Larry Sinclair makes some lurid claims about Barack Obama
By Tim Shipman June 19th, 2008
As I write this, I am wearing around my neck a press credential that I will treasure for years. It was my entry ticket to perhaps the most bizarre act of political theatre in what is already the most remarkable presidential election in decades.
At the National Press Club in Washington, a man called Larry Sinclair held a press conference that defied belief, making claims about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that stretch the limits of the word lurid.
Those with an iron constitution will be quickly able to find them on the internet, since Mr Sinclair has detailed them in a video on YouTube.
Suffice it to say that he touches on all the most explosive areas of the 15 minute fame seeker: sex, drugs and even murder, all of which remain totally without credulity or corroboration.
This was a shame because Mr Sinclair had called his press conference to provide what he promised was factual evidence of the unlikely events he says occurred in November of 1999 when he supposedly met Mr Obama, then an Illinois state senator.
He was completely unable to say why a state senator with aspirations of running for president and a young family would associate with a self-confessed drug dealer.
But then Mr Sinclair is not exactly what you would term a model witness. He took the stage looking both a little nervous and a little like Martin McGuinness. That, of course, is not a crime.
What is a crime, as Mr Sinclair was only too happy to relate, are the acts of deception, cheque and credit card fraud to which he has confessed and for which, in at least one instance, he has served jail time. He is still a wanted man in the state of Arizona.
Mr Sinclair had in tow a lawyer called Montgomery Blair Sibley. The grandeur of Mr Sibley’s name was matched only by the grandeur of his attire. He was resplendent in a kilt, not exactly a common get-up in these parts.
The clothes were rather more impressive than Mr Sibley’s legal credentials. His license to practice has been suspended in both Florida and the District of Colombia.
Monty Python could not have done justice to the moment when Mr Sibley, a man hired presumably to lend credibility to the occasion, chose to explain the presence of his kilt with reference to the size of his manhood, which we were given to understand is too substantial to be shackled by the cloth of conventional underwear and trousers.
“I don’t know why men wear pants,” he said. “It’s a function of male genitalia. If you’re size normal or smaller, you’re probably comfortable. Those at the other end of the spectrum find them quite confining.”
At this point the pent up tension dissolved into open laughter among reporters who believed not a word of what Mr Sinclair was saying but felt compelled to listen not only out of politeness but the memory that most were wrong to dismiss the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual shenanigans 15 years ago.
On the details that mattered, Mr Sinclair was vague. He claims to have spent the evening with Mr Obama in the back of a limousine, and then time in his hotel room the day afterwards. Yet there were none of those little details,the wallpaper, the drinks they drank, the things they saw,which are usually deployed by people trying to convince others of their veracity.
What did they talk about? “Pretty much nothing.” For an entire evening?
When one journalist asked at what time on each of the days he had met Mr Obama, answer came there none. “I know where you’re coming from with that,” he said. Yes, testing your claims, as you invited us to do. “I cannot provide that to you,” he said.
There were moments of tension and comedy. When a German female reporter asked him whether he had fallen in love with Mr Obama, Mr Sinclair responded with a question of his own: “Madam, in your entire lifetime have you never had a one night stand?”
Between coughing fits, Mr Sinclair claimed that he has given details of phone calls between him, the limousine driver and Mr Obama to the Chicago police. He was forced to correct one of the mobile numbers he read out, a typing error in the glossy printed statement we were each handed.
Mr Sinclair offered a hotel receipt that appears to show he was in the Chicago area at the time he claims his bizarre liaison occurred. But he was not able to provide any phone records from 1999.
He named the limousine driver as Paramjit Multani and said that the two had been in contact during the early part of the year but that now Mr Multani and his family have disappeared. This is convenient to say the least. The documents he supplied listed a limo driver as Rashpal Multani instead.
On the details that didn’t matter, Mr Sinclair was commendably detailed. He knew off the top of his head and without recourse to notes that the press club event had set him back $4,126.89. This shows a bizarre facility for recall not in evidence on the substance of his claims.
He admitted that he is unemployed and lives off disability benefits. There would seem to be a discrepancy between his personal poverty and the cost of the event, the dossiers and the glossy press passes. But no, Mr Sinclair assured us, all the money had come from small donations to his website.
There is a very serious point to all this. Mr Sinclair became visibly unsettled and irritable when questioned about the source of his funds.
He said he has had no contact with any Republican groups and that he would release his financial records. But this was one of many things he promised to make available in the future his medical records were another since he is suffering from a brain tumour,and you would have thought he would have presented them himself if he were genuinely expecting to make anyone believe him.
Would he release the details of his donors? Yes. But not their names. It is not clear how that constitutes releasing details of the donors.
There remains the lingering suspicion that attack groups will pay people like Mr Sinclair to keep their allegations in the public eye and Mr Obama out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
When I returned from the Alice in Wonderland press conference, a Republican friend who worked for Ronald Reagan happened to call. He was emphatic that the Republicans cannot get involved in smears on Obama. His argument was that they would be better off losing than end up tainted with the smear of racism for decades to come.
“This is one election we’re going to have to win on the issues,” he said. “It would be horrible for us if we won because of smears.”
The seriousness of the charges requires that they be properly investigated. But if Obama’s enemies want ammunition they would be well advised to look beyond Mr Sinclair.
At one point, urging the press only to probe his claims not swallow them wholesale, he said. “In fact, I’m not saying: ‘Believe me!’”
With that, at least, we were all happy to comply.