Vanity Fair and ABC-TV Stories of Mumia’s ‘Confession’ Collapse


Last month, the nation’s corporate media blared forth with “new evidence” demonstrating the guilt of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Former Pennsylvania Prison Society member Phillip Bloch was quoted in a lengthy article published in the July issue of Vanity Fair and repeated in an updated rebroadcast on ABC’s 20/20 to the effect that Jamal in late 1992 had “confessed” to the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Bloch claimed that Mumia had answered “yes,” to his question as to whether he regretted his murder of Daniel Faulkner.

Jamal immediately responded to Bloch’s accusation. “A lie is a lie, whether made today or 10 years later.” He continued, “I find it remarkable that this rumor turned lie was never brought to my attention by the author, by Mr. Bloch himself, or by Vanity Fair magazine, which never contacted me. Welcome to snuff journalism.”

Jamal concluded. “If ever one needed proof of the state’s desperation, here it is. I thank Vanity Fair, not for their work but for stoking this controversy, because controversy leads to questioning, and one can only question this belated confession.” The corporate media ignored Jamal’s denials.

The outraged executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society told Amy Goodman, on Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!” that Bloch, who had been fired some nine years ago by this religious-based human rights group, was the first volunteer in the organization’s 200-year history to make such a statement, breaking the organization’s code of conduct requiring confidentiality in regard to conversations with prisoners.

Bloch, who was paraded before the media by Jamal’s prosecutors and Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell, was questioned on “Democracy Now!” by Jamal’s chief legal counsel, Leonard Weinglass. After a few haphazard and confused answers to Weinglass’ pointed inquiries, Bloch became increasingly frustrated and threatened to end the interview.

Bloch’s letter to Mumia

Now, just a few weeks later, Bloch’s much touted fabrication of Mumia’s “confession” stands repudiated.

Bloch told ABC’s Sam Donaldson, host of “20/20,” and Vanity Fair editor Buss Bissigner that Mumia had confessed to the murder of police officer Faulkner during a prison conversation with him in late 1992. Bloch claimed that at that time he was serving as a volunteer for the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

However, on July 17, 1993, Block wrote Abu-Jamal a handwritten letter stating that he was confident that Abu-Jamal would receive a new trial where his innocence would be proven.

Abu-Jamal found in his records Bloch’s dated letter to him, including the postmarked envelope. (See Abu-Jamal’s statement to Socialist Action, “Anatomy of a Lie” below.)

Bloch, who was slated for a press conference with Mumia’s former prosecutor (now Philadelphia Mayor) Ed Rendell, has stated publicly that he became disillusioned with Mumia’s cause when he heard the “confession.” After this “confession” says Bloch, his relations with Mumia ended, but he remained silent until recently.

Bloch has said that he became outraged at the mass demonstrations in support of Mumia and decided to contact the slain police officer’s wife, Maureen Faulkner, who put him in touch with police officials and major media outlets.

But Bloch’s relations with Mumia apparently continued for at least six months after the alleged confession, during which time, as Bloch’s letter demonstrates, he continued to insist on Jamal’s innocence!

More evidence refuting Bloch

Vanity Fair and “20/20” ignored two additional pieces of evidence undermining Bloch’s contention that Mumia had confessed.

First, the record shows that Bloch had been fired by the Pennsylvania Prison Society a year earlier for repeated violations of its procedures. Contrary to his claims, he did not work for the Prison Society at the time of the alleged confession. Therefore, Bloch could not have visited Abu-Jamal at the time he claims the so-called confession was made.

Second, the “confession” took place in a secured visiting cubicle that Mumia and other prisoners knew contained hidden microphones placed there by prison officials for illegal eavesdropping purposes.

Neither Vanity Fair nor “20/20 bother to explain to their audience that the magazine’s hit piece on Mumia was authored by Philadelphia Mayor Rendell’s long-time publicist, Buzz Bissigner.

Bissigner’s piece repeated the numerous lies, distortions, and half-truths that have long been refuted by either the trial transcripts or the new evidence found in the case. The sensational new “confession” by Bloch, however, was the “new” evidence the media used to press forward with their execution campaign.

Sam Donaldson of “20/20” was “unavailable for comment” when called to respond to his broadcast of Bloch’s falsified confession.

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