Refugees International President, Ken Bacon, has died

I have written very critically about Ken Bacon on these pages and at first thought it might not even be appropriate to write about him after his untimely death from cancer, but since the Washington Post has opened the can of worms, I’ll tell you what the WaPo says.

Kenneth H. Bacon, 64, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who was top spokesman at the Pentagon during the Clinton administration and later became a prominent advocate on behalf of international refugees, died Aug. 15 of melanoma at his vacation home on Block Island, R.I. His primary residence was in Washington.


After leaving the Pentagon in 2001, Mr. Bacon became president of the D.C.-based advocacy group Refugees International and emerged as one of the strongest voices for the dispossessed around the globe. His organization, which accepts no funding from governments or the United Nations, estimates that there are 12 million international refugees.

Faithful readers of RRW will be interested to note that he too has the Columbia University connection.

He received dual master’s degrees, in business administration and journalism, from Columbia University in 1968.

The Washington Post calls it his only ‘blemish’ but in my opinion it suggests a major character flaw.  Bacon, by his illegal act of releasing Linda Tripp’s personel file at the Defense Department during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with that one move directed the media dogs off Bill Clinton’s porch and onto ordinary citizen Tripp’s front yard.  Bacon obviously also understood Alinsky’s admonition to pick a target and destroy it.

The one blemish in Mr. Bacon’s career came in 1998, when he was briefly embroiled in the scandal surrounding President Bill Clinton and onetime White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In 1996 and 1997, Lewinsky was an assistant in Mr. Bacon’s office at the Pentagon. One of her friends was an employee in the department, Linda Tripp, who had tape-recorded telephone conversations in which Lewinsky said she was having an affair with Clinton.

In March 1998, Mr. Bacon authorized a deputy to release parts of Tripp’s personnel record to a reporter from the New Yorker magazine, revealing that Tripp had not disclosed on an employment application that she had been arrested for theft when she was 19. The charge was reduced to loitering.

The episode touched off a firestorm in conservative circles, as critics accused Mr. Bacon of breaking federal privacy laws to damage Tripp’s reputation. He quickly admitted he had handled the situation poorly, and a Pentagon inspector general concluded in 2000 that Mr. Bacon had not followed Defense Department procedures. Then-Defense Secretary Cohen sent Mr. Bacon a letter expressing “disappointment” over his “hasty and ill-conceived” actions. [Note that Bacon must never have expressed remorse, or apologized to Tripp or surely the WaPo would have mentioned that.]

Despite that incident, Cohen said in an interview with The Washington Post last week, Mr. Bacon “was always extraordinarily well prepared.”  [“well prepared?” sounds like a rather weak comment.]

“He was a special guy,” Cohen added. “But for that Linda Tripp issue, I have nothing but accolades.”

Here is what Hillary Clinton said about Bacon (who saved her husband’s bacon, clever huh!) on learning of his death.  

The United States and the world lost a great humanitarian leader with the passing today of Ken Bacon, President of Refugees International. Most Americans remember Ken as the unflappable civilian voice of the Department of Defense, where he served with distinction as spokesperson for many years. But for millions of the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees and other victims of conflict – Ken was an invaluable source of hope, inspiration and support. From Central Africa to South Asia to the Americas, Ken shone the spotlight on the causes of humanitarian suffering, and served as an impassioned yet reasoned advocate for the principles of humanitarian protection and assistance. We will miss Ken, but we will be inspired by the contributions he has made and the example he has set.

What do we know about Refugees International?   The organization Bacon headed is a lobbying shop advocating among other things for more refugees to be brought to the US.  I have suggested in past posts that they have been predisposed to promoting resettlement of Muslim refugees as they lobbied for both Iraqi Palestinians and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. 

They aren’t government funded like so many other non-profits in the same field, but I have not been able to figure out who does fund them.   Although we know it’s mostly individuals and foundations, who exactly they are, I don’t know.  We do know that George Soros was previously on the Board of Directors, so that might be a hint where some of their funding originates.  I note today that their website “partners” page is blank.

Here is their 2007 Form 990 where you can see how they spent their money and who they employ.   Their Chairman of the Board is Muslim activist Farooq Kathwari (also CEO of Ethan Allen Furniture).

Note to new readers:  For everything we have written (and its extensive) use our search function for ‘Refugees International,’ ‘Ken Bacon,’ and ‘Farooq Kathwari.’

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