Yesterday we started following the slime trail of lowlife Lanny Davis, whose longtime role as shameless spinmeister to the Clinton family, it turns out, is the less unsavory of his two main jobs. The other: shilling for some of the world’s most nefarious despots.
Among Davis’s clients: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbsogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. In April 2010, Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist since a 1979 coup, hired him for a million bucks a year (plus expenses) – allegedly to help formulate and introduce human-rights reforms but really, it soon became clear, to help whitewash the Obiang regime in the international media. Justin Elliott, who has done a yeoman’s job of covering – and exposing – Davis in Salon, wrote in January 2011 that Davis had made a “direct promise” to “a reporter” (presumably Elliott himself) “that political prisoners in Equatorial Guinea would be released”; Elliott noted that no such release had yet taken place.
What kind of government does Obiang run? Well, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. State Department, Obiang’s regime was guilty of “unlawful killings…torture of detainees and prisoners…life-threatening conditions in prisons…arbitrary arrest, detention and incommunicado detention…restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly…violence and discrimination against women,” among many other offenses.
Elliott, citing this litany of transgressions, additionally pointed out that according to Human Rights Watch, Obiang’s son Teodorin had actually “spent more on luxury goods during 2004-2007 than the government’s 2005 budget for education.” In 2012, a World Policy Review article reported that Obiang had “killed or expelled more than one third” of his country’s population; that under him and his immediate predecessor – who was also his uncle, and whom he eventually overthrew and executed – the country “became known as the ‘Auschwitz of Africa,’” in which more people were killed by them, proportionally speaking, than were killed by the Nazis in all of Europe; and that under Obiang’s family of “kleptocrats,” who’ve “devoted three decades to siphoning off Equatorial Guinea’s wealth into their pockets,” the great majority of the nation’s people have not only been terrorized but impoverished.
None of which, apparently, deterred Davis from taking money from this creep to help polish his international image.
Then there’s Laurent Gbagbo, President of Cote D’Ivoire since the year 2000. After losing his bid for re-election in late 2010, the brutally dictatorial Gbagbo refused to leave office; instead, to quote Elliott, he “mount[ed] a campaign of organized violence against the opposition.” Gbagbo did something else, too: he hired Lanny Davis. So while this autocrat’s henchmen were busy murdering some members of the opposition and “disappearing” others (who were presumably dispatched by death squads), Davis got to work “assuring the American press that his client, Gbagbo, opposed violence.” And while the UN was formally accusing Gbagbo of committing “massive” human-rights violations, Davis was on CNN insisting that Gbagbo, innocent as a lamb, was calling on the legitimate winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara, “to join him on [sic] putting the arms down” and holding talks.
Alas for Davis, the Gbagbo gig didn’t last long: his paymaster was soon deposed, arrested, and charged by the International Criminal Court with murder, rape, persecution, and “other inhuman acts.” All told, Davis’s job with Gbagbo lasted only 12 days: he registered as a foreign agent for Ivory Coast on December 17, 2010, and resigned on December 29.
The lesson, we suppose, being that even the most unprincipled and hardest-working hustler can’t win ’em all. But you’ve got to hand it to Davis: he never allows himself to be discouraged by adversity. Or, for that matter, by shame, or conscience, or remorse. By all indications, these concepts aren’t even on his radar. No, he’s always ready, it seems, to go out there in the media one more time and get to work defending the indefensible.
Well, these days he’s hard at work defending the Clintons. Given the alternative, that’s probably a cause for celebration.