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Texas Ex Lieutenant. The government says the political guru spoiled Jimmy Carter’s re-election


March 19, 2023 | 5:57 p.m

A former Texas lieutenant governor has pleaded guilty to allegedly helping a political mentor organize a tour of the Middle East to sabotage then-President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations on the Iran hostage crisis – and to support Ronald Reagan’s bid for the White House.

With Carter, 98, now in hospice care, Ben Barnes, 84, he told the New York Times He wants to reveal his role in the secret operation.

“History should know that this happened,” Barnes told The Times. “I think it’s very important and I think knowing the end is near made President Carter put it on my mind more and more.”

In his interview, Barnes recounted how the nation was on edge as Carter tried to negotiate the release of 52 Americans who had been captured in 1979 by a group of Iranian military cadets.

Former Texas Governor Ben Barnes, 84, told The New York Times that he wanted to explain his role in the covert operation against President Carter.
AP/Harry Caplock

With the 1980 election approaching during the 444-day incident, the outcome of the crisis was seen as the turning point of Carter’s presidency.

But Barnes alleged that former governor John Connally, Jr. was committed to stalling those negotiations, claiming that Connally invited him on a trip to several Middle Eastern capitals to urge leaders not to release the hostages because Reagan would offer a better deal, the Times reported.

Barnes’ allegations echo the so-called October surprise theory, in which Carter supporters have long claimed that pro-Reagan agents secretly influenced the outcome of the 1980 election through the hostage crisis in Iran.

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Former Governor John Connally Jr. was committed to stalling those negotiations, convincing foreign leaders that Reagan had a better deal.
Bateman Archive

The Times reported that Connally consulted Barnes, who at 26 became the youngest speaker in the Texas House of Representatives, from Connally.

And although both began their careers as Democrats, they have gained prominence as influencers in the Republican Party.

According to government records, flight records show that Barnes accompanied Connally on July 18, 1980, on a flight from Houston to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, the Times reported.

Connally Barnes, as the youngest speaker in the Texas House of Representatives, consulted.
Bateman Archive

During the tour, Barnes alleged that Connally led leaders in the states to believe that the deadlock situation should not be resolved until after Election Day.

Barnes recalled Connally saying, “Look, Ronald Reagan is going to be elected president and you need to get the word out to Iran that they’re going to make a better deal with Reagan than Carter.” He said, “It would be very smart of you to pass on the anxiety to the Iranians to wait for this general election.”

The two returned to Texas on August 11, 1980, and the following month, Barnes claimed, they met William Casey, Reagan’s campaign chairman and future CIA director, at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to report on their flight.

Barnes shared how the nation was on edge when Carter tried to negotiate the freedom of 52 Americans.
AP/Denise Cook

Flight records said Casey flew to Dallas on Sept. 10, The Times reports.

Barnes told The Times he initially did not know what the trip with Connally was and why he had been invited.

But he told the newspaper he believed Connally completed the job in an effort to secure the seat of “Secretary of State or Defense” in the Reagan administration.

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Connally, who died in 1993, was offered the position of Secretary of Energy, but he refused.

American hostages arrive at US Air Force Base Rhine-Main in Frankfurt, West Germany, after their release from Iran on January 21, 1981.
News agency

While four other sources Barnes told his secret to confirmed to The Times that the details have remained constant over the decades, the veracity of the allegations is still up in the air.

Connally’s family told the Times that they do not believe he passed any messages to the Iranians.

Casey, who also died and previously faced scrutiny over the October surprise theory, has long maintained that he did not sabotage the Carter campaign.

Neither man has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Barnes told The Times that he wanted to set things right after Carter was accepted into hospice care.

“I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad hostage deal,” Barnes said. He didn’t have a chance to fight with those hostages who were still in the embassy in Iran.

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