the public — we all have a right to know.

WECHT: Mr. Elder, may I suggest that this is not the way to approach a medical legal investigation. You don’t start off with either the political ramifications, nor do you start off with gee, who would ever want to murder Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Brown? You start off with a body and if it appears that there is trauma; if it appears that the death is a result of foul play – then you do a medical legal autopsy.


SPITZER: Dr. Wecht, you’re making a huge presumption. You have a plane crash. Of course there is going to be trauma. Thirty-five people were killed. Is it any surprise that there is the evidence to the skull of blunt instrument trauma. And now you’re suddenly using words like foul play, which is a jump that I don’t think you can make.

WECHT: No, no, that’s a phrase we use …

SPITZER: So you take it back?

WECHT: No, no, no.

SPITZER: So why the basis for the autopsy?

WECHT: Wait, now wait. Let me say — you are an intelligent man and you’re an experienced attorney, you know that. And you’ve lived in America. You’ve seen in recent years OJ Simpson and Vincent Foster and Jonbenet Ramsey, and if you take this case and eliminate the persona of Ron Brown and all of the political ramifications, and just present this case to one hundred forensic pathologists in America, generically. If 100 of them do not day that an autopsy should be done I will treat you to a full week in the Caribbean island of your choice.

SPITZER: Well, I’m tempted to take …

ELDER: OK, we’re gonna take a break right here. Doctor, I want to go on that trip with Eliot. When we come back, we’re gonna talk about why the mainstream press does not seem to be very interested in whether or not there was foul play involving former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Don’t go away.

ELDER: Welcome back. Last week nationally syndicated columnist Carl Rowen wrote an angry article about the Ron Brown controversy. The black columnist said quote “a weird assortment of black leaders and publications has been provoked to ask for a probe of these charges”. And he warned, quote, “these blacks ought best beware, because the people pushing this conspiracy theory have no real concern for Brown or his survivors. They want a probe to sully his reputation, and wipe out the proud memories many have of this former Democratic leader”. End of quote. I should point out by the way, that a recent unscientific opinion poll on BET, Black Entertainment Television network, showed that nearly 80% of those responding did believe that Ron Brown was, in fact, murdered.

ELDER: Jeralyn Merritt – is there some danger here? The black community of course is understandably very, very, concerned about any allegation of wrongdoing against blacks, let alone a senior official like Ron Brown. Is this kind of speculation irresponsible?

MERRITT: The speculation of the people calling for the probe? Or the speculation of the people saying don’t call for the probe because you don’t now what it is going to turn up?

ELDER: The speculation of the people calling for the probe.

MERRITT: I think it is somewhat inappropriate. I think if there is a reason, good factual reasons, to ask for a probe of this death, it should be done. And, you shouldn’t say I’m not gonna do it because I’m afraid somebody’s gonna come out with some dirty laundry. But, on the other hand, if this is — if there is no good reason to suspect that Ron Brown died of anything other than a plane crash — the fact that he has a hole in his head, or a dent in his head, that alone may not be sufficient.

RUDDY: And Larry, who’s arguing here conspiracy theory? This is the White House line that’s been going for a long time. Any time you mention anything dealing with this administration. No one is saying anything about conspiracy theories. We’re saying that military — high ranking military officers were confronted with evidence of a possible gunshot…. (interrupted)

ELDER: OK Chris. We’re gonna take a break here.

That concluded the Ron Brown segments of the show.”

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