No Comment — July 24, 2009, 9:47 am

The Pickering Diaries

Just what went on in the right-wing Republican frat house that passes for a “church” on C Street? It looks like part of the answer is to be found in Mississippi, where legal maneuvers in twin divorce and alienation of affection lawsuits have focused on a set of journals maintained by former Congressman Chip Pickering—a man widely expected to leap to the leadership of the state’s dominant G.O.P. machine before his extramarital affairs drew public attention. “While former Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi allegedly carried on an extramarital affair with Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd,” writes the Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal, “he recorded details of his exploits in a secret diary, including the dates and locations of his adulterous encounters.”

I would question the ultimate news value of another story about a “family values” Republican congressman involved in an adulterous liaison in Washington. But the real story here is about a politically influenced court system. The court should strive to enforce the law, doing substantial justice and looking after the best interests of the five children of Chip Pickering and his estranged wife Leisha. It should take into account the fact that Chip Pickering, as a public personage, is not entitled to the level of privacy and protection that a purely private individual would have—in fact, the public has a legitimate interest in knowing what he did when he went to Congress as their representative, pledging to uphold a “family values” creed. But Pickering carefully steered the case into the court of Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer, a move that proved tactically brilliant. Brewer protected him and his political position from the outset, putting the interests of his wife and five children in the shadows. Brewer is a loyal Republican with political ties to the party’s leadership, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He engineered the G.O.P.’s successful political makeover of the Mississippi courts, fueling the G.O.P. judicial slate with Washington-based lobbying money. Pickering also now works with a lobbying firm in which the Barbour family is deeply involved. Judge Brewer’s one-sided rulings include extraordinary efforts to suppress the Pickering journals and a highly improper disqualification of the wife’s counsel coupled with compelling the wife to testify without legal representation. Max Blumenthal takes us on a tour of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of politically charged justice in Mississippi, as it strains to suppress documents that could blow apart one of Washington’s most lurid scandals.

When she attempted to introduce her husband’s diary as evidence during a July 7 divorce hearing in Mississippi, Pickering’s lawyers demanded Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer keep them under seal. Though the lawyers had scant legal precedent for their request, the judge acceded, saying the diaries were prepared in anticipation of litigation and were therefore inadmissible in court. A source close to the case told me Brewer’s ruling was “incredibly outside the norm” and “outrageous.” “The court seemed in awe of Chip Pickering,” an attorney speaking on background told the Jackson Free Press, “like they had decided that were going to do everything to help him out. This was blatantly wrong.”

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today