Not everyone in Charlotte media was fooled by David Race Bannon's brazen lies, contrary to what you may have gathered from a recent Observer article by Tommy Tomlinson. A quick recap: Bannon was a computer specialist in Charlotte who caused a stir in 2003 when he published a book, Race Against Evil, in which he claimed to be a former spy and hired assassin for Interpol. Local media, particularly the Observer and the Link radio station, swallowed his story hook, line and sinker.
As Tomlinson reported last Sunday, Bannon recently pled guilty to a charge of criminal impersonation in Colorado after the phony assassin was caught offering $3,000 seminars on fighting human trafficking. Word of Bannon's deceitful habits had reached law enforcement personnel in Colorado -- unlike in Bannon's former city of Charlotte, where the police department recently invited him to speak to the police academy.
While in Charlotte, Bannon duped a lot of people with his cloak-and-dagger tales. He did radio interviews, he was mobbed during his book signing at Border's and he became the idol of a group of fans who gathered at Starbuck's to listen, starry-eyed, as Bannon told his Bourne Identity-style stories.
In his recent article, Tomlinson did report that much of the local media was taken in by Bannon, and noted "The Observer did an article that took his story at face value. We followed up with a piece noting that Interpol said he was a fraud." That's correct, as far as it goes, but there's some crucial backstory that was regrettably missing from Tomlinson's account. Specifically, he left out the one Charlotte media outlet that called Bannon's bluff -- and won an award for doing so. That would be Creative Loafing. Here's what happened.
In early February 2003, as editor of CL, I asked writer Sam Boykin to look into Bannon's stories, which had tripped both Boykin's and my "bullshit detectors."
The daily paper published writer Olivia Fortson's gushing story about Bannon's whiz-bang life as a spy/assassin on Feb. 6, 2003. While Boykin was working on his own, more researched Bannon article, he talked to Fortson, who told him she believed Bannon's story. Boykin also informed her that he had called Interpol and the organization had refuted Bannon's claims. As Boykin noted in his subsequent story, CL at that time was "the only media outlet to have contacted Interpol to get their reaction to Bannon's book."
On Feb. 25, the day before Boykin's story was scheduled for publication, the Observer suddenly ran the follow-up piece mentioned by Tomlinson, in which they finally contacted Interpol.
Our story, "Man of Mystery: David Race Bannon -- former assassin for Interpol, or outrageous liar?", came out on Feb. 26, and later won a North Carolina Press Association first place award for enterprise news reporting. In it, Boykin reported on Interpol's denial of Bannon's claims and also told of repeated, failed attempts to acquire confirmation of Bannon's supposed Interpol days from "contacts" provided by the bullshitter himself. "Bottom line," wrote Boykin, "Bannon was unable to produce a single document or piece of evidence to prove his claims."
Later, in our Aug. 6, 2003, "Best of Charlotte" issue, we awarded Bannon a prize as "Best Action Figure Wanna-Be," noting, "He can't prove what he claims, and we can't prove he's wrong, but we suspect there's more Chuck Barris than James Bond here."
That's enough about Bannon's pitiful fantasies. But I feel it's important to clarify how the local media reacted to his nonsense -- and that this paper didn't fall for it.
Crazy 'Bout Sue
Last week, Rep. Sue Myrick talked about being crazy. OK, that's not exactly right. What she did was chair a meeting of a House panel on mental illness where she talked about her granddaughter's bout with bipolar disorder. Myrick did it, she said, to urge people with mental illness to get treatment. This is a laudable use of her public office and I commend her for it. But Rep. Myrick is being too humble, as her granddaughter's problem is far from the congresswoman's only brush with her panel's topic. Three examples:
One, Myrick's husband Ed once claimed that God spoke to him through his Mr. Coffee machine (this isn't a joke, folks). As a result, two city council members during Myrick's days as mayor had to look away from each other, for fear of breaking out laughing, every time Sue walked to the coffee machine during council meetings.
Two, during her mayoral re-election race, she flipped out during a radio show in which listeners peppered her with questions about that week's CL story detailing how she had broken up Ed's first marriage. Myrick, who later admitted the charges of adultery were true, proclaimed, "I don't have to listen to this shit!" and stormed out of the studio, leading many citizens to wonder if she'd become unhinged.
Three, she once claimed she and Ed had reached a major life decision -- whether she should run for office -- during a beach trip when they once again heard from God after they built an altar in a sand dune and prayed before it.
Hey, it's a crazy world.