why the hell wasn’t this october surprise story followed for years?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 minutes.

SOMEONE IN THE REAGAN CAMP ap­proached the Iranian hostage takers in 1980 about not making a deal with Pres­i­dent Carter until after the US elec­tions of that year. Why wasn’t this story fol­lowed by the media and others for years ex­cept for a few people? And you know what they called us, right? Con­spiracy theorists.

The name most often cir­cu­lated as the go-between was William J. Casey, then chairman of Reagan’s cam­paign. He was later made di­rector of the CIA, presumably—at least to us con­spiracy theorists—as a re­ward for the above service.

His­tory needs to know that the “Oc­tober Sur­prise” of 1980 happened.

In an ar­ticle for The New York Times, Peter Baker noted that “Carter’s camp has long sus­pected that Casey or someone else in Reagan’s orbit sought to se­cretly tor­pedo ef­forts to lib­erate the hostages be­fore the elec­tion, and books have been written on what came to be called the Oc­tober surprise.”

Well, sur­prise sur­prise! Someone else—possibly an eye-bloody-witness—has come forth and posited an­other man as the Reagan deal-maker: former De­mo­c­ratic Gov­ernor of Texas John Con­nally!


Story followed: front page of the November 5, 1979, issue of The San Diego Union newspaper.
This is the front page of the No­vember 5, 1979, issue of The San Diego Union news­paper. The head­line ad­dresses the seizure of the US em­bassy in Iran. Co­in­ci­den­tally, an ar­ticle in the lower left corner is about John B. Connally.

Hostages held in Iran

On No­vember 4, 1979, the crisis began when mil­i­tant Iranian stu­dents, out­raged that the U.S. gov­ern­ment had al­lowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for med­ical treat­ment, seized the U.S. em­bassy in Teheran.

Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter was un­able to diplo­mat­i­cally re­solve the crisis. The former shah died of cancer in Egypt, but the crisis con­tinued. In No­vember 1980, Carter lost the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to Re­pub­lican Ronald Reagan.

Soon after, suc­cessful ne­go­ti­a­tions began be­tween the United States and Iran. On the day of Reagan’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, the US freed al­most $8 bil­lion in frozen Iranian as­sets, and the hostages were re­leased after 444 days. (His­tory)


Story followed: photo of Ben Barnes, Democratic Lt. Governor of Texas, and John Connally, Democratic Governor of Texas, in January 1967.
Ben Barnes, Lt. Gov­ernor of Texas, and John Con­nally, Gov­ernor of Texas, in Jan­uary 1967, when both men were De­moc­rats. (Photo cour­tesy of The Dallas Morning News Collection.)

Ben never has lied to me

Peter Baker is the chief White House cor­re­spon­dent for The New York Times. In his ar­ticle “A 4-Decade Se­cret: One Man’s Story of Sab­o­taging Carter’s Re­elec­tion” (March 20, 2023), he ad­dresses the re­cent ad­mis­sion of Ben Barnes con­cerning his trek through sev­eral Middle Eastern na­tions in late 1980. at the time:

“Barnes is no shady for­eign arms dealer with ques­tion­able cred­i­bility. He was once one of the most promi­nent fig­ures in Texas, the youngest speaker of the Texas House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and later lieu­tenant governor.

He was such an in­flu­en­tial figure that he helped a young George W. Bush get into the Texas Air Na­tional Guard rather than be ex­posed to the draft and sent to Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson pre­dicted that Barnes would be­come pres­i­dent someday.”

To bol­ster his story, Barnes named four living people whom he said he had con­fided his story to over the years. Ac­cording to Baker, “All four of [the living people Barnes had con­fided in] con­firmed in re­cent days that Barnes shared the story with them years ago.”

That’s “years ago.”


Story followed: photo of President Jimmy Carter and Gary G. Sick from the US National Security Council.
Gary G. Sick served on the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Council under Ford, Carter, and Reagan. He may have been the first person to sug­gest that Carter had been un­der­mined by the Reagan team or the Rep*blican Party con­spiring with Iran to pro­long the hostage crisis in 1980.

Why wasn’t this story followed for years?

One of the people that Barnes con­fided in was Tom Johnson. A former aide to Lyndon Johnson (no re­la­tion), Johnson even­tu­ally be­came the pub­lisher of The Los An­geles Times. From 1977-1990, Johnson was in charge of one of the largest and most in­flu­en­tial news­pa­pers in the United States.

Johnson fol­lowed this by be­coming the pres­i­dent of CNN from 1990–2001. Cable News Net­work was the first tele­vi­sion channel to pro­vide 24-hour news cov­erage and the first all-news tele­vi­sion channel.

So, this means that one of the biggest movers and shakers in Amer­ican media knew about Con­nal­ly’s trea­so­nous trip “years ago” and did nothing about it. And both the Times and CNN are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be “lib­eral” by the rest of the mainstream/corporate media.

Even for the sake of ap­pear­ance, Johnson didn’t even bother to as­sign some in­ef­fec­tual cub re­porter from the paper or the sta­tion to do a little dig­ging into what was po­ten­tially one of the most dam­aging sto­ries in modern Amer­ican politics!

This is doubly cu­rious as Johnson told Baker, “As far as I know, Ben never has lied to me.”

To read Peter Bak­er’s ar­ticle, click here.


Story followed: photo of William J. Casey, former head of the CIA and possible architect in the 1980 "October Surprise."
Photo of William J. Casey, former head of the CIA and pos­sible ar­chi­tect in the 1980 “Oc­tober Surprise.”

A reasonable observation

The first com­ment posted on Peter Bak­er’s ar­ticle is from “Mark” and reads, “With Reagan an­nouncing the re­lease of the hostages during his in­au­gu­ra­tion, the re­lease had to have been ne­go­ti­ated while Carter was still Pres­i­dent but de­layed enough to not help [Carter] during the election.”

That ob­ser­va­tion sounds plau­sible for it to be pos­sible for the President-elect to have known about the hostages’ re­lease be­fore the sit­ting Pres­i­dent knew.

And every jour­nalist, ed­itor, and pub­lisher in any media in­volved in re­porting the news—in fact, every­body with a three-figure IQ paying at­ten­tion to these events—should have no­ticed that then.

But only a few of us did and you know what they called us, right . . .


Story followed: photo of Ben Barnes in 2023.

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from this photo of Ben Barnes, now 82 years old. This photo was taken by Christo­pher Lee for The New York Times and was used in Bak­er’s ar­ticle. There is this cap­tion: “ ‘His­tory needs to know that this hap­pened,’ Ben Barnes now says of his trip to the Middle East in 1980.”


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2 thoughts on “why the hell wasn’t this october surprise story followed for years?”

  1. Nice ar­ticle. I was just a wee lad of 11 when that hap­pened, and I al­ways had a sneaking suspicion...

    • Aside from the ob­vi­ous­ness of Reagan having such an an­nounce­ment at his in­au­gu­ra­tion meaning someone had to have been ne­go­ti­ating with someone in Iran be­hind everyone else’s backs, there were lots of other ev­i­dence. Most of the damn li­brull media just let it hang on the tree to rot.


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