Some things just won’t go away. This is not a bad thing in a world where so many crimes go unpunished (thank goodness, else we would all be plagued by demons with pitchforks). Yet, in Kelly’s case, her most terrible tormentor continues to float up to the surface like an incriminating body.
Kelly wrote a story for one Tony Ortega. Tony stole her story to catapult himself to a measure of minor-league fame that turned into a terrible notoriety. Kelly got dumped when her sponsor Tony jumped from the obscurity of a south Florida swamp publication to the editor’s chair at the Village Voice — a once-renowned journal now sunk into a kind of nether-world irrelevance by the advance of the internet and the sands of time.
Whither Kelly? Who knows. After her sliming of a prominent financier and philanthropist, co-opted by Ortega in his sprint to the “not-quite-the-big-time”, and then later proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (a federal appeals court ruled that her story “did not rise to any level of credibility”) to be a tissue of lies, she vanished from the world of journalism.
Not so her sponsor. He’s back, after being left for dead by Larkin and Lacey, former proprietors of Village Voice Media, once he had outlived his usefulness defending their ownership of Backpage.com, a site revealed by Nicolas Kristof of the New York Times to be the nation’s leading purveyor of online child prostitution.
Nothing has changed. Larkin and Lacey’s grisly meatwagon continues to rumble down the back alleys and darkened vacant lots of America’s underbelly, with a new set of license plates, perhaps, but the same ghastly cargo of slavery, degradation, pain and sorrow. Except now they have set their sights on a “worldwide” market.
Well, booyah. Kelly, we hope your enjoyed your 15 seconds of fame. Was it really worth it? Will you wonder, in the years to come, whether or not you did your best to destroy the life of an innocent man and his entire family? Or does shit like this not occur to shit like you?
In our last post, we concluded with a comment to Kelly Cramer:
We think that you are now well aware that [the McMahan] story is untrue. We think you know well what motivated both Linda and Elena to sell you this confabulation of unlikely, and sometimes impossible, events. And we know why you bought it, why you don’t retract it, and why you didn’t make even the simplest efforts to verify their allegations.
When Elena and Linda McMahan decided to take their remarkable story of incest and bigamy to the press, where did they go? The New York Times? No – perhaps a little lurid for the Times’s taste. Well, then, 60 Minutes? Oprah? After all, a story involving a high-profile Wall Street legend who marries his own long-lost daughter in Westminster Abbey seems a natural for dozens of equally high-profile media outlets, particularly when the people telling the story are the wife and said daughter of the man in question.
No. They went to Kelly Cramer. And who is Kelly Cramer?
Prior to the McMahan story, Cramer was employed as a reporter for the Broward New Times, one of the nation’s lesser publications, perhaps, with a paid circulation of zero. The New Times was one of seventeen regional weekly “newspapers” — basically ad broadsheets distributed free of charge at the usual outlets: grocery stores, streetcorner dispensers, drug stores and so on — owned by New Times Media, later Village Voice Media, after the New Times owners, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, bought the Voice as a front for their rapidly-growing child prostitution empire, Backpage.com.
And why Kelly Cramer? Of all the places that Elena and Linda could have gone, what made them choose her?
Well, she is “a woman of many talents.” She need not actually work as a reporter, if she so chooses, because her “husband does very well.” Her husband is the chief engineer on a luxury yacht, the Sorcha, which is currently for sale. People who work on yachts are notoriously poorly-paid, as there is no shortage of people who find the lifestyle attractive, and, at a time when yachts are something of a millstone around the necks of previously high-flying owners, jobs are scarce. Yet Ms. Cramer would have us believe that her carefree approach to employment is a product of choice. Are we amiss in wondering if it may rely more on a somewhat lackluster demand for her own services?
How could that be? She has written the two most highly-read stories in the history of the Village Voice. Surely that would propel her to the top ranks of her profession? On the subject of her own skills, she is hardly modest:
So — Ms. Cramer should be able to write her own ticket? Not if everyone else in the world of journalism immediately recognized these stories for the woeful garbage they are. Not if the reason that she got the story was because every other publication, including every other south Florida newspaper, realized in an instant that they were being scammed by would-be extortionists.
But Cramer must have done her homework, right? Surely she wouldn’t run with this appalling smear job without being sure of her facts?
Well, she doesn’t really make a clear case for her own due diligence here, but her attorney has a point. She doesn’t have to answer the question if she doesn’t want to. The scope of the deposition from which these clips are taken was confined to the question: did you ever meet with Elena McMahan? But in an earlier post, we showed a clip where Cramer declines even to answer that question, characterizing it again as “esoteric.” This appears to be an all-purpose word for Ms. Cramer, which we loosely interpret as meaning “Well, I guess you have me there.”
Finally, when asked categorically whether or not she had actually met with Elena, Ms. Cramer retreats into one of the strangest catechisms we have witnessed, which she uses repeatedly in this deposition:
We have heard of papal infallibility; we had not thought it devolved on the freelance press, or could be self-conferred, or offered in evidence as a proof. Yet Ms. Cramer’s constant response to any query regarding the accuracy of her story employs this outre self-referential authentication – that if it is written in the gospel according to Cramer, then it is true. On that rock, and that alone, she builds her church.
In fact, she sprays this assertion across the full spectrum of her ouvre — “anything contained in anything I have ever written written is accurately reported.” This is a remarkable claim, and one we frankly confess we have never heard before, from anyone.
Let’s face it. She was had. And although it must be humiliating in the extreme to realize that you’ve been scammed by a couple of the least-convincing grifters since Hope and Crosby in “The Road to Rio,” it still doesn’t excuse maintaining under oath that what you have written must be “true and accurate” just because you wrote it.
Kelly Cramer wrote this story because she thought it would reveal to all those who doubted her “many talents” that she was a star. She jumped at this story like a wolverine at a lamb chop, blind to its obvious contradictions, hilarious embellishments, bizarre details and a complete lack of any real evidence whatsoever – let alone its sheer implausibility. Yes, people, rich and poor, do outlandish things. It was not beyond the realm of probability. But with something like this, wouldn’t a responsible journalist take some pains to check the facts?
She has her chance, but all she can say is “If it’s in the story, it’s accurate.” Come on, Kelly! People will see this. Here was your moment:
“Yes, I did fact check it. I did this, I did that, and I did all I could to assure myself that what I was being told was accurate before I went to press.” But at the end of the day, here is all she has:
1. The story told to her by Linda McMahan, either directly (Cramer never discloses whether or not she spoke directly with Linda) or indirectly, through Elena McMahan.
2. A series of photographs, some copies of emails, and a DNA test.
That’s it. No witnesses to anything, even of the “Westminster Abbey” wedding,” no corroborating evidence from neighbors, passers by (Fisher Island is a very small place), no one.
As for the photos, emails and the DNA test, we have dealt with them sufficiently elsewhere.
As for the stories of Linda and Elena McMahan, well:
Linda McMahan recanted under oath and in writing her allegations, specifically and comprehensively, declaring them not to be true. This is not an “esoteric” denial. It is stark, straightforward and unambiguous.
Elena McMahan has also recanted — and then recanted her recanting. As to the reliability of her testimony, we again point to her testimony under oath that she never met or spoke with Cramer. Clearly she did — but what does she then say that we can believe? What does Cramer have to say about Elena’s strange and wonderful relationship with the truth?
Would a mother “trying to protect her children” condemn them to a lifetime of ridicule (“Your daddy slept with his daughter!”) on the internet? Is Elena completely unconcerned about the repercussions – the lasting resonance and echoing shame — this inflicts on these kids? The idea that Elena went to Cramer in order to protect her kids is more than just risible, it’s monstrous.
We are not alone in this opinion. A state supreme court justice refused to admit her story into evidence in her recently-concluded child custody battle for her two children by Bruce McMahan. The judge, after lengthy and thorough consideration, ruled that her allegations of incest and bigamy, and the evidence she presented to support them (the same photos, emails, etc.) “did not rise to the level of credibility.”
As a result, the judge awarded full custody to Bruce McMahan, mandated that Elena undergo mandatory psychiatric counseling as a condition for having any contact whatever with these children, and restricted this contact to a few hours a week under direct personal supervision by a court-appointed psychologist.
So where does that leave Ms. Cramer? Still languishing in South Florida, with a husband who “does very well,” unemployed and unpublished, her “many talents” unappreciated, and her career — which must have seemed so promising — largely in ruins.
Back to where we began this article: Cramer published the story out of ambition, and with reckless disregard for the harm she caused to McMahan and his own family. She won’t — and can’t — retract it because it would leave her open to a ruinous series of lawsuits, from which she is currently protected by Florida’s generous First Amendment shield laws. She made no effort to substantiate the claims of Elena and Linda McMahan because then there would have been no story — no ticket out of oblivion, no relief from those “thousands of stories” drearily cataloging the town halls, the police beats, and all the other tedium of small-town South Florida life.
But the same First Amendment that allows Cramer to publish her claptrap allows us to set the record straight. The same internet that carries her stories carries ours. We’re happy with that, and equally happy to let the future compare and contrast. There will always be those eager to believe the Cramers of this world — just read the comments on her stories for a nasty cross-section of that particular public — but also those who who can tell when they are being had. On this note, we say farewell to Ms. Cramer, at least for the nonce. If something new develops — well, we’ll see.
And McMahan? When last we heard, he was happily remarried, living with with a toddler by his new wife and his children by Elena, engaged as always in his various projects (which include the world’s fastest street-legal car, doing 0-60 in 1.96 seconds). He, in Ms. Cramer’s words, “does very well.”
There’s one question we’ve been dying to ask Kelly Cramer, and it’s this: did it ever occur to you that you were being swindled? Because if it didn’t, you have to go down as one of the most credulous saps ever to carry a press pass. And if it did — why didn’t you do some more digging?
Look at the facts. Both Elena and Linda McMahan, the two sources for your story, and two of its three main characters, both recanted the story under oath. Linda, in fact, failed a lie detector test given to her by her lawyer, Gloria Allread, (a very well-known womens’ rights advocate). Allread immediately dropped her. You know this, I think.
Elena McMahan testified under oath that she never met you. Never spoke to you. Or to any other member of the press.
Yet you published a lengthy article detailing your interview with her. Described her home in Pelham, New York. The religious medallions on the dashboard of her car. Her voice. Her mannerisms. Presumably you didn’t make this stuff up. Yet right there, she either calls you a liar, or — let’s face it — very convincingly calls you a liar. Did this get your to thinking at all?
Are your readers to assume that when Elena was talking to you — and told you that her husband had married his own daughter in Westminster Abbey — that she was telling the truth? But when she tells a court under oath that she never met you, never spoke to you – she’s lying? Does this, in any event, seem like a credible witness to you? Didn’t some element of doubt creep into your mind?
When questioned at your own deposition about Elena recanting her story you pretty much refused to answer. Yet your testimony was still revealing:
Pretty good. You saw the “snippet.” Didn’t that give you pause? Weren’t you a trifle — surprised? (We were amazed.) By the way, that lawyer did not post the clip. We did. Your conspiracy fantasies are groundless.
Called finally to account yourself, you foam about how it is McMahan’s practice to “Destroy. Seek and destroy his litigants.” Yet when asked if you did not in fact set out to destroy McMahan, you replied:
“That’s not a reporter’s job. A reporter’s job is to tell stories.”
Even if they’re whoppers?
Did you really — at this point, at this deposition — still believe that cobbled-up mishmash of fantasy you published was in fact even remotely true? Frankly, how could you?
Here in this videotape, you are confronted with Elena’s recanting her allegations, and Elena’s assertion that she never, ever met you. And yet you persist in telling us that she is a reliable source.
This is right up there with your “I know what Elena’s hands look like” blunder. And we smell a rat.
We think that you are now well aware that this story is untrue. We think you know well what motivated both Linda and Elena to sell you this confabulation of unlikely, and sometimes impossible, events. And we know why you bought it, why you don’t retract it, and why you didn’t make even the simplest efforts to verify their allegations.
It was the hands that got me thinking. The first time I read “Daddy’s Girl,” Kelly Cramer’s story about the billionaire who married his own daughter, I was hooked. What a yarn! But when I read it the second time, a little more carefully, I kept looking at this picture of hands.
According to Cramer’s story, these are the hands of Bruce McMahan and his daughter, Linda, wearing wedding rings. Take a good look at those rings, because they are going to play a very important role in this concatenation.
This is what suddenly made me sit up and say, “Whoa.” Up until this point, I found the story possibly credible: A wealthy man is reunited with a 20-something daughter he never knew he had. She goes to work at his company in Connecticut, leaving her newish husband behind in California. They then have an affair. Tawdry, okay, but not unheard of.
Then they fly to London and get married in Westminster Abbey.
That’s where I spit the bit. Every fable of this nature seems to have a moment where the inventors can’t resist adding some detail, some element, that shouts out “never happened.” And the notion that Bruce McMahan and his biological daughter Linda somehow managed to find a secluded corner in the height of London’s tourist season in one of London’s most crowded landmarks and they covertly conduct a quickie marriage seems to me to be bullshit of the purest ray serene.
So — what evidence is there of this event? Well — the article offers these two photos. The first, on the left, is McMahan and his daughter, smiling at each other. Frankly, this doesn’t look like it was taken at Westminster Abbey, unless they’ve moved it to Paris, or the Eiffel Tower to Hyde Park.
Perhaps the author thought this snapshot offered some proof of the alleged affair; I cannot fathom how, unless proximity is the issue.
What’s with the kid?
(The theme photo for the article — the plastic bride/groom figures on top of a wedding cake — is also interesting. This photo appears at the beginning of the article, and then on on every one of the seven pages of the article online. Note that the “bride” is actually a child. Did the Voice wish to add pedophilia to its charges of bigamy and incest? One would think not, given its recently-severed but still-fresh association with Backpage.com, its cash cow online child prostitute pimping site.)
The second photo, of the two hands at the top of the page, shows the hands of the happy couple wearing their new wedding rings. Now, before we go into more detail about this photo, some interesting questions and observations:
The Bruce McMahan story ran and reran under various titles and treatments several times in the Village Voice over a span of three years. During all this time, there was not one scrap of corroborating evidence that emerged to substantiate this bizarre fantasy. Would not at least one witness come forward? If there was a wedding, was there a marriage certificate? If not, why? Surely Linda would have it, or there would be some record of it.
But there are no such proofs. All we have is a smiling father and daughter, and these two hands. Well, what about that? It may be hard to prove that these are Bruce and Linda’s hands, but why does this picture exist, if not to commemorate this wedding? Admittedly it’s pretty shaky in the “proof” category, but isn’t it at least a smoking gun? And if it isn’t Bruce and Linda — then who is it?
That’s what someone else wanted to know. Here’s the first excerpt from Cramer’s videotaped deposition:
Cramer’s response to the question, “How do you know this is Linda’s hand?” is startling:
“Because if it was in the story that was reported, then it’s true and accurate.”
I don’t understand, to tell the truth. Has she suddenly conferred on herself and her writings a status generally reserved for apostles and their gospels. Is it self-referentially the divine truth? ”If it’s in the story, then it’s true?: Ms. Cramer does not strike us as a religious fundamentalist, but her reasoning here is strangely similar to claims of scriptural incontrovertibility, and we are skeptical that her work is to be accorded that kind of reverence.
Then, the Big Question ”What if I were to tell you that these were the hands of Bruce McMahan and his wife Elena?”
Bingo. Recall that we asked readers to pay close attention to the rings themselves. They are Russian orthodox wedding rings. Who is Russian Orthodox? Elena McMahan. Where where Bruce and Elana married? Ina Russian Orthodox church in a Russian Orthodox wedding.
Why on earth would Bruce McMahan go through the trouble to arrange to top-secret, unsanctioned bigamous and incestuous wedding right in the heart of the world’s most renowned Anglican cathedral — and use two Russian Orthodox wedding rings? Sentiment? Fond memories of happier days with Elena?
From the videotape:
Finally compelled, after all this thrashing about, to answer a simple question — “How do you know that this was Elena’s hand?” — she ultimately says “I know what Elena’s hands look like.” Furthermore, she points out that she is “trained to notice” such things.
I do not know what school of journalism Ms. Cramer attended, but I very much doubt that it offered classes in digital/appendage classification. Certainly journalists are aided by attention to detail, but — hands? Look at them again. There appear to be no identifying marks — scars, blemishes, hanging warts, tribal tattoos or the like. Are they really that distinctive? And more to the point, why is Linda’s hand wearing that very, very puzzling Russian Orthodox ring?
So one might understand how, at the end of the day, the single most puzzling thing about Cramer’s entire story about the billionaire bigamist, for me, at least — are the hands. There many, many other obvious flaws in this fable, and we will go into them, again supported by videotape from the deposition, but:
It seems clear to us that this photo is in fact genuine, but that it is a genuine photo of Bruce’s hand and Elena’s hand. There can be no other credible explanation for the rings. Further, this photo was stored on McMahan’s computer, along with all his other digital photos. Elena McMahan has testified that she used this computer herself, along with McMahan’s AOL account, for her email and other personal business. There is no doubt in our mind where this photo came from, how Cramer obtained it, and what it depicts.
So I ask: if the photo is a lie, and the wedding at Westminster a fairy tale indeed — what of the rest of the story?
A few years ago, a reporter for Village Voice Media, Kelly Cramer, wrote a two-part series of articles published by a Village Voice Media weekly claiming that a highly-successful financier, David Bruce McMahan, had married his own daughter in Westminster Abbey and carried on a lengthy incestuous affair with her while still married to his wife at that time.
It was later revealed that the stories — “Daddy’s Girl” and “Daddy’s Dog” — were part of a clumsy and bungled extortion attempt on the part of the daughter and wife. To this day, neither Cramer nor the Village Voice have retracted the stories nor have they acknowledged their role in this tragic farce. The “proof” of the marriage and the affair offered by Cramer and the Voice rested on the allegations of the wife and daughter, a photograph of two hands, photographs of McMahan and his daughter smiling at each other, a series of forged emails and a meaningless DNA test.
No effort whatever appeared to have been made on the part of Cramer of the Voice to verify this “evidence.”
Of perhaps greater interest, the second article, which purported to be a face-to-face interview with Elena McMahan, Dr. McMahan’s wife at the time, suffered no small damage from Mrs. McMahan’s sworn statement at her own deposition that she had never at any time spoken with Cramer or any other member of the media.
A detailed expose of the outright falsehoods, blunders, inconsistencies and phony evidence was provided by The Daily Cannibal, a media blog, in a series of articles, beginning with “Fear and Fraud at the Village Voice.”
After numerous delays and postponements, however, Dr. McMahan succeeded in compelling Cramer to appear at a deposition under oath and respond to questions regarding the story, and in particular what steps — if any — she took in verifying the stories she was told and the evidence she was given.
This site has obtained a complete copy of the videotaped deposition. We will, in the next several days and weeks, post segments from the videotape in which Ms. Cramer responds to specific questions about this evidence, and attempts to justify the publication of this story despite the remarkable and obvious flaws in the story and the “evidence” that claimed to support it.
The immediate objective of this blog is to provide compelling and generally irrefutable evidence that the:
that neither the Voice, its editor Tony Ortega, or the reporter, Kelly Cramer, made any effort to verify thee allegations of their sources; and
that the publications and the people responsible for the creation and publication of this story owe Dr. McMahan the courtesy of a full retraction and a sincere apology for the damage they have inflicted, particularly in the light of what is now known about the sources and the evidence they presented.
This last item is of course unlikely in the extreme. Ortega, the editor of the Voice at the time and trailing a rich history of previously fraudulent stories, responded to McMahan’s libel suit by republishing the original article in the Voice, and later, to his own subpoena to testify, with a rambling screed in the Voice that mixed juvenile name-calling with outright lies and left-handed innuendo. Cramer has vanished completely from journalism; her attempt at cracking the big time was rejected completely by the mainstream media, which accorded the story the same degree of attention it would give a two-headed calf.
The larger objective of this blog is to demonstrate that a free press, protected by the First Amendment, is possibly the most valuable weapon against tyranny we enjoy. And while it may give license to the irresponsible, the self-interested and the grotesque elements that a free press may entail, it also enables us to present the facts as we see them, and to demonstrate that, in an internet era, no publication, however powerful, can attempt to destroy an individual or a group of individuals with impunity, or without recourse, simply because the victims may not have similar resources and access to the public.
And in this manner, we call the Voice, Ortega and Cramer to account: what was your purpose in publishing these slanders? Did you seek to serve the public interest? How? Did you seek to find justice for a wronged wife and daughter? Why then did you do nothing to verify their story? Why did the wife repudiate you? Why did the daughter recant her story under oath? If justice is your objective, why do you continue to wrong McMahan with your refusal to retract?
Or did you find a lurid tale that would boost your readership, inflate your reputations, make you successful — bring you the kind of recognition and rewards that you so envied in McMahan himself? If this was in fact your aim, you went one for three. The article was in fact the most widely-read story ever published on the Web by the Voice. But a review of the comments quickly reveals the kind of audience you reached. Is that the readership you craved? But Ortega is now gone from the Voice, pushed out after failing to generate similar readership for anything else, and Cramer has not, to our knowledge, published anything in five years, at least that we can find on the net.
And why Kelly Cramer.xxx? To frame Cramer’s stories in their proper setting: the basest pornography, which employs prurient content of the vilest quality to titillate, seduce and degrade all those whom it touches. Who benefited from this, other than its perpetrators? That’s as good a definition of pornography as we can find; in comparison, naughty videos and saucy photos attain the level of fine art.
What follows are excerpts from the Cramer deposition, accompanied by articles published elsewhere on the web that discuss, examine and expose the falsehoods and distortions of the Village Voice Media McMahan stories.