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Profile: Phil Bacharach
Phil Bacharach was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Oklahoma Gazette publishes a November 1996 letter written by accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The newspaper does not explain why it waited until now to publish the letter, which was addressed to Gazette reporter Phil Bacharach. Bacharach interviewed McVeigh in prison shortly after his incarceration. In the letter, McVeigh lambasts the FBI for the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco (see April 19, 1993), writing: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of childrens’ bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death as they were gassed and burned alive at the hands of the FBI.” It is well documented that McVeigh was enraged about the Davidian tragedy (see March 1993), blaming the government for setting the fires that killed 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and After), and many speculate that part of McVeigh’s motivation to blow up the Murrah Building may have been due to the Davidian incident (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and March 1995). McVeigh’s attorney Stephen Jones confirms that the letter is authentic, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that hasn’t been said before.” FBI agents ask Bacharach for the original letter, and the reporter, after making copies, complies. He says that McVeigh told him nothing of substance about the bombing, and that McVeigh wrote the letter to clarify a quote attributed to him in the November 1995 article by Bacharach. [CNN, 4/8/1997; CNN, 4/9/1997]
Esquire Magazine publishes a number of letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to Phil Bacharach, a former reporter for the Oklahoma Gazette. Most of the material in the letters is trivial, with McVeigh joking about his favorite television shows and complaining about conditions in his cell, but at least one letter touches on his anger about the children who died in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Nowhere in the letters does he discuss the bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children. Bacharach, who now works as press secretary for Governor Frank Keating (R-OK), corresponded with McVeigh for two years before joining Keating’s staff, when the letter exchanges were terminated. Bacharach says that anyone looking for answers regarding the bombing will not find them in the letters. “It is beyond me to reconcile the Timothy McVeigh who murdered 168 people with the writer of these letters,” he writes. “True, this correspondence offers only a small window through which to look. I do know one thing: In the written word, at least, he has not a whisper of conscience.” The letters were written while McVeigh was incarcerated at a “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colorado; he now awaits execution in a federal prison in Indiana. According to the letters, McVeigh is fond of The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Star Trek, and was not happy when he was moved from the cell he kept spotlessly clean to a cell “brutally thrashed by a pig inmate,” a leader of the Latin Kings street gang. He mocks Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, who had promised to try McVeigh on 160 state counts of murder, calling him “Bozo” and “a punk.” He calls the FBI “wizards at propaganda” who manipulated the facts of the Branch Davidian tragedy. A letter from November 26, 1996 sheds some light on McVeigh’s feelings about the Davidian tragedy, and may help explain his rationale for the bombing. In that letter, he wrote: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of children’s bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death at the hands of the FBI.” Bacharach says it was an unwritten rule between them that they not discuss the bombing. Bacharach says in the letter exchange, he hoped to understand “what made a person who didn’t seem like evil-incarnate commit that evil act.” That never happened, he writes. “It is this fact—that he was not dead behind the eyes, a sheer lunatic—that troubles me the most. He didn’t have the right to be normal, glib, and pleasant, I thought. He owed the dead of Oklahoma City the decency of at least showing his evil.” [Associated Press, 3/27/2001]
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