Some black leaders are asking the U.S. government to look into a new conspiracy theory - that the late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown was murdered last year and his government plane was crashed in Bosnia to cover it up.
The Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House say the claim is completely unfounded and insist that Brown, the highest ranking black in the Cabinet, died along with 34 others on his trade mission when their Air Force transport strayed off course and crashed into a mountainside.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry has reacted bluntly to the murder theory, saying the allegations are being promoted by “people who, no doubt, for whatever reason, hate the president of the United States.
“The Pentagon has very thoroughly and in very gruesome detail - and no doubt in ways painful to the Brown family - addressed this issue,” McCurry said. “It’s time to knock this stuff off.”
The assassination theory surfaced earlier this month in a newspaper owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, a wealthy conservative and well-known conspiracy theorist.
Citing those allegations, black activist Dick Gregory was arrested Wednesday outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington when he used yellow police tape to try to seal off the main entrance of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the office that conducted the medical examination of Brown’s body.
Calling it a “crime scene,” Gregory led a protest rally to accuse military officials of covering up evidence of Brown’s murder.
In the past week, Kweisi Mfume - head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and former Maryland congressman - and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, have written federal officials to ask for more data on the allegation, which first appeared in Scaife’s Pittsburgh TribuneReview.
Writing in the Dec. 3 issue, reporter Christopher Ruddy quoted Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, an institute pathologist, as saying “an apparent gunshot wound” in the top of Brown’s head was never fully investigated.
Ruddy previously wrote articles suggesting that White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster had been murdered in 1993, although separate investigations by two independent counsels, Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Kenneth W. Starr, have concluded Foster committed suicide.