Erich "Mancow" Muller has gotten a lot of publicity for himself over the last few days by subjecting himself to a supposed waterboarding and then immediately declaring it to be torture. As a result, he has been hailed in the leftwing Blogosphere and appeared on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to report on his experience. Well, now it appears that his "experience" was probably faked and did not encompass what a real waterboarding is like according to the Gawker blog. A series of e-mails between Mancow publicist, Linda Shafran, and David Kupcinet who has contacts with many veterans through his Purple Heart Association was obtained by the Gawker. Shafran was trying to get a veteran to conduct the waterboarding and when Kupcinet agreed to find one, she sent him the following e-mail:
You are a ROCK STAR!!!
It is going to have to look "real" but of course would be simulated with Mancow acting like he is drowning. It will be a hoax but have to look real. Would be great if they could dress in fatigues and bring whatever is needed. We will supply the water.
In her own words, it "will be a hoax but have to look real." Even worse, the producers of Keith Olbermann's show were informed about the e-mails prior to the appearance of Mancow. This was their reaction as reported by the Gawker:
Regarding the emails between Safran and Kupcinet, our tipster also informed us that they were shared with Keith Olbermann's producers prior to Mancow's appearance on his show. We were told that they were beyond livid when they found out about them and expressed their extreme displeasure for the whole situation with Linda Shafran over the phone, but went ahead with the planned segment anyway, making no mention of the fact that they'd received advance word that the whole thing may have been staged. However, we were unable to confirm this with anyone at MSNBC.
The Gawker also contrasts the differences between Mancow's waterboarding with that of Christopher Hitchens who was waterboarded under the correct protocol:
Now, we're obviously no experts on the art of waterboarding, but we've done a bit of research on it and also went back and watched the video of Christopher Hitchens' waterboarding in 2008 to compare and contrast his waterboarding against Mancow's, and we couldn't help but notice some rather striking differences.
In the Hitchens video, everything is carried out pretty much according to universal waterboarding protocol as we've come to understand it. His limbs and torso are tightly bound by restraints. The platform on which he lays appears to be tilted slightly downward so that his head is positioned below his heart. His head is also completely covered and the water used looks as though it's poured directly into his breathing passages.
In contrast, Mancow isn't bound by restraints at all, he doesn't appear to have his body positioned at a decline, only a portion of his face from the nose up is covered, and the water is being poured on him inappropriately.
And now it turns out that the marine who conducted the waterboarding wasn't even qualified to do so, according to the Gawker:
"It was a marine who did it," Muller said. "I don't know his training. Is he a professional interrogator? I don't think so. But he knew what to do. If I wanted to fake it, it would have lasted for six minutes—I lasted six seconds. I'm on the air, bud, I'm on the air." Then he hung up.
So we called Klay South, the marine Mancow found at the last minute to perform the waterboarding. He says he had no idea what he was doing! To wit:
I know nothing about waterboarding. I had never done it before, I have no formal training in it, and I've never had it done to me. The only thing I knew was what I saw on the internet. I went to waterboarding.org and looked it up. I just did what I was told—poured the water on his face and that was it. I'm probably the last person they should have had do it. I didn't know what I was doing.
That settles it for us! South is the founder of Veterans of Valor, a nonprofit that helps out wounded vets, and he said he agreed to the gig just to gain a donation and publicity for the organization, a noble enough reason.
According to South's main resource, waterboarding.org, waterboarders should "restrain the interrogation subject on a board" and "incline the board about 15-20 degrees so that the feet are above the head." South says Muller's feet were bound, but his arms were not. And although his feet were elevated, he was laying on a flat surface.
We asked South if it seemed like Muller was faking it: "I don't know. I couldn't tell you if he was in distress or not."
UPDATE: Mancow called us back to say that even though his waterboarder didn't know what he was doing, and his publicist called the whole thing a "hoax," it wasn't supposed to be a REALLY real waterboarding to begin with. Just the radio stunt kind! "Of course I wasn't a radical terrorist," he said. "Of course it was simulated. To compare what I went through to what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed went through—of course it was not the same. I'm sure it was worse for them."
Last night, both Keith Olbermann and Mancow tried to wriggle out of the hoax controversy which was also covered by the Gawker:
Olbermann brought Muller—with his wife and daughter wandering around aimlessly and confusingly behind him in the studio—back to his show tonight to rebut our stories. He said that "the only actual evidence" that Muller's supposed waterboarding was not, in fact, a waterboarding was "the use of the word 'hoax' in an e-mail." Well, we'd say that's something, considering the e-mail in question was from Muller's publicist, Linda Shafran, who wrote outright that the event was indeed a hoax. Muller explained it away, as he did earlier today, by claiming that he would not have been permitted to do the stunt by his bosses if he let people know that he was actually planning on going through with it. He wasn't clear, but the implication was that Shafran wasn't in the loop—she thought it would be a bullshit stunt: "I didn't think it was a big deal, she didn't think it was a big deal. We were going to prove that it was nothing."
That Mancow would stage a hoax event is no surprise to your humble correspondent. Mancow has a long history of perpetrating such fraud. In fact, I even posted a Twilight Zone parody skit on the UseNet a dozen years ago about that very subject. Here are a few highlights from that "Mancow's Twilight Zone" skit. It starts out making reference to some hoaxes Mancow had been perpetrating including a staged walkout by his supposedly angry producer, Irma:
IRMA: Mancow, I'm sick of the way you've been treating me. I'm quitting right now!
(Irma leaves the studio.)
MANCOW: Golly! What a surprise! Well, folks, at least you heard it all on the air. This is yet another one of Mancow's spontaneous moments that you can get only while listening to my cutting edge show.
Soon after that scene, Rod Serling makes an appearance:
SERLING: Portrait of a Chicago DJ named Mancow Muller. A man desperately trying to stay ahead in the radio ratings. He is also a total fraud. A purveyor of lies whose whole career rests on nothing but cheap tricks and gimmicks. Mancow doesn't realize it yet but he is about to take a trip into---The Twilight Zone.
Later, Mancow is driving near a cornfield in Kansas when a flying saucer appears:
SAUCER VOICE: ATTENTION EARTHLING! WE HAVE TRAVELLED OVER A BILLION LIGHT YEARS TO DELIVER AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO YOUR PLANET!
MANCOW: YES! YES!
SAUCER VOICE: WE WILL BRING PEACE AND PROSPERITY TO YOUR PLANET!
MANCOW: GREAT NEWS!
SAUCER VOICE: AND WE WILL MAKE YOU ABSOLUTE RULER OF EARTH!
MANCOW: OH, HOW WONDERFUL!
SAUCER VOICE: BUT---IN ORDER FOR ALL THIS TO HAPPEN AND TO EARN THIS HONOR, YOU MUST RETURN TO THIS FIELD OF BEAMS WITH AT LEAST ONE OTHER EARTHLING IN EXACTLY ONE WEEK! THIS WILL BE A TEST OF YOUR LEADERSHIP ABILITIES TO CONVINCE OTHER EARTH PEOPLE TO BELIEVE IN YOU!
MANCOW: HA! HA! Piece of cake! I've already got thousands of listeners to my radio show!
Mancow excitedly returns to his Chicago studio to tell everyone about his encounter with the flying saucer but no one believes him because of his past history of perpetrating fraud:
MANCOW: On Saturday I had the greatest experience in the history of the world. A flying saucer appeared before me at the Field of Beams in Kansas. The voice from the saucer told me that the aliens would bring peace and
prosperity to our planet... Not only that but they promised that I will rule as leader of this planet. All they ask for this to happen is that at least one other person must return with me next Saturday to the Field of Beams. Now let's take
some phone calls on this subject. The first caller on the line is Hector.
HECTOR (on the phone): Mancow, this just proves what a lying fraud you are! First you have a phony stunt at the Christmas Show, then you use comedians to pretend they're real guests, and now this! I hope they run you out of
town, like what happened to you in San Francisco, for telling such an obvious lie!
MANCOW: Ha! That's where you're wrong, Hector. This time I really am telling the truth about the flying saucer......Hey! How come the broadcast
light went out?
(Suddenly the station's General Manager barges angrily into the studio.)
GENERAL MANAGER: The light is off because you're off the air for the rest of the day! Listen you little shmuck! How dare you come up with that stupid flying saucer story!
MANCOW: But it's true! It really happened!
GENERAL MANAGER (sarcastically): Yeah, yeah. Sure. Just like Irma quitting was for real.
MANCOW: No! No! This time it's not shtick. A flying saucer really did deliver a message to me!
Mancow later returns to the Kansas cornfield a week later but no one else shows up:
MANCOW (twirling around): WHERE IS EVERYBODY? DIDN'T ANYBODY BELIEVE ME!!?
(The flying saucer returns overhead.)
SAUCER VOICE: EARTHLING! YOU HAVE FAILED IN YOUR MISSION. YOU HAVE COME BACK WITH NO ONE!
(The flying saucer rises up into the sky and disappears into the distance.)
MANCOW: WAIT! COME BACK!
(Mancow sinks helplessly to his knees and collapses on the ground. He starts sobbing and bangs on the ground with his fist.)
MANCOW: My name is Mancow Muller and I am a fraud! My name is Mancow Muller and I am a fraud!
(The scene cuts to Mancow still sobbing and banging on a concrete floor.)
MANCOW: My name is Mancow Muller and I am a fraud!
(We see that Mancow is in a cell. A couple of attendants in white jackets are looking at him through the cell's bars. Mancow continues his sobbing and mumbling as he bangs the floor.)
ATTENDANT #1: That poor guy has been repeating that same thing for months.
ATTENDANT #2: The Doc says there's nothing that can be done for him. It looks like he's a hopeless case.
(The attendants walk away and we hear Rod Serling's voice as Mancow continues his pathetic mumbling.)
SERLING: Submitted for your approval. A story of a DJ who cried wolf just one time too many in---The Twilight Zone.
You can read the entire skit here but take heed from "Rod Serling." Take everything that Mancow says with a huge grain of salt in light of his long history of perpetrating hoaxes. And remember what Mancow's publicist wrote in advance about what his reaction would be:
It is going to have to look "real" but of course would be simulated with Mancow acting like he is drowning.
"Acting like he is drowning." Acting.