Cynthia McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father, the late Billy McKinney, was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1973-2002.
Cynthia McKinney was active in the burgeoning civil-rights movement from a young age, participating in numerous sit-ins and demonstrations as a teenager. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the University of Southern California in 1978, and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University) in 1979. After completing her formal education, McKinney worked as a high-school teacher before serving as a diplomatic fellow at Spelman College in 1984, and then as a political science instructor at Clark Atlanta University and Agnes Scott College (in the mid-1980s).
McKinney’s first foray into politics occurred in 1986 when her father submitted her name (without his daughter’s knowledge) as a write-in candidate for the Georgia state house. She lost the election, but two years later she ran again (as a Democrat) for the same seat and won – thereby making the McKinneys the first father-daughter tandem ever to serve simultaneously in that legislative body.
With the help of her father, McKinney was given a seat on the redistricting committee that in 1991 re-drew Georgia’s congressional districts, some of which were tailored specifically to favor the election of African-Americans. In 1992 McKinney ran successfully in one of those districts (the 11th) which she had helped gerrymander, and thus she became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She promptly joined both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and theCongressional Black Caucus.
In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Georgia’s 11th Congressional District was an unconstitutional gerrymander because its boundaries had been drawn exclusively on the basis of race. Consequently, McKinney’s district was reconfigured and renumbered as the 4th. Notwithstanding this change, McKinney easily went on to win re-election to Congress in 1996, 1998, and 2000.
During the 1996 race, McKinney said that Georgia Republicans like her opponent John Mitnick, who was Jewish, were “neo-Confederates” remaindered from “Civil War days.” McKinney’s father, meanwhile, repeatedly called Mitnick a “racist Jew” throughout the campaign. As Slate‘s Chris Suellentrop noted, when the New York Times asked Billy McKinney to elaborate on his comments, he simply repeated that Mitnick “is a racist Jew, that’s what he is, isn’t he?” The controversy over Billy McKinney’s comments lasted for a number of weeks, until he eventually had to resign in disgrace from his daughter’s campaign.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, wrote journalist Michael Barone, “a complaint by black Secret Service agents” prompted McKinney’s office to issue a statement “attacking [Democratic candidate] Al Gore‘s low ‘Negro tolerance level’ and accus[ing] him of rarely having more than one black agent with him.”
In 2001 McKinney voted for legislation to legalize the practice of same-day voter registration on Election Day everywhere in America. Had the measure passed, it would have eliminated many of the checks and safeguards preventing fraudulent voting.
In June 2001, McKinney congressional staffer Jonathan Fremont spent seven days in Havana, Cuba, on a “fact-finding” mission during which he met with Cuban officials and visited schools, hospitals, churches, and NGO offices. The trip’s $2,004.43 price tag was paid for by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.
In September 2001, the United States withdrew most of its diplomatic participation in theUnited Nations’ World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia And Related Intolerancein Durban, South Africa, after it became clear that the gathering had devolved into a forum not only for anti-American propaganda, but also for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic diatribes. Nevertheless, Rep. McKinney and six other members of Congress chose to attend the conference.In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, McKinney sparked controversy when she struck a conciliatory note with a Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, who had tried to use his $10 million donation – ostensibly intended to help the relief effort in New York City – as a means of gaining a platform from which he could criticize U.S. support for Israel. Specifically, bin Talal’s donation was made with the implicit condition that America should “address some of the issues that led to such a criminal [9/11] attack” – among them, “its policies in the Middle East” where “our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.” After New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani refused to accept the prince’s money because of the conditions which the latter had attached to it, McKinney on October 12 wrote the prince an open letter that included the following sentiments:
In November 2001, a member of McKinney’s congressional staff,Raeed Tayeh, wrote to the Capitol Hill magazine Roll Call to attack “these pro-Israeli lawmakers [who] sit on the House International Relations Committee despite the obvious conflict of interest that their emotional attachments to Israel cause…. The Israeli occupation of all territories must end, including Congress.”
In December 2001, McKinney praised Zimbabwe’s Marxist President Robert Mugabe for his racist policy of confiscating all the white-owned farms in his country: “To any honest observer,” said McKinney, “Zimbabwe’s sin is that it has taken the position to right a wrong, whose resolution has been too long overdue — to return its land to its people.”
During an interview on BerkeleyPacifica Radio station KPFA in March 2002, McKinney suggested that George W. Bush had known in advance that the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were coming — and that the President had willingly let thousands of innocent people die, on the theory that a post-9/11 war would somehow profit the Bush family’s wealthy friends. “We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11,”said Ms. McKinney on KPFA’s airwaves. “What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?…. What do they have to hide?’
McKinney’s reelection campaign went downhill quickly thereafter. On April 12, 2002, a synopsis of her KPFA interview appeared in the Washington Post, and Democrats soon began distancing themselves from her. McKinney then released a statement saying that while she was “not aware of any evidence” proving that “President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9/11,” “a complete investigation might reveal that to be the case.” “On the other hand,” McKinney added, “what is undeniable is that corporations close to the Administration have directly benefited from the increased defense spending arising from the aftermath of September 11. America’s credibility, both with the world and with her own people, rests upon securing credible answers to these questions.”
Further hampering McKinney’s campaign was the revelation that she had accepted huge political campaign contributions from a number of radical Muslims, including some with links to terrorist-supporting organizations. Among these donors were terrorist sympathizers like Abdurahman Alamoudi, the former executive director of the American Muslim Council, and actual terrorists like Sami Al-Arian. Also among McKinney’s donors in 2002 were individuals like Abdelhaleem Ashqar, Yaqub Mirza, and Ahmad Totonji, and organizations like the Arab American Civic Organization, the American Task Force on Palestine, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Islamic Educational Foundation, the Islamic Council of New Jersey, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Bridgeview Mosque, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Islamic Center of Long Island, the Islamic Academy of Florida, the American Muslim Council, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, and the Arab American Institute. According to Thomas B. Edsall of the Washington Post, “At least three-quarters of the $234,299 that McKinney has raised from individuals this year is from donors with Muslim or Arab American surnames, the great majority of whom live outside her district.” And Niraj Warikoo reported in the _Detroit Free Press_that McKinney was “strongly backed by Arab and Muslim groups for her outspoken support of Palestinian rights,” as evidenced by the fact that “during a private dinner” earlier that month, “Muslim donors gave more than $20,000 to her campaign.”
Another noteworthy individual who gave vocal support to McKinney’s campaign was Nation Of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
In April 2002, McKinney spoke out in favor of reparations payments to compensate black Americans for the legacy of slavery. “Eight generations of African-Americans,” she said, “are still waiting to achieve their rights — compensation and restitution for the hundreds of years during which they were bought and sold on the market.”
In May 2002, McKinney was one of 17 House Democrats who voted against a resolution expressing support for Israel as it faced terrorist attacks that already had killed more than 600 Jewish civilians. The resolution which she opposed stated that “the United States and Israel are now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism.”
Following the aforementioned revelations about McKinney’s letter to Prince Talal, her remarks in support of Robert Mugabe, her acceptance of donations from radical Islamists, her call for reparations, and her refusal to support the Israel resolution, many Jewish leaders supported DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette’s bid to defeat McKinney in the Democratic primary of 2002. And Majette did in fact emerge victorious. After the primary, McKinney’s father offered the media a succinct explanation: “Jews have bought everybody. Jews. J-E-W-S.”
With her political career now derailed, McKinney was hired by Cornell University to work a few weeks each year as a Visiting Professor over the ensuing three years. Her visits to Cornell were sponsored by the university’s Africana Studies and Research Center. “The selection of Cynthia McKinney as a Class of ’56 professor is an affront to the intellectualism of Cornell University,” wrote Professor Emeritus Peter Swartz. “Ms. McKinney is a racist and anti-Semite of the first rank. If she were white and male, she would be David Duke. It is unfortunate that the selection committee was so open minded that its collective brain fell on floor.”
In July 2003 McKinney delivered an angry speech – titled “Democracy Is Under Attack” – at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. In her remarks, she referenced the conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert, a former LAPD detective who was best known for his discredited theories that the CIA was behind the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities. Since 9/11, Ruppert had toured the country discussing how the Bush administration, Enron, Israeli intelligence, the Pakistani ISI, the Saudis, and Osama bin Laden were all behind the terrorist attacks. “As you may know,” said McKinney, “I’m involved with Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness,” which was the title of Ruppert’s newsletter and website.
In addition to her teaching activities at Cornell, McKinney in 2003 and 2004 toured America and much of Europe – speaking out against the Iraq War and the Bush administration. Still embittered by her 2002 primary defeat to Majette, McKinney told a Jet magazine interviewer in January 2004 that the “white, rich Democratic boys club wanted me to stay in the back of the bus.”
In May 2004 McKinney was awarded the fifth annual “Backbone Award” by the Backbone Campaign “because she was willing to challenge the Bush administration and called for an investigation into 9-11 when few others dared to air their criticism and questions.”
McKinney was one of 100 “prominent Americans” who signed an October 26, 2004 statement circulated by 911Truth.org, calling on the U.S. Government to investigate the possibility that “people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”
In October 2005 McKinney was ordered by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to pay a fine of $33,000 and reimburse as much as $72,000worth of excessive contributions which she had accepted from political donors in 2002. Because she had lost the Democratic primary that year, she was legally required to return whatever money donors had given to support her campaign for the general election — something she had failed to do.
In November 2005, McKinney introduced legislation to provide for the “expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the life and death of Tupac Amaru Shakur,” the gangsta rapper who had been murdered in Las Vegas nine years earlier. (Shakur was the nephew of the convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur.) McKinney’s official congressional website explained the rationale behind the congresswoman’s bill: “Black musicians have been a focal point of such surveillance, including harassment. Tupac’s mother, a member of the Black Panther Party, was the focus of intense FBI surveillance prior to his birth. From childhood he was hounded by FBI and CIA investigators seeking information on the whereabouts of his family members, most of whom were in jail, in exile or who had been murdered. Tupac himself was closely monitored by intelligence agents until his death.”
On March 29, 2006, McKinney raised a firestorm of controversy when she punched a Capitol Police officer. The incident developed when the congresswoman, who was not wearing an identification badge, bypassed a metal detector as she entered the Longworth House Office Building. An officer, not recognizing her, twice asked her to go back through the checkpoint, but McKinney ignored him. The officer then reached out and touched McKinney’s arm, at which point the congresswoman turned around and beat the officer’s chest numerous times before identifying herself as a member of Congress. An angry McKinney later characterized the officer’s actions as an example of racial profiling and as part of a larger pattern of “white” Capitol Police mistreating blacks. In a press conference following the incident, no fellow House members stood with McKinney to show support. Instead she was accompanied by actor Danny Glover and singer Harry Belafonte. “McKinney,” her lawyer told reporters, “is just a victim of being in Congress while black.” According to United Press International, this was Rep. McKinney’s fifth run-in with Washington security personnel since 1993.
In August 2006, several members of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) served as security personnel for McKinney’s Democratic primary campaign. She was eventually defeated in that primary by DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson.
Near the end of the 2006 legislative session, McKinney introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, accusing the president of: “actively manipulating the intelligence on Iraq’s alleged weapons programs”; “obstructing and hindering the work of Congressional investigative bodies”; “seeking to expand the scope of the powers of his office”; and carrying out an allegedly illegal program of domestic spying on terror suspects.
Although nominally a Roman Catholic, McKinney consistently had a 100 percent pro-choice voting record during her career in Congress, according to the abortion-rights groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood. In 2000, for example, she voted against legislation to ban the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion. That same year, McKinney was one of only 15 Members of Congress who voted against the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act,” which stipulated that if an infant somehow survived an abortion procedure, it would acquire the human rights of a person already born.
For a more comprehensive overview of McKinney’s voting record, click here.
McKinney left the Democratic Party in September 2007 and eventually ran for U.S. President on the Green Party ticket in 2008. Her vice presidential running mate was the journalist and community activist Rosa Clemente, and the pair received approximately 0.1 percent of the vote in the election. Their campaign was endorsed by the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist entity.
As of 2008, McKinney served on the advisory board of the Revolutionary Communist Party front group, World Can’t Wait. Other board members included Mark Crispin Miller, Lynne Stewart, Gore Vidal, Sunsara Taylor, and Howard Zinn.
Also in 2008, McKinney became a member of the newly formed Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Hamas entity dedicated to demonizing and undermining Israel. In this capacity, McKinney worked closely with theInternational Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. She also worked closely with ISM founder Huwaida Arraf; former Palestinian Authority presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti (cousin of Marwan Barghouti, who founded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades; Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera reporter and a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay with ties to Osama bin Laden; ICAHD founder Jeff Halper; and journalist Yvonne Ridley.
At a September 28, 2008 press conference in Oakland, California, McKinney announced that a constituent’s son (who was a National Guardsman) claimed to have helped the Defense Department secretly dispose of some 5,000 dead people – each of whom had been shot in the head, execution-style – during the week of Hurricane Katrina (in early September 2005). (Click here for video of McKinney’s remarks.) According to a Fox News report: “McKinney … accused the Department of Defense this week of using Hurricane Katrina to cover up the slaughter of 5,000 prisoners…. McKinney claimed the Pentagon authorized the execution of the prisoners with one bullet to the head three years ago and then dumped their bodies in a Louisiana swamp…. McKinney said she verified the story from ‘insiders’ who wanted to remain anonymous. ‘I suspect that these [dead victims] are prisoners. … So this investigation of the whole prison industrial complex is extremely important and it should not end with just a question of the nature of prisons in our country,’ she said to a captivated audience. ‘These 5,000 souls also need some justice too.’”On October 13, 2008, McKinney was the keynote speaker at a Human Rights Awards dinner held by the Chicago branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a Communist Party USA front group that was led by Party members and supporters including Angela Davis, Charlene Mitchell, Anne Braden, and Frank Chapman.
The Anti-Defamation League has chronicled a list of anti-Israel activities in which McKinney participated during 2008-09:
In 2009 as well, McKinney traveled to Libya and praised President Muammar Gaddafi, calling him a “global leader” and thanking him for “reaching out from Africa to the entire world.” Meanwhile, she equated America’s economic system with “bondage.”
In May 2010, McKinney spoke at a Black Power Convention held by the New Black Panther Party.
At the Warwick Hotel in New York City on September 21, 2010, McKinney was one of more than 100 American activists and journalists who attended a gathering with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in town to attend the annual United NationsGeneral Assembly, and who had repeatedly articulated his desire to destroy the state of Israel. According to a Workers World Party report: “After an Iranian-style dinner, the gathering moved to a conference room where representatives from various organizations spoke on the plight of people inside the United States. The displacement of African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning prison-industrial complex, conditions facing political prisoners, the crisis in U.S.-Iranian relations, and the overall economic crisis[,] dominated the discussion.” Other noteworthy attendees included Larry Holmes, Amiri Baraka, Sara Flounders, and Ramsey Clark.
In May 2011, McKinney traveled to Libya and appeared on Libyan state television, which served as the mouthpiece of then-president Muammar Gaddafi. During that appearance, McKinney condemned America for spending so much “money on death, destruction and war”; said she was “shocked” and “appalled” by America’s “policies of war” and “propaganda”; praised the promises of the “direct democracy” that Gaddafi himself had vowed to bring to Libya in the so-called “Green Book” manifesto which he had written decades earlier; and advised Americans to embrace Gaddafi’s democratic philosophy, as she herself had done.
After her Libyan visit, McKinney traveled to Iran for what was billed as an “anti-terrorism” conference. In an interview on Iranian state TV, she claimed that she had been “politically assaulted” by American advocates of Israel during her time in Congress; that members of the U.S. Congress were required to “pledge allegiance” to Israel, lest they find themselves unable to raise enough campaign money to get elected to public office: “You make a commitment that you would vote to support the military superiority of Israel that the economic assistant that Israel wants that you would vote to provide that.” Also in the Iranian television interview, McKinney stated that “the United States, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, is the greatest purveyor of violence on the Planet.” “We almost won in the 1960s,” McKinney added. “But unfortunately, because we were so close to winning, the authorities fought back. We were so close to winning and then they killed John Kennedy, our president. They killed Malcom X. They killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” When the interviewer asked whether “they were killed by the authorities,” McKinney replied: “Yes, this is all documented.”
After two deadly terrorist bombs were detonated at the site of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, McKinney tweeted: “The pattern is becoming too, too familiar. So, Boston cops were having a ‘bomb squad drill’ on the same day as … http://fb.me/1JHrFKCc9.” That link led to a post at NaturalNews.com titled “Boston marathon bombing happened on same day as ‘controlled explosion’ drill by Boston bomb squad,” which suggested that police may have been responsible for the deadly bombs that blew up at the Marathon. But the story was highly misleading. The “controlled explosion” was not a pre-planned event, but rather, was a police action where officers detonated a suspicious bag shortly after the deadly terrorist blasts had already occurred in the vicinity.
In September 2013 McKinney accompanied Ramsey Clark in a delegation to Syria, in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The delegation was sponsored by the revolutionary socialist group International Answer. Others in the delegation included Arab Americans For Syria activist Johnny Achi, and All-African People’s Revolutionary Party member Dedon Kamathi. During her stay in Syria, McKinney used her Facebook page to praise the Assad regime for its socially progressive policies, like “free education and free healthcare.”
In July 2016, McKinney posted a tweet that linked Israel to a pair of recent Islamic terrorist attacks that had occurred in Nice, France (where a jihadist had mowed down and killed 84 people with a large truck) and Munich, Germany (where a gunman had killed 9 people in a shopping mall). “Same Israeli photographer captures Nice and Munich tragedies,” read McKinney’s tweet. “How likely is that? Remember the Dancing Israelis?” The latter was a reference to an Internet mythclaiming that some Israelis in a New Jersey park had celebrated the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A video accompanying McKinney’s tweet claimed that German journalist Richard Gutjahr, the husband of former Israeli Knesset member Einat Wilf, had taken (and posted) photos of the carnage in both Nice and Munich. The video’s narrator stated that Gutjahr’s pictures constituted proof that “Nice is a false flag,” that “Munich is either a false flag or a hoax,” and that “Israel set this guy up.” But as the Times of Israel pointed out: “Gutjahr’s Twitter profile shows he posted pictures from Nice but not from Munich. He is not known to have taken Israeli citizenship.”