Did Erich 'Mancow' Muller Fake His Waterboarding for Publicity?S

Yesterday we showed you video of Erich "Mancow" Muller, a Chicago-based right-wing shockjock, appearing as a guest on Keith Olbermann's show to discuss his being waterboarded. He claimed it led to an ideological conversion! But now a tipster has provided information that suggests the whole thing may be a hoax.

[Update: The marine who "waterboarded" Mancow told us this morning that he had "no idea what he was doing" and that everything he knows about waterboarding, he read on the internet. Mancow told us that "hoax isn't the right word," but that the whole thing was supposed to be "simulated."]

The information provided to Gawker by our tipster came in a series of emails and is somewhat layered, so we'll try to lay it all out as unconfusingly as possible. Where the story begins is last Thursday afternoon, the day before Mancow was scheduled to be waterboarded, when the person slated to do the waterboarding suddenly backed out, sending Mancow's publicity team into a mild frenzy to find someone to replace him. A chain of emails followed, emails that were subsequently forwarded to Gawker by our tipster.

There are three main players in the following sequence of events:

-The first is a Chicago-based publicist named Linda Shafran whose clients include the Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos shows, in addition to Erich "Mancow" Muller. In describing Shafran our tipster added:

"Linda Shafran is Springer's current publicist until the show starts shooting in CT. Since Springer is her primary source of income, she's now trying to help promote Mancow nationally as a shock jock alternative to Howard Stern."

-The second person involved in this is a man named David Kupcinet. He runs a Chicago-based foundation for veterans called Kup's Purple Heart Foundation. He is the grandson of Irv Kupcinet, a somewhat legendary Chicago gossip columnist who wrote a column for the Chicago Sun Times for over 60 years. At the behest of a friend, Linda Shafran contacted Kupcinet on Thursday hoping that his relationships with Chicago-area veterans and military personnel could help her find a replacement waterboarder.

-The third person involved here, to a much lesser degree, is another Chicago-based publicist named Kathy Posner. According to our tipster, Posner is Jerry Springer's former flack and a friend of both Linda Shafran and Erich "Mancow" Muller. According to one of the emails we were forwarded, it was Posner who suggested that Shafran contact David Kupcinet to find a replacement waterboarder.

Now, with all of that background established, here are some of the emails that followed between Shafran and Kupcinet, the first being the initial contact between the two on the matter:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:15 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: URGENT

Don't shoot the messenger

Mancow has been promoting all week that he is getting waterboarded tomorrow between 8-9am on-air. We have camera crew shooting it for WGN

The swat guy he had to do the waterboarding now can't do it. Do you know any military guy that might come down to WLS radio tomorrow (190 N. State Street) to waterboard Mancow????

Kathy said you know lots of military guys that might do it...or a policeman or fireman or EMT.

HELP

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
cell: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

Kupcinet, or "Kuppy," responded a few minutes later:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:28 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: Re: URGENT

What exactly do you mean? You mean really tortured? What exactly would it consist of and do they need to bring gear or does Cow have what he needs or what?

Get back to me quick an ill find u a guy.

Kuppy

(P.S. Love you)

Sent from my iPhone

Now, here's the key email in the exchange, with Shafran saying in no uncertain terms that the whole thing is being staged as a hoax:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 1:38 PM
To: [redacted]
Cc: [redacted]
Subject: Re: URGENT

You are a ROCK STAR!!!

It is going to have to look "real" but of course would be simulated with Mancow acting like he is drowning. It will be a hoax but have to look real. Would be great if they could dress in fatigues and bring whatever is needed. We will supply the water

xxxx

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
cell: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

After getting this email from Shafran, David Kupcinet suggested she contact Marine Sgt. Clay South, the person who eventually carried out Mancow's waterboarding. We include this next email only because we find the compensation offer extended to South from Mancow via Shafran to be somewhat amusing:

From: [redacted]
Date: Thu, May 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: MANCOW WAS ALL OVER IT

I tried to call you but got voicemail. I talked to Mancow and he said "Are you kidding - of course he can mention the charity and talk about his experiences over there"

I am going to call Klay now. Mancow will pay gas and parking.

Linda Shafran
Jerry Springer Show
454 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: [redacted]
FX: [redacted]
Email: [redacted]

We contacted Linda Shafran last night for a statement about this and she emailed us back with an emphatic denial that anything was faked:

It was NOT a hoax. Early on when we were looking for someone to waterboard, an email was sent out looking for someone to do it and I mistakenly said it would be staged. That was my mistake and a misunderstanding.

But that was early and NOT TRUE AT ALL. It was not staged. NOT AT ALL. When it happened several days later, it was real, honest, actual, not staged.

Any info you have was my mistake. THE WATERBOARDING OF MANCOW WAS REAL!!!!!!

The glaring discrepancy in Shafran's statement to us is that her emails to Kupcinet are dated Thursday, May 21st, the day prior to Mancow's waterboarding, while she now claims that these emails were sent out "early on" and that the waterboarding took place "several days later." Additionally, she even mentions that Mancow "is getting waterboarded tomorrow" in her first note to Kupcinet.

Regarding the emails between Safran and Kupcinet, our tipster also informed us that they were shared with Keith Olbermann's producers prior to Mancow's appearance on his show. We were told that they were beyond livid when they found out about them and expressed their extreme displeasure for the whole situation with Linda Shafran over the phone, but went ahead with the planned segment anyway, making no mention of the fact that they'd received advance word that the whole thing may have been staged. However, we were unable to confirm this with anyone at MSNBC.

Now, we're obviously no experts on the art of waterboarding, but we've done a bit of research on it and also went back and watched the video of Christopher Hitchens' waterboarding in 2008 to compare and contrast his waterboarding against Mancow's, and we couldn't help but notice some rather striking differences.

In the Hitchens video, everything is carried out pretty much according to universal waterboarding protocol as we've come to understand it. His limbs and torso are tightly bound by restraints. The platform on which he lays appears to be tilted slightly downward so that his head is positioned below his heart. His head is also completely covered and the water used looks as though it's poured directly into his breathing passages.

In contrast, Mancow isn't bound by restraints at all, he doesn't appear to have his body positioned at a decline, only a portion of his face from the nose up is covered, and the water is being poured on him inappropriately.

In short, when we watched the Mancow video for the first time it struck us in a "well that doesn't look TOO awful" sort of way. For a brief moment it even made us want to call some friends over so we could all waterboard each other and see what all the fuss is about. On the other hand, the Hitchens video is somewhat nightmarish, making us want to never have anything to do with a waterboarding, ever.

We suggest you watch them both and decide for yourself.

Click to view




In our post yesterday we actually praised Mancow for having the courage to undergo the infamous interrogation technique AND then going so far as to appear as a guest on a show hosted by television's shoutiest liberal to proclaim how wrong and misguided he's been all along. Here's part of what we said:

We suppose it'd be easy to mock and ridicule "Mancow" here, as he does seem to be an extraordinarily massive tool, not even taking into consideration that he was one of the main guys spreading the "Obama is a closet Muslim" rumors during the election, but there's something truly admirable in a) being sufficiently curious and willing to undergo the procedure personally to truly see what it was like to be on the receiving end of a waterboarding, and b) appearing on the air with arguably the most unabashedly liberal host on television to profess how horribly wrong he'd been previously.

Despite the emails indicating that the whole thing may have been staged, there's a small part of us that still wants to extend Erich "Mancow" Muller the benefit of the doubt, despite his being no stranger to controversy, but our skepticism at this point is pretty dang high, and we can't help from feeling as though we, along with a host of others, have been duped by a cheap publicity stunt.