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October surprise

An October surprise is a stunning news event calculated to influence the outcome of a US election, particularly one for the presidency. "Historically, news outlets avoid investigative pieces critical of candidates within days of an election to avoid appearing partisan."

1980 Carter vs. Reagan

Former White House staffer Barbara Honegger's 1989 book October Surprise, followed by Gary Sick's of the same name, made the phrase October surprise a permanent part of the political vocabulary. After the failure of a military operation to rescue the American hostages held by radical Islamist students in Iran, rumors surfaced that Republican challenger Ronald Reagan had made a "secret hostage deal [with] the Iranian government," whereby the Iranians would hold the hostages back until Reagan was elected, ensuring not only that President Jimmy Carter lost the election due to his failure to gain the hostages' release, but also that his entire presidency came to be perceived as having been hijacked, ineffectually, to the hostages' situation.

There is no credible evidence to support this October surprise conspiracy theory. The sources who have approached journalists with supposedly inside information about the hostage deal have been shown to be conmen of various kinds. Barbara Honegger's version of the story relied heavily on a source called Mr. X. This out to be Oswald LeWinter, a well-known trickster who pretends to be a disaffected CIA officer, and who has used many different names in the past to trick journalists into believing his various conspiracy theories, which invariably involve the CIA having advance warning of, or actually executing, whichever tragedy he is offering information about.

LeWinter later served time in jail in Austria for an attempt to obtain $10 million from Mohammed al-Fayed in exchange for documents showing Diana and Dodi were murdered by the British intelligence service MI6. LeWinter also claimed without evidence in 1994 to have inside knowledge of the so-called drugs-for intelligence conspiracy theory that states Pan Am Flight 103 was downed after a CIA operation went wrong. He nows writes poetry under the title Dr. Oswald LeWinter.

1992 Bush vs. Clinton

"Just four days before the vote that year, Reagan defense secretary Caspar Weinberger was indicted on Iran-Contra conspiracy charges (later overturned). It stopped a late Bush surge in the polls and Republicans howled at the timing."

2000 Gore vs. Bush

A couple of days before the election, media unearthed an old report that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunken driving. Many pundits asserted that the story was responsible for putting a major dent in Bush's lead in the polls.

(See U.S. presidential election, 2000).

2003 California re-call election

The Los Angeles Times released a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger a couple of days before the 2003 California recall, prompting many pundits to charge that the timing of the story was aimed specifically at derailing the recall campaign.

2004 Bush vs. Kerry

The Kerry campaign blamed the Bush administration for the disappearance of huge cache of explosives from a warehouse in al Qa'qaa (see Missing explosives in Iraq). The Pentagon retorted that US troops had never seen the munitions, which had last been seen by UN inspectors 3 months before the US-led invasion. (Timeline:

The Arabic news agency Al Jazeera airs a video of Osama bin Laden just days before the November 2nd election (see 2004 Osama bin Laden video). In a speech that justifies and takes responsibility for the actions of September 11th, bin Laden calls out the Bush administration and the American position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or al-Qaeda," Osama claims. "Your security is in your own hands." (Speech Excerpt: This is believed to have helped President Bush's campaign as it thrusted the War on Terrorism back into the public eye.

(See U.S. presidential election, 2004.)

External links

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