Thursday, 1 September 2011

Refutation of Fox News's claim that CNN's Megrahi footage was staged

[The following are excerpts from a long report published today on the Mediaite website.]

The recent unrest in Libya has brought a fascinating secondary headline: the reexamination of the strange case of convicted Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. Last weekend, the controversial and convicted murder was found in his opulent Tripoli home, bed-ridden and in a coma, by CNN’s Nic Robertson. But Frank Duggan, president of Victims of PanAm 103, alleges that there was no 'discovery', and that Robertson had been invited to the house, along with other reporters. These potentially damning allegations were then reported by CNN competitor Fox News. Mediaite caught up with Robertson, who explained how he found al Megrahi.

First, some background. The discovery of al-Megrahi was first reported over the weekend, which Mediaite covered Monday morning of this week. Because of the controversial nature of the release of the convicted bomber, this was then reported by many other news outlets, a nice scoop by Robertson, who is a veteran and well-respected reporter from areas of conflict. During a report on Fox News's Studio B hosted by Shep Smith, made by Jonathan Hunt cited that the head of the Victims of Pan Am 103 group was alleging that Robertson’s discovery was “trash.” Hunt reported on-air:

'In the last couple of minutes we got an e-mail from Frank Duggan, President of the group Victims of Pan Am 103. We do not have that on the screen but I will read part of it. He says in the e-mail to us “Give us a break. His family is trying to make a sympathetic character out of an unrepentant murderous monster.” He then talks about the other network which first claimed to have found Abdel Basset al-Megrahi saying, and I quote, “the CNN exclusive expose that they discovered his hiding place was total,” — (interrupting himself) I will use the word trash but he used a different view — “that reporter was invited to the house as was Sky News and the Telegraph and other newspapers and Abdelbhaset al-Megrahi’s son e-mailed this information to the Libyan people.”'

Hunt went on to report that Senator Chuck Schumer also had issued a statement that claimed “this wouldn’t be the first time that Libyan officials claimed Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was on the death bed,” before adding that there was a “whole lot skepticism that he is near-death.”

Mediaite reached out to Mr Duggan, who told us that he didn’t “have concrete knowledge of the media being invited to Megrahi’s home” and that he was just being “reasonably skeptical.” He then pointed us to a SkyNews report of Megrahi’s family emailing journalists. [RB: The above account demonstrates Mr Duggan's cavalier attitude towards evidence.]

[The following two pages of the Mediaite report consist of the transcript of an interview with CNN's Nic Robertson in which he explains the circumstances of his visit to Megrahi's bedside.]


  1. I wonder, indeed how closely that report is related to two recent posts on this blog.


    I believe Nic Robertson was the victim of a staged story.

    I have gained some insights from my own mom’s now 3rd recurrence of breast cancer. She is 81 years old and has been hospitalized multiple times. This “scene” strikes me as a set-up piece, as EVERY anniversary (release or bombing) he is alleged in a coma and “near death”. (Megrahi's health has turned more corners than a $5 hooker.)

    Here’s what I found interesting in the Nic Robertson piece:

    • Where’s the catheter? It’s nowhere to be seen in the shot? Where's the collection bag? (Nowhere to be seen in this "impromptu" scene.) Aren’t most unconscious patients catheterized? If he didn’t smell of urine and feces (which was NOT noted in the report) how is his waste being dealt with?
    o How tough is it going to be to change someone in a coma soiling themselves in pajamas (and a t-shirt)…and they look REMARKABLY well-pressed. Did YOU see any wrinkles/creases like you would expect in the PJ’s, the bed linen and the pillow case?
    • There is no doctor, but there appears to be access to IV nutrition (per the piece), saline drips and (fast-flowing) oxygen bottles. (Especially, if they have NO PHONE LINE.) Last I heard, Libya (and Tripoli) was a war zone.
    o I believe the nutrition is mixed JUST prior to administration. If so, who’s mixing it? BECAUSE of the immune suppressed state of the patient, this is closely monitored because of the risk of secondary infections (like e.coli, and other opportunistic infections) that erupt near the PICC (arm) line or chemo port (in the upper chest). The fluids appeared to be administered to the hand which may or may not be relevant. (I believe Taxotere - which he was alleged to be on after leaving Libya - is administered via PICC or chemo port.)
    o That oxygen is flowing pretty damn fast…how long would that bottle last without replacement? And that is a smaller bottle. Even the larger ones run out in 1 to 1.5 days…and that one was SO loud it sounded like an airplane overhead vent throughout the piece.
    • And let me ask the most pressing question: WHERE IS THE VISIBLE TUMOR ON HIS NECK? Remember, the one that was causing him to be near death?
    • I would remark on the presence of hair, but if he is on hormone therapy now, hair loss may not be affected. When he was previously reported to be on Taxotere, that would cause hair loss. With this new treatment, I don’t think it does.

    In short, I’ll bet that this was a set up piece… and Megrahi lives the year…at least.

    To be direct, Salmond and MacAskill better PRAY Megrahi lives. As I understand it from this blog, upon Megrahi's death, his family can re-initiate the appeal -- which would appear to be on the horizon from the SCCRC report. That is the worst of all world's for them.



    My contact at FoxNews, Jonathan Hunt, is doing a story on Studio B (3PM EDT) with Shepherd Smith and The Fox Report (7 PM EDT) on FoxNews Channel. Those are 8 PM BST and 12 Midnight BST today on FoxNews Channel.

    There is skepticism about the CNN piece.


    Comments on next post.

  2. I'm not advancing an opinion on whether the scene was completely genuine or not. I would however comment that I've had some recent experience with bedridden patients in hospital too, and it seems to me that if Michael is only going by the video he is jumping to some very questionable conclusions.

    Catheters and their associated paraphernalia are usually discreetly camouflaged by bedclothes, and you'd have to walk round the bed and perhaps lift the bedding to know there wasn't one.

    Has he never heard of bedpans? They're not exactly rocket science.

    Many people don't understand the difference between i/v dextrose saline for fluid replacement, and i/v nutrition. I see no reason to believe that Megrahi's relations would be especially clued-up on this.

    If Megrahi was on taxotere when he left Scotland, he would certainly not be on it now. He is said to be on abiraterone, which I believe is an oral drug.

    I could only see one side of Megrahi's neck. Does Michael have x-ray eyes? Does he not realise that something visible to a close observer may not be visible on the sort of view that was broadcast?

    If it's true that the family has been left without medical help and drugs have been looted, it seems perfectly possible they're messing up the use of oxygen, if it's all they have left. It's also possible they're heading for big trouble if there is an indwelling i/v port which is being used and tended to by amateurs.

    I wouldn't say that Michael's assumptions are definitely wrong, but they're not definitely right either. It's simply not possible to tell from nothing more than that video clip. One would require to be there, in person, with the ability to ask the right questions.

    Robertson was there. Whether he asked all the right questions or not we don't know, but he isn't an idiot. He was physically present, and he made a report.

    What I find quite appalling is the assumption by Michael and others that they can look at his video clip and come to all these conclusions and denounce the man on-air as a fraud and a dupe.

    We know Frank Duggan makes stuff up as he goes along and announces it on-air as fact. The habit seems to be spreading. If Fox News is reporting Michael's unsubstantiated guesswork via his friend Jonathan, then no wonder they're so bad.

  3. What did they expect? Megrahi, bright-eyed, alert and sitting about watching TV and offering everybody tea and shortbread? Of course his family are going to attempt to 'stage' the worst possible scenario because they have become hardened to the fickle ways of the western media, and they are trying to do the best for their father, who is really dying.
    Whether he is days away from dying or weeks away from dying should be of no interest to anyone - except his family.

  4. @Rolfe - It's disappointing that you use semantic infiltration to diminish Jonathan Hunt's report.

    In you choosing to call him a friend of mine, you attempt to diminish the thoroughness and accuracy of his report by insinuating I coached him into his report. This is hardly the case.

    First, Jonathan Hunt is a contact, not a friend, though I admire and respect his reporting as he is fair and balanced (and I would be proud to call him a friend, were I to know him better). When I have presented information to him, he has pushed back as appropriate. It is disingenuous to attempt to minimize the thoroughness of his reporting via your shallow (and chronically inaccurate) analysis of my comments.

    Professor Black is also a contact, who I admire and respect his passion for the JFM initiative, though I disagree with him. Does that make him my "friend"? Does that invalidate Prof. Black's insights?

    It would be appropriate for YOU (@ROLFE) to know that I mutually introduced Jonathan Hunt and Professor Black many months ago to facilitate dialogue. So, Professor Black has direct access to Mr. Hunt.

    It should be noted that Jonathan Hunt is a Fox News Sr. Correspondent (and he is also British), and so understands devolution issues.

    I am surprised that he was not reached out to by any of the principals -- considering I posted the upcoming report to this blog (several hours) PRIOR to its airing. It provided adequate time to interject a comment from the principals here; this opportunity does not appear to have been pursued. That is regrettable.

    However, despite your chronically sub-optimal analysis, I remind you (and @SM from a few blogs back): Megrahi is still alive. He will live for a while, not because he was THAT ill, but because he was NEVER that sick.

    @Rolfe - You are right about one thing: I believe the embellishment of Megrahi's disease HAS and continues to be a fraud perpetrated on the victim's of PA103.

    The truth will out.

  5. "I believe the embellishment of Megrahi's disease HAS and continues to be a fraud..."

    That is fine with me. Open for the idea.

    The problem is that - apart from the fact that he has lived longer than originally expected (which should surprise nobody) - that you have nothing to show for your suspicion.

    And that you then try so hard to dig up something from nothing.

    Duggan writes:
    "...that reporter was invited to the house as was Sky News and the Telegraph and other newspapers and Abdelbhaset al-Megrahi’s son e-mailed this information to the Libyan people."

    Duggan is in the same business: not one millimeter of evidence. How about quoting from that email?

    Instead he has an overpowering suspicion that short-circuits any logic.
    If Megrahi's family was working to actively spread a rumor of impending death, why did they not let as many journalists in as possible? Put a man at the door: "Psst folks! Here comes the next sucker, are you ready? Megrahi, look sick, Mahmed, connect the oxygen, don't forget the iv tube this time..."

    - - -

    Robertson writes:
    I spent several years working to get access to Megrahi. The 2009 documentary I did in Libya was about 1-2 weeks after Megrahi had been released and I saw him rolled out in a wheelchair with a face mask on…he was looking tired, but he hadn’t lost any weight, so I have that comparison that i can make from two years ago. So when I walked into the room and saw this completely inert body there, it was clearly different than what I’d seen before. The other thing that you pick up is the atmosphere and the mood of the people in the room. There was his mother sitting by his side holding his hand. His wrists looked thin, his skin looked very thin and week. His face was drawn and sunken.

    So, here we have an eyewitness, who has seen Megrahi before, and see him again. Robertson's story seems at least to match the pictures we recall.

    - - -

    Ah! But you, Michael, you are too smart to let yourself fool. And are willing to bet that the simulant lives for - 4 more months!

    Now, how many drops was it we should expect to see from this detached iv drip? ;-)