The woman at the center of the brutal murder of Emmett Till — which helped launch the civil rights movement — has revealed for the first time that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her testimony, reported Vanity Fair.
Carolyn Bryant Donham has never spoken publicly since she testified in the murder trial of her then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, who were each acquitted less than a month after they kidnapped, tortured and executed the black boy.
After their acquittal, the pair proudly admitted what they’d done to Look magazine, saying they basically had no choice but to kill the teenager for behaving lasciviously toward Bryant’s wife.
But Donham, who later divorced Bryant and married twice more in the following years, admitted to author Timothy Tyson that she’d made up some of the claims that led to Till’s death.
Donham was 21 years old in 1955, when she spent about one minute alone with the 14-year-old Till, who was visiting family in Mississippi from Chicago, while working in the store she owned with her husband.
The teen, whose mother called him “Bo,” bragged to his cousin and some other boys that he had a white girlfriend back home — and the boys dared him to speak to the woman working behind the counter.
A 12-year-old cousin briefly went inside but left Emmett alone with Donham for about a minute, and she later claimed Till had grabbed her and made lewd comments.
His cousin, Simeon Wright, recalled decades later that couldn’t have been possible — and, it turns out, he was right.
“That part’s not true,” Donham told Tyson, who conducted the first-ever interview with the elderly mother of two for a new book, The Blood of Emmett Till.
She also claimed Till had wolf-whistled at her, but Tyson notes that might not have been intentional because the boy had a lisp.
Donham claims she couldn’t remember anymore the rest of their brief encounter.
The interview was actually conducted in 2007, after Donham approached the Duke University scholar about helping to write her memoirs.
“That case went a long way toward ruining her life,” said Tyson, who said the Donham family reminded him of his own.
He said Donham’s views on race had changed over the years, along with much of the country’s.
“She was glad things had changed [and she] thought the old system of white supremacy was wrong, though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time,” Tyson said.
Donham told the author she “felt tender sorrow” toward Mamie Till-Mobley, who insisted on an open casket to show the world her son’s mutilated body, and she expressed something like regret about her role in his slaying.
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Donham said.
Donham, who retreated back into seclusion, has also written a memoir, “More Than a Wolf Whistle: The Story of Carolyn Bryant Donham,” but it will not be available to scholars until 2038, at her request.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Thursday that he was canceling his scheduled meeting with President Trump in Washington next week. He was under intense pressure to snub Trump for signing an executive order to start building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Peña Nieto also rejected Trump’s call for Mexico to foot the bill for the wall, which is estimated to cost around $14 billion, give or take a few billion. Trump said the decision to cancel the meeting was mutual, and that a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports was one possible way to deliver on his pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall.
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon escalated the Trump administration’s attacks on journalists in an interview published in The New York Timeson Thursday, saying the media is “the opposition party.” Days after President Trump said he was in a “running war” with the media, Bannon said reporters “should be embarrassed and humiliated” for getting the election outcome “100 percent dead wrong,” and failing to understand Trump’s supporters. He said the media now should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” CNN’s Jake Tapper responded to Bannon’s suggestion that the media should be quiet with one word: “No.”
Vice President Mike Pence will join Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., marking the first time a president or vice president has ever spoken at the annual march in person. The rally has been held every year since 1974, marking the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights. President Ronald Reagan made a video for the event in 1988 and President George W. Bush called in to the march in 2008, but organizers called the participation of Pence, a self-proclaimed “evangelical Catholic” and longtime hero of anti-abortion activists, a historic development. Organizers expect tens of thousands of people to turn out.
Four top managers resigned from the State Department on Thursday. The career foreign service officials were required to leave their appointed leadership positions, but could have stayed to take on other assignments. CNN reported that the Trump administration told them to go. One of the departing officials was Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management and faced scrutiny over his request that the FBI declassify one of the emails sent over Hillary Clinton’s private server. There is often turnover when administrations change, but the loss of such a core team of career foreign service officers, combined with other recent departures, added up to a huge loss of institutional memory. None of the officials overtly tied the departures to President Trump, but several diplomats said some of the officials had privately expressed concerns about some of Trump’s unorthodox foreign policy positions.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday told Republicans in Philadelphia that the U.S. under President Trump must “stand together” with the U.K., keeping themselves and their allies safe but ending interventions aiming to “to remake the world in our own image.” May cautiously endorsed Trump’s call for improving relations with Russia, urging him to “engage, but beware.” She said the U.S. should protect Russia’s neighbors, and continue supporting international institutions such as NATO. May will meet with Trump on Friday. Trump is due to talk by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
In a phone call on his first full day in office, President Trump personally ordered acting National Park Services director Michael T. Reynolds to find additional photos showing that the crowd at his inauguration was larger than news outlets reported, according to The Washington Post. Three people with knowledge of the conversation said Trump believed photos from different angles would confirm his claim that the crowd was far larger than reported. Trump also reportedly expressed anger at the agency for retweeting photos comparing his audience to the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Reynolds declined to comment. Reynolds did send the White House some aerial shots, but they did not support Trump’s case.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on Thursday signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, banning dilation and evacuation, the most common second-trimester abortion procedure. The bill faced little opposition as conservative Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. Supporters of the anti-abortion legislation call the procedure “barbaric,” while abortion rights advocates say it is the safest way to end a pregnancy. Opponents of the law said courts would block it because it places an “undue burden” on women’s right to abortion. Hutchinson said the Supreme Court could uphold it due to evolving standards of fetal viability.
President Trump said in an interview aired Thursday that he would support a rule change by Senate Republicans to let a simple majority approve his Supreme Court nominee if Democrats try to block the confirmation of his pick with a filibuster. “I would,” he told Fox News. “We have obstructionists.” The current rules require 60 votes to get past a procedural hurdle to confirm Supreme Court nominees, but Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-seat Senate. Trump has said he plans to announce his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia next week.
An international team of scientists announced in the journal Cell published Thursday that it had created the first successful human-animal hybrid embryo, a mix known as a chimera. The scientists introduced human cells into a pig embryo early in its development. The embryo survived for weeks before they were removed and studied, proving that human cells can be grown inside a non-human host animal, a biomedical advance toward growing human donor organs for people on the national waiting list for organ transplants. Twenty-two people on the list die every day waiting for transplants. Still, the study revived ethical concerns about the possible creation of intelligent hybrids, or the accidental release of bizarre hybrids into the wild.
Federal employees from more than a dozen agencies have launched Twitter feeds to defy President Trump’s communications blackout. The rogue workers include scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and other agencies. The tweets protest the censorship, and the administration’s attempts to downplay climate change research and other scientific findings. “Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” an anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the new Twitter account @AltNatParkService. “You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”
While we can safely assume that the first thing Trump will say to the Russian leader will be “thank you,” it appears that the new U.S. president won’t be the only one feeling grateful.
As Chris Hayes noted tonight on MSNBC’s ‘All In’, there are related reports that Trump has an executive order ready to roll back the crippling sanctions on Russia that were enacted under President Obama. The actions could be taken as early as this weekend – around the same time the Trump-Putin call is set for.
Trump has been silent on Russia since taking office last week, instead devoting most of his time to arguing about crowd sizes, non-existent voter fraud, and other alternative facts.
Meanwhile, the intelligence community continues to look into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election when the foreign government successfully influenced the contest in Trump’s favor. There are also separate investigations into whether Moscow was in any way working directly with the Trump campaign.
As Thursday’s news indicates, though, Trump seems ready to brush all of that under the rug and instead plans to reward Putin by dropping the sanctions implemented by the Obama administration.
Add all of this to the fact that the highest levels of the State Department have now been cleaned out as Putin pal Rex Tillerson is set to take over, and it’s beginning to look like the Trump administration is at least somewhat under the influence of a foreign government.
Philadelphia — It’s not clear why the Republican Congressional delegation — which met Thursday at the Loews Hotel to discuss dismantling the Affordable Care Act, among other priorities — chose Philadelphia as the location for its post-inauguration retreat.
Admittedly, President Donald Trump won the state of Pennsylvania, but Philadelphia voted 82% for Hillary Clinton, and is a reliably blue city with an independent streak and a personality that sometimes belies its nickname as the “city of brotherly love.” As a sign on a street vendor’s cart during the Republicans’ visit put it, “Yo Trump, fuck you, from the city of brotherly love.”
In that spirit, several thousand demonstrators packed Thomas Paine Plaza in the shadow of City Hall. They streamed in, bearing printed signs proclaiming “Don’t Repeal the ACA” along with hand-written signs aplenty. Sponsoring community and labor organizations included the Center for Popular Democracy, Put People First! and ONE Pennsylvania. Members of those organizations addressed the crowd through a microphone and led chants.
“In this resistance we need to have joy!” proclaimed one speaker to raucous applause. “We need to have our culture, we need to celebrate our fightback, they want us quiet! They want us hidden, they want us to be sad, but we are not sad!”
Healthcare was the theme of the day, but weighing heavily on the crowd were the executive orders Trump signed Wednesday cracking down on immigrants, particularly from majority-Muslim countries, and sanctuary cities — including Philadelphia, whose mayor defiantly declared that it would remain a sanctuary despite the threat of cuts in federal funding. And healthcare, it turns out, is a lens through which many issues, from clean water (the crowd was dotted with references to the Dakota Access Pipeline) to the economy can be read.
For Kialenah Stewart, a petite woman in hijab bearing a “Stop Profiling Muslims” sign, both the threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the threats to immigrants are personal. She is a home healthcare worker and an organizer with the low-wage workers’ campaign Fight for $15. The repeal of the ACA would threaten not only her own health insurance, but her job.
“I have a fibroid problem,” Stewart explained. “The ACA allowed me to get surgery.”
As for Trump’s comments about Islam, she smiles. “My faith is stronger than Donald Trump.”
Tyheera Sanders, also a home healthcare worker and, like Stewart, a member of Service Employees International Union Healthcare PA, has been taking care of her family since she was a teenager. At the age of 17, Sanders’ mother had a breakdown. To avoid losing her six brothers and sisters, she took over custody of the family. Her paid work caring for her 85-year-old grandfather and her paraplegic cousin allows her to be the breadwinner for her family, but she also a blood clotting disorder and cardiomyopathy. When she was first diagnosed, she had no health insurance to pay for the prescriptions she needed. “They gave me a $1300 prescription,” she said. The ACA keeps her alive.
“I take three injections a day and two heart pills twice a day,” she said. “Right now we want Congress to show us the replacement plan.”
Other attendees had some ideas about what that replacement plan could be. Sam Chemsak brandished a homemade sign that read “Socialize my healthcare and privatize my privates.” For her, too, the fear of losing healthcare is personal — she’s still on her parents’ insurance, and fears that expansion that allowed children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 will be repealed. She also wonders what will happen to mental health coverage.
“We need to keep talking about mental healthcare,” she noted. “We need to end the stigma around mental health issues.”
Chemsak is looking for a new job, but healthcare concerns limit her options. “I believe in small businesses; I’d love to own one myself,” she said, but feels like she can’t do that because she needs health insurance.
She isn’t the only person who feels like access to health insurance is key to being able to be an entrepreneur. Jerome Montes of the Main Street Alliance, which represents small businesses, believes that four million small businesses around the country will be affected if the ACA is repealed.
“That will mean a lot less money for business expenses,” he said, “And most importantly, less money for payroll.”
Repealing the ACA and cracking down on immigrants, he notes, would be “a body blow to our economy just as we’re getting out of the economic crisis.” Just in New Jersey, he estimates that complete ACA repeal — including rollback of the Medicaid expansion — would cost some 86,000 jobs.
“Trump is a businessman, he should understand what an important contribution immigrants make to our economy,” he added.
As the crowd streamed out of Thomas Paine Plaza into the streets around City Hall, Josephine Fantasia Perez chanted “Black lives matter! Trans lives matter!” Perez, a member of the Audre Lorde project and Stop and Surrender, was concerned about the effects of healthcare repeal on substance abuse and HIV clinics and housing. She also wanted the GOP politicians — along with many of the protesters — to focus on healthcare for transgender people, as well as housing and freedom from police harassment.
The police presence at the march was light as the protesters took over four lanes of traffic around city hall, their chants echoing off the hotels and office buildings. “We are the popular vote!” they proclaimed, pausing for a “die-in” by the Ritz-Carlton before setting off down John F. Kennedy Boulevard, where a small group of members of New York Communities for Change and Make the Road invaded the lobby of the BNY Mellon building, where Goldman Sachs has an office. Donning swamp creature masks, they challenged the investment bank’s connections to the Trump administration.
Over the GOP’s three days in Philadelphia, activists and community groups had planned multiple actions aside from the big march and rally. Wednesday night saw what is fast becoming a staple of the resistance to Trump and his notoriously anti-LGBT Vice President, Mike Pence: the queer dance party in the streets. As the afternoon wore on, the march dispersed, but protesters had plans to converge later in the day on the Loews Hotel for one last reminder to Trump and the GOP. “We’ll be back!”
The president claimed during his first major interview that two people were shot and killed during Obama’s farewell speech, but Chicago Police say that’s not true.
Donald Trump falsely claimed during his first major interview as president that two people were shot and killed in Chicago during former President Barack Obama’s farewell speech.
“Look, when President Obama was there two weeks ago making a speech, a very nice speech. Two people were shot and killed during his speech,” Trump told ABC News’ David Muir. “You can’t have that.”
The president was referring to Obama’s farewell speech on Jan. 10 in Chicago’s McCormick Place.
“They weren’t shot at the speech. But they were shot in the city of Chicago during his speech,” Trump said during the interview, which aired Wednesday night. “What—what’s going on?”
Trump was at the time answering a question about a tweet where he said he would “send in the feds” if crime was not reduced in the city. He said the federal government could provide help to the city, which he described as “carnage” and being “like a war zone.”
“I want them to straighten out the problem,” Trump said. “It’s a big problem.”
Chicago Police, however, told BuzzFeed News there were no fatal shootings in the city on Jan. 10, the day the former president gave the speech.
M. Spencer Green / AP
A police record of shootings in the city that day provided to BuzzFeed News also shows no shootings from about 8 to 9 p.m. while Obama spoke. According to the records, five shootings were reported in Chicago on the day of Obama’s visit, but none of the victims were fatally wounded.
Trump’s interview with Muir was his first as president since being sworn into office. His comments about a deadly shooting in Chicago, for which there is no record of, was made during a portion of the interview that was not aired Wednesday night.
It’s safe to say there’s an enormous amount of panic — and confusion — about what’s going on with the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency right now.
Over the past few days, we’ve seen reports that Trump’s team ordered EPA employees not to speak to the press or use social media for a period of time. They’ve imposed a (temporary) freeze on new grants and contracts. Trump’s political appointees even reportedly asked the EPA to remove parts of the agency’s climate change website — before receiving pushback from career staffers and then clarifying publicly that they merely planned on “scrubbing [the website] up a bit, putting a little freshener on it.” Within the agency, morale among career staff is low.
Now, on one level, the initial media furor around these stories has been a bit overblown. It’s really not that unusual for a new president to come in and put agency actions on hold temporarily while political appointees get a feel for their departments — and figure out how to align agency actions and messaging with the administration’s policy priorities. There’s a totally benign interpretation of many of these moves.
Indeed, Trump’s spokespeople have clarified that many of these EPA “blackouts” are likely to be short-lived — both the freeze on grants and the political review of outgoing scientific press releases are expected to be lifted by Friday, January 27.
Some of the disarray here may stem from the fact that Trump’s transition team got a later start and moved more slowly than Bush’s or Obama’s did. In previous transitions, for instance, an incoming administration would’ve reviewed EPA grants and contracts before the inauguration — so there wasn’t a need to suddenly freeze new grants on week one, explains Scott Fulton, who was the EPA’s general counsel during the Obama administration and is now president of the Environmental Law Institute.
But on another level, even if some of the early outrage has been overheated, it’s hardly a mystery why there’s a lot of dread and uncertainty about the EPA right now. You just have to look at what happened at the agency during the George W. Bush years — and also at what Trump’s team have explicitly said they want to do. The widespread fear that we might soon see a Trump “war on science” at the agency is hardly unfounded.
If the Bush years are any indication, there’s a lot to worry about with Trump’s EPA
Different administrations obviously have different ideas about what those regulations should look like — and the law gives the EPA a certain amount of leeway there. But what made the George W. Bush administration so striking is that it often attacked the underlying science itself, either by muzzling scientists or by ignoring or suppressing the relevant research.
Perhaps the most consequential example came in 2008, as the EPA was crafting new regulations for ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, as required by the Clean Air Act. Scientists at the EPA had reviewed some 1,700 papers on the effects of ozone and recommended that the standards be tightened — only to have the White House overrule their findings and set a weaker standard. (That rule was eventually redone by the Obama administration, which set stricter ozone standards.)
The Obama administration came in vowing to protect EPA’s scientists and improve transparency, and it hasn’t exactly been perfect on this score — it has, for instance, still been difficult for reporters to speak to EPA scientists over the past eight years. But the Bush era was in another category altogether.
That sort of thing is what EPA scientists and career staff are concerned about as the Trump administration gets underway. Sure, it may be normal and mostly harmless that Trump’s political appointees are reviewing all outgoing press scientific releases this week. But there’s a larger context to consider too. And Trump has given agency employees every reason to worry — if they want to quell those fears, his political appointees have a lot of work to do.
Trump’s advisers have already hinted they’ll go after EPA’s scientists
The Trump administration has made its plan for the EPA perfectly clear — it wants to roll back a wide variety of Obama-era climate rules and cut the agency’s budget considerably. Trump has been very explicit about easing the regulatory burden on coal-fired power plants and oil and gas producers. That’s a top priority.
Now, if that were all there was to it, you might say, okay, those are mainly policy issues. You can agree or disagree, but Trump is president, and he has some latitude to reorient the agency (as long as the EPA follows the laws that underpin the agency, like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act).
But Trump’s team hasn’t just talked about making regulatory changes through the usual federal rulemaking channels. They’ve also talked about going after EPA’s scientists and scientific process. Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen of Axios got a look at an “agency action plan” for the EPA written by Trump’s transition team. It has a section called “Addendum on the problems with EPA science” that includes this striking paragraph:
EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science. This is an old problem at EPA. In 1992, a blue-ribbon panel of EPA science advisers that [sic] ‘science should not be adjusted to fit policy.’ But rather than heed this advice, EPA has greatly increased its science manipulation.
The document follows up with recommendations that the EPA stop funding science altogether and that “EPA’s science advisory process needs to be overhauled to eliminate conflicts of interest and inherent bias.”
Now combine that with the Trump team’s well-known (and scientifically unfounded) hostility toward climate change research. You have the president himself saying global warming is “bullshit.” You have Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, refusing to say that human activity is the main cause of global warming (the evidence is overwhelming that it is). You have a Trump transition team official like Chris Horner, who has spent years hounding climate scientists and accusing them of manipulating data. When you put this together, it’s not hard to see why people are fearful that Trump’s team might come in and distort the scientific process.
In theory, the EPA should have new safeguards to protect its scientists from undue Bush-style political interference. The agency’s “scientific integrity policy,” enacted in 2012, notes that it is “essential that political or other officials not suppress or alter scientific findings.” The agency now has a “Scientific Integrity Official,” a career position, to enforce this policy, working with the EPA’s inspector general. Still, these integrity guidelines weren’t written into law by Congress — and outsiders fear that they may not be robust enough to withstand a White House intent on heavy interference.
It’s hard to know exactly how the Trump era at the EPA will play out, although Michael Halpern, the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggests watching what happens at EPA’s scientific advisory boards. These advisory boards are supposed to independently synthesize scientific research that is then used by policymakers to inform the shape of regulations. What happens to them under Trump?
Those sorts of decisions will be quieter and garner far less press attention than a website edit or a temporary grant freeze (unless career employees decide to leak what’s happening to the press). But they could end up being far, far more important. So pace yourself, everyone. It’s week one, there are still four years to go, and we haven’t even begun to see what will happen to the EPA under Trump.