We need him

For a whole bunch of reasons, I would give anything to have Gary Webb sitting in my office now. I need some help finding answers to difficult questions, which ironically is what Gary was all about.

We’ve received dozens of phone calls and e-mails calling for an investigation into his death based on what people have read on Web sites. Numerous people across the country claim it was certainly the work of the CIA and others because Gary had reported on our government allowing the contras to send drugs to the United States. What do they base this on? Hearsay presented as fact on activist-conspiracy Web sites. For instance, numerous Web sites reported that Gary was killed with a shotgun (he wasn’t) and that people were seen climbing up to his balcony (there isn’t one) and that he was unemployed (he wasn’t).

Check out this Web-site headline: “Gary Webb Dead: Suicide? Conspiracy? You Guess.” Exactly. Spreading rumors does a disservice to Gary’s life and work. It is good that people suspect their government; history shows us it is not above foul play. But it does no good to present fiction as fact at a time like this. Based on the evidence we’ve seen, it was a suicide.

A Bay Area radio reporter asked a difficult question last week: “Based on all that has happened, don’t you regret hiring Gary Webb?” I said no. (It was a short interview.) It isn’t often that you get to brush up against a person with real courage, and Gary had it, and on that I agree with Senator John Kerry (see “The day the writing died”).

Before Gary came to work here, we had lunch, simply because I wanted to meet him. I liked Gary right off, because he had passion, an opinion, and because he cussed—which is becoming a lost art in many newsrooms. He reminded me of a guy in my old neighborhood who was mentally tough enough to stand up to bullies while most of us stood on the sidelines. And what bigger bully could there be than the U.S. government and the CIA? We need him now more than ever.