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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Romney's fatal car accident: This could be huge (Update: Photo evidence suggests Team Romney lied to reporters)

I hope that one of my readers can help me do a bit of potentially important research. This investigation could alter the election.

A while back, I published a story about a fatal 1968 car crash in which a young Mitt Romney, driving a car carrying other Mormon missionaries, smashed headlong into a vehicle driven by a Catholic cleric. Romney claims that the other driver -- a priest named Albert Marie -- was at fault (possibly due to drunkeness) and that the priest died from his injuries.

One of the missionaries in Romney's car, Leola Anderson, also died.

In more recent times, a Daily Kos researcher (along with a few other bloggers) claimed that Romney was the one at fault, that "Albert Marie" is fictional, and that the man driving the other car was actually Bishop Jean-Félix-Albert-Marie Vilnet, a beloved French cleric who is still alive. (He's now in his 90s.) The allegation is that in 1968, Romney's "protectors" put together a false story -- one designed to avert any potential scandal that might involve the son of George Romney, who was widely considered a likely future Republican presidential nominee. Allegedly, this cover-up necessitated telling a false story to the family of Leola Anderson.

The first version of my post told the "Vilnet" story, as published by Daily Kos and other liberal-ish venues. In an update to that story, I backtracked on my original account -- at least to a certain degree -- because a reader brought to my attention a New York Times investigative piece published in 2008. Here's the relevant section from that piece:
The driver of the car that hit Romney, according to an account in a local newspaper at the time, was a 46-year-old man, Albert Marie, from Sireuil. Marie, according to French Mormons who responded to the accident, was a Catholic priest; in an interview this spring, a priest at the parish in Sireuil confirmed that the church's former pastor, now deceased, was Albert Marie. Many of the Mormons familiar with the accident say they believe that the priest was inebriated at the time of the crash but that assertion could not be confirmed.

The priest was traveling with his mother, Marie-Antoinette Marie, and a 48-year-old woman, Marguerite Longué, neither of whom could be located.
The details are persuasive, and they go a long ways toward verifying Mitt Romney's version of events.

But I remain bothered by the NYT writer's infuriating refusal to cite his sources. It is said that the official police records have disappeared (a claim that has been disputed). The NYT writer, Michael Paulson, derives his information from a 1968 clipping from a French newspaper. Alas, he does not give us a date.

I'm also bothered by the fact that we have a photo of a man who looks exactly like Bishop Vilnet recovering in the hospital from what appear to be serious injuries. The photo seems to have been taken in the 1960s, to judge from the furnishings.

An anonymous informant has written to this blog, stating that all of the relevant photos (of the crashed cars, of Vilnet, and of Mitt Romney in the hospital) were taken by the same French news photographer, named Salarnier (who befriended Romney). The informant also says that Salarnier and Vilnet spoke about the accident in later years. Alas, our anonymous informant doesn't favor us with a proper citation for that claim. Perhaps he can write in to this blog and offer details...?

The church in Sireuil (a very small town) does not have an individual website, so I wrote to the diocese, asking if they could confirm the existence of a priest named Albert Marie who died in 1968. Quite a few days have passed since that inquiry, yet no response has arrived. My French is quite poor, and I may have made a bad impression.

It may be worth noting that Romney has claimed that the accident occurred "on a mountain road." The area is, in fact, quite flat. 

As noted above, my original post has inspired an anonymous informant to send in a series of strange, highly detailed comments. Maddeningly, this writer seems to presume that I know more about this case than I actually do.

The most intriguing of his (or her) comments is the following:
Occupy Security set a MMOG crew on this scandal early on. The Salarnier photos of the two cars showed that there had been no highway-speed collision. The radiator of that Mercedes 180 was pushed in about 18 inches, though the flimsy Citroen DS did start start to come apart. Then visual inspection of the crash scene belied the claims of a "mountain road" and failing to pass a truck. (Unnamed and imaginary local witnesses and a bogus Sud Quest story had further misinformed the 2007 press investigations. Big stakes here as selling the 1968 Big Lie was essential to run Romney for president.)
"Sud Quest" is undoubtedly a typo for Sud Ouest, a well-known regional French newspaper which is still in business. Our Anonymous informant seems positive that journalists covering Romney in the 2007/2008 period (including Michael Paulson) were led astray by a fake Sud Ouest news clip.

Consider the implications. This could be huge.

If we can prove that a bogus news clip exists -- if we can do a side-by-side comparison between a fake clip and the actual newspaper page from 1968 -- well, that's all she wrote. That would be the end of Romney's quest for the presidency.

I think that the public would forgive Mitt Romney if he were the driver at fault back in 1968. Everyone understands that young drivers make mistakes. I even think the public might forgive a 1968 effort by George Romney loyalists to keep a lid on the story. Conceivably, the cover story was put in place during the period when Mitt was lying in a coma in that hospital. Conceivably, Mitt Romney may sincerely believe a false story.

But most of the American public would never forgive the creation and distribution of a fake newsclip in the 2007/2008 period. If Team Romney did indeed mislead journalists -- well, as I said: That's all she wrote.

My questions are simple: How to proceed? Does anyone know whether the NYT and the WP were, in fact, shown a bogus news clip attributed to the French newspaper Sud Ouest? Will our Anonymous informant please step forward? Is he the same person who posts as bontemps2012 at Daily Kos? Is he telling us things that he can prove, or is he telling us what he believes?

I would like to ask that informant -- in all humility -- not only to tell us what he knows and how he or she knows it, but also to stop presuming that we are already cognizant of details which have not yet been placed on the record. For example, our informant presumes that we know what he means by the term "MMOG." To be frank, I haven't the vaguest idea as to what an MMOG might be. (I presume that this is not a reference to online gaming.) I don't mean any disrespect, Mr. Anonymous -- but I'm not in your head, my readers are not in your head, and this story isn't going anywhere unless we have solid citations and a crystal-clear narrative.

Also, I would be grateful if a reader with a firmer grasp of French could help me translate my inquiries.

Update: It's getting interesting! This story from the U.K. Daily Mail reprints the "Vilnet in the hospital" photo -- clearly attributed to Andre Salarnier. But the man in the photo is identified as Duane Anderson, husband of Leolo. The Daily Mail story derives entirely from a 2007 Boston Globe investigation, no longer on the internet.

Let's compare the hospital photo to pictures of Bishop Vilnet and Duane Anderson:

I think most people would agree that the Vilnet identification is much more convincing. The eyebrows, the hair, the lips and the overall shape of the face are all very, very similar. (The uncropped Anderson photo -- which you can find on the internet -- shows him with his wife, so it was taken before the accident.)

Many readers may not understand that professional newsfolk often do not do the dirty work of digging up information in archives. When a journalist is given a folder filled with newsclips and such, said journalist will usually take the information at face value. In this case, it seems likely that someone at the Boston Globe (and the Daily Mail) printed the Anderson identification without double-checking.

Two major, respected newspapers have printed what clearly looks to be a misidentified photograph. That fact indicates that something very odd is up.

In the comments, a reader directs our attention to this story in French -- a recent interview with Salarnier, the photographer who befriended Romney. He says that he does not care to discuss the accident because he does not want it to be a factor in the presidential race. Perhaps tellingly, Salarnier gives an account of the accident which omits all mention of the allegation that a French priest was killed; he also does not say which party was at fault.

One would think that he would mention the dead priest.

Again: The key question here is not who was at fault in 1968. The question is: Did Team Romney intentionally mislead reporters in 2007 and 2008? 
In an article published in Sud Ouest on 4 January 2012, headlined “Romney the Girondin [a resident of the Gironde],” the retired photographer André Salarnier, age 79 and retired since 2001 in the village of d'Ille-et-Vilaine, remembered Mitt Romney, the 19-year-old Mormon missionary. Courtesy Google translate and my recollection of French classes from 54 years ago:
"He arrived in Bordeaux in 1967, then aged 19, and remained there six months,” he says. ”I remember a boy of higher intelligence, knowing well our language and civilization. He was responsible for the young missionaries. He had occasionally eaten at our home because my wife's cooking was appreciated. Soon, he took on important responsibilities and was called to the mission's headquarters in Paris.”
The accident at Bernos-Beaulac
The other fact is a road accident that occurred at Bernos-Beaulac. The future Republican candidate, who often served as a driver was driving; one of his passengers was killed. Romney himself was hospitalized at Bazas. André Salarnier prefers not to dwell too closely on Mitt Romney believing that the facts may be distorted and exploited by the U.S. media, although this tragic episode in the life of Romney is known.
Over the years, André Salarnier kept contact with Mitt Romney: "The last time we met, it was in 1992. as a manager of a branch of Mercury boat motors, he toured Europe and had visited a dealer La Teste. But since he became governor of Massachusetts, our contacts have faded. We still send our prayers each year.
André Salarnier now follows from a distance the political career of the man who may be the opponent of Barack Obama next November if he wins the primary. But the reliving is always ready. Tagg Romney, the son, was also a missionary in Lormont and Bayonne.
The article was accompanied by two pictures Salarnier had taken of Romney in 1967. There was no mention that Salarnier had photographed the cars involved in the accident.

Fascinating! No mention of whether Salarnier photographed Vilnet. But if Romney had accidentally killed a priest, surely the photographer would have mentioned that fact...?
Monsignor Jean Vilnet is mentioned in several articles available for a price in the Sud Ouest archives as late as 11 March 2003.

No mention was made in the entire Salarnier article of any fatality other than Romney's passenger.
Very good work.

I do not find the Vilnet picture more convincing than the Duane Anderson one. The man with injuries looks more like Anderson because of the similarities in the hairline and the shape of his lips and mouth. The vilnet picture is not convincing because the hairline is more receding in the 60's than the 90's, because the aging doesn't look right -- the Vilnet photo looks contemporary not 30 years older. The cues you describe as convincing are not those used in face identification according to the face recognition literature (see Vicki Bruce, for example).
Anonymous, I'd be more inclined to stipulate your good intentions if you were not anonymous. And that goes for everyone else who sends in comments. My rules for commenting are clearly posted...

As for your point -- I think you are being ridiculous. The man in the hospital clearly looks 46. And I'm sorry, but jawline and head shape and eyebrows DO count. I may not be Vicky Bruce (whose expertise is in eyewitness recall, a rather different matter), but I've painted portraits professionally, and I know which details make for a convincing likeness.

If nothing else, we can say that Anderson had a more receding hairline than does the man in the hospital.

Also, the hospital man's earlobes are clearly a match for Vilnet. Ears are very distinguishable.
Thank you for digging into this, it's an interesting tale. Still, this pic of Duane & his wife, which looks like it was taken in the 60's, sure looks a lot like the guy in the hospital:
"Occupy Security set a MMOG crew on this scandal early on."

Joseph - any idea what the "occupy security" reference means? Thanks ...
I'm fascinated by the near fatal or fatal accidents involving some of our presidents, presidential candidates, and/or their wives. Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, George Bush's wife and her fatal run in with an ex boyfriend, now Romney in a near fatal crash. All in the 60's.

Is this a pre-requisite for becoming a presidential candidate or president's wife?
paul: I don't really know what "Occupy Security" is. I presume it has some link to the Occupy movement.

That's really what prompted me to write this post. I'm trying to flush out my anonymous informant, whom I suspect to be the same as "bontemps2012," the Daily Kos writer. This person seems to have difficulty expressing himself clearly. (English may not be his native language.) So he may be making the all-too-common mistake of presenting surmise as documented fact.

Also -- and perhaps I'm being overly paranoid here -- a nick like "bontemps2012" seems indicative of a rat. Maybe someone is having a "good time" at our expense.

So far, the only evidence in favor of his theory is the hospital photo. To my eyes, it looks more like Vilnet than Anderson. On the other hand, on April 1, 2006, I wrote a very naughty post after I noticed that Barbara Bush resembles Aleister Crowley...
Found a lot here:

This has been reviewed at fool can read the long ongoing debate there. They are pretty thorough. I am pretty sure that the original Occupy Security MMOG ( not sure what that stands for) are the ones posting on that forum.

The Occupy Security folks have had a Facebook acct since March--and there are many photos posted there too, including an article from way back when that has no mention of Romney's alleged coma from the accident.

I hate to say it, but I reviewed several other photos of Anderson and he does resemble the man in the photo. I tried to locate a younger image of Bishop Jean Vilnot--with no luck.

I have a feeling that your anonymous communicator is attempting to have you use your investigative skills by offering little bits that will lead you to more info, so you can claim it as your own etc. (that's part of the raison d'etre for mystery) If you do a search with those you find a whole lot of images and articles etc.
When I used that search I read somewhere that Gov Geo Romney had Amb. Shriver visit his son Willard Mitt in the hospital. Seems highly unusual - but they are the priviledged few.
Good luck sorting this all out!

I did a little more searching for a younger image of Jean Vilnet and found one on what appears to possibly be bon temps 2012's Flicker acct:

It's not a very good image, so I can't be certain --but I am still leaning towards the photo in the hospital is actually Anderson (based on several photos I found taken the following year).
Good luck!

kc -- oddly enough, you and I were visiting the same pages at the same time.

I think now that we are dealing with a meme started by one guy. And I fear that this guy may be, well, nuts.

If he's not nuts, he has some sort of agenda.

If you Google the terms "Occupy Security" "OccSec" "Occ Sec" and MMOG -- or combinations of those terms -- you'll find various posts on various forums, written under various names. Yet those posts were all authored by the same person.

You can tell that it's the same person because of the writing style and the topics.

This personage goes by bontemps2012, MMOGHAND, Occupy Security (on Facebook), and TuffsnotEnuff on Firedoglake. He also goes by the name Vets74 -- and he even has his own Wordpress blog with but one entry (on the car crash). Oddly, that blog was set up years before, in 2009. It has lain unused all this time.

As far as I can tell, there IS no "Occupy Security" or "OccSec." Our friend bontemps claims that this group arose out of the Zucotti Park protests. Well, I doubt it. There is no verifiable link that I can find.

Our mysterious personage is trying to give the impression that he leads a subsidiary movement linked to Occupy. But there is no such group. No linkage. It's just one guy.

And I say that what he's doing is pretty damned suspicious.

OccSec is a term obviously derived from LulzSec (a.k.a., Lulz Security), the computer hacking group. As far as I can tell, the only meaning ever assigned to the mysterious initials "MMOG" is Massive Multiplayer Online Game.

Apparently, "bontemps2012" thinks that he's gaming. Except this "game" involves politics, not blasters and monsters.

Here's another oddity: On the rare occasions when this guy isn't talking about the 1968 car crash, he natters on about the Breitbarters and that whole Kimberlin/Brynaert/Rauhauser nonsense. Our friend seems to think that Neil Rauhauser is actually a secret agent working for Team Breitbart.

(As I've outlined in previous posts, Rauhauser is a computer-savvy relative non-entity whom the Breitbarters like to pretend is the real-life equivalent to Dr. Doom. I've talked to Rauhauser. I can't see him as an infiltrator. Hell, I can't see him as having any major significance whatsoever.)

Perhaps bontemps2012/MMOGHAND/whoever is the real secret Breitbart agent.

Well, in the end, what do we have? I still think that the guy in the hospital photo looks more like Vilnet than Anderson. So to that extent, the 1968 story deserves attention.

BUT..."bontemps" refuses to offer any further information as to how he knows what he claims to know. He refuses to explain how he identified Vilnet as the crash victim. He refuses to explain how he knows that the NYT was given a fake newsclip.

"Bontemps" has used numerous nicks to create the impression that he is part of a group called OccSec. No such group exists. It's all just one guy playing all the usual stupid online games -- sock puppetry, multiple identities, the whole shtick.

I don't like this! Not one bit.

Originally, I thought that this "Vilnet" story was published by multiple sources. Only now do I understand that the "multiple sourcing" all comes down to ONE GUY WITH MULTIPLE NAMES.
Heh--Yeah--you are probably right. He has been pretty effective if you consider how many major news agencies decided they had better start covering this ancient accident -offering up story after story of the tragedy.
In any case, I am certain Vilnet is the same man as Albert Marie-the math adds up--he was the same age as the bishop who is alive now. And yes- his full name is Jean-Félix-Albert-Marie Vilnet. I wouldn't be surprised if they purposely omitted portions of his name in the story--keeps confusion around the story.

In any case, I don't really think it matters who is in that photo--the issue is that the man who allegedly was driving drunk and died is currently alive and well. Why lie? Why kill the man off with a false story? None of it makes sense.
As for the photo---I think the one issue I have a problem with is the hairline-doesn't look like Anderson. But-the mouth does appear similar to Anderson's.

Here are a few links, in case you didn't see them-this has the Bishop's full name and age--and explains that he is pretty high up in the church hierarchy:

This is an image of Anderson around the same period:

But again, why the lies??? I sincerely doubt there was another Msgr. (Jean Felix) Albert Marie (Vilnet) -the same age in that region at the same time.

When I ask why the lies--I am simply trying to illustrate that they killed him off to protect the story about it being the Catholic priest's fault-no one would go and ask more questions of the other driver if he was dead.

It should also be noted that the accident happened in the priest's native country-and it may just be that his death was created for people like you and me way off in foreign territories.

It would be too obvious he was alive and well if his death was an issue in his own country--and the alteration of his name would also help protect the story. Remember, the only people who said he was drunk were the mormons in the car (and this was only a proclaimed suspicion) with Romney--they obviously wanted to protect the favored son. Mormons are quite clans like that way. It should also be noted Salnier (whatever his name is-the photographer)was a Mormon.
OK-need to get on with my's been fun. Hope you can do something with this. I would stay on trying to reach the church in France- verify that there were no other Albert Marie's that same age in that area during that period. If they can't verify it and want to support the story, ask for a death certificate. You might want to give a story about research for ancestry--to keep them straight up. And then once they give you the info ask them the complicated questions about the accident. Good luck!!
The pictures aren't convincing - sorry, but if you look at the noses, they are completely different. The picture of Anderson with his wife shows him with a very thin mustache. You can make that out in the picture of the guy in the hospital. Why would Salarnier take a picture of the priest (if he was really a priest) unless the Mormons were going to sue and the NY Times article says they wouldn't because of past problems with the French gov't and Catholic church?
The NY Times would have had an office in Paris at that time. If one of their reporters investigated, that would be normal. But almost everything from the 2007 NYT article is reproduced from the Boston Globe article of 2007 by the guy who has since written the Real Romney. The only thing I see is some really poor journalism.
This story is getting a fair amount of attention, I think because reddit linked to it. I am going to have a follow-up soon. Suffice it say, I've found out more about the hospital photo, and I am now VERY suspicious of the character who, using multiple identities, has spread this story.

On the other hand, I'll probably have something to say about the RNC convention, so that will come first. After that I'll return to this topic -- unless something else really interesting comes along.

Infants who were Baptized in that church would now be in their mid 40's. Children who took First Communion would be early 50's. Teens that served mass or were Confirmed there would be late 50's early 60's. Surely one of them would remember if the parish priest that administered the sacraments or the bishop who administered confirmation, died in an accident. The locals might have something to say if they consider Mormons an infestation and not neighbors.

Any way, why would Morons who abstain from alcohol settle in Bordeaux?
Photograph Identification

Same day photo of H. Duane Anderson. As you can see, the hair is quite different from Bishop Vilnet in the Bazas hospital two days later:


Leola and H Duane Anderson - last picture.

The Bazas photographer was Andre Salarnier, a Mormon. He and Bishop Vilnet recalled speaking with each other years later. Salarnier had no idea, even recently, that Romney had blamed the accident on Bishop Vilnet.

Accident Location
Romney insisted through 2007 and 2009 that N524 La Grande Route was a two lane roadway. That is demonstrably false.

The accident took place here in the southbound Left Turn lane coming to the intersection with Rue de la Poste in Beaulac:



Proximate/most likely cause for the June 16th 1968 accident could have been a truck or large car stopped in Romney's northbound lane at the intersection. (Imagine the truck back 100 meters.) That vehicle would have been preparing to make the sharp right turn to Rue de la Poste.

Romney reacted aggressively. He guessed incorrectly that the main southbound lane and the southbound Left Turn lane were a continuation of the two-lane roadway.

Two concrete traffic separators were added later on after 1968. Also, the post office building had people in it who came out immediately after the crash. Mrs. Anderson is remembered locally to this day.

Citroen DS and MB 180
This was not a high speed highway accident as detailed by Mitt Romney. Salarnier's photo of the cars after they were towed in to Bazas:


Compare/contrast with a Citroen DS after a real highway head-on collision. No one lived in the Citroen after the real thing:


This SOB can and does lie about anything. Limbaugh added his own curse to the witch's brew: "Mitt Romney was not at Chappaquiddick!"

No, that was 1969. Ted Kennedy accepted full blame and never anything else. Driving automobiles is a more difficult problem than most people accept. "Man up" describes Kennedy perfectly. Romney, no way.

"It's not how you play the game. It's how you spread the blame." -- The Romney Rule.

He applies this pattern to problem after problem after problem.
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