Accuracy in Media

When Sherron Watkins, the most prominent Enron whistleblower, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on February 14, an important line of questioning got little play in the establishment media. Congressman Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, asked Watkins about a note she had written warning Ken Lay of the practices that led to Enron’s bankruptcy. Ganske asked if she had put a copy of it in a safe place. She said she had put a copy in a lock box that was not in her office nor in her home. Ganske then asked her if she was worried about her personal safety.

She replied, “At times. I mean just because the company was a little radio-silent back to me, so I didn’t know how they were taking my memos or the investigation.” Ganske asked, “Why would you be worried about your personal safety?” She responded, “Because it was the seventh largest company in America.” Ganske commented: “And you were dealing with a really powerful problem.” Watkins responded, “Yes.”

A little later, Congressman Peter Deutch, D- Florida, asked her if she had done anything based on fear for her personal safety. Watkins responded, “I did actually talk with some Enron Security personnel….In effect, Mr. Fastow potentially lost his job because I brought up these concerns. And I actually talked to Enron security personnel about whether I should do anything different, more concerned that Mr. Fastow might be vindictive.”

Deutch: “Did they give you advice to take any specific actions?”

Watkins: “Just general security advice.”

Deutch: “Did Mr. Fastow exhibit any violent behavior or erratic behavior that would lead you to?”

Watkins: “No, no. It’s just I did not feel very much support. I did feel a little bit as if I were a lone fish swimming upstream, and so it starts to wear on you that it’s you against them, and I was a little bit concerned.”

Deutch: “Are you convinced that Mr. Baxter’s death was a suicide….?”

Watkins: “I’m sure the authorities have reported that correctly.”

Congressman Deutch asked her twice if there was any doubt in her mind that it was a suicide. First she replied, “Probably not, no.” The second time, she said, “Yes. I, I, I believe it probably was.” Deutch said, “If you say ‘probably,’ there’s doubt.” Watkins responded, “It’s just a sensitive topic that I’d rather not comment on.”

That is a sensitive subject in Texas, judging from the silence of many people who have information bearing on Cliff Baxter’s death. First of all, there is his widow and his brothers and sisters. We hear from a source close to a family member that none of them believe that Baxter killed himself, but we have not heard of any of them objecting to the news media referring to his death as a suicide. We are told they have been shown the note that the police say Baxter left. The family are said to say that it mentions neither them nor suicide. Why don’t they say it publicly?

We have a note from a friend who is serving as an intermediary to transmit information about the case from a source with some contact with Baxter friends. He says, “Prior to his death, Baxter (1) gave no indication that he was suicidal to friends, didn’t even let on a little; (2) was building a new boat; (3) was planning new business ventures; and (4) had told friends that he was also considering going into teaching.” He continues, “Baxter had an aggressive personality (fit Enron’s culture), and very straight guy with a strong sense of right and wrong (counter to Enron’s culture). Viewed as a fighter, not a quitter. Loved his wife and kids. Probably would have talked to investigators (he told people that, probably too vocally) and therefore represented a threat to some very powerful people.”

A boat salesman told a customer that he had met with Baxter the day before he died and that Baxter was in a good mood, was very interested in how the interior of his new 80-foot yacht would be decorated and was certainly not suicidal. The salesman should have no fear about telling his story, if it’s true. If the Sugar Land police were doing a thorough job they should have long since talked to the firm that sold him the yacht.

The media call Baxter’s death a suicide, unaware that the only evidence the police have made public is a gun and a note. They haven’t said the gun was Baxter’s, where the note was found, what it says, or what proof they have that Baxter wrote it.

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