Longform

In the Line of Fire

Page 6 of 6

It's been five years since the deadly ambush at Waco -- and the destructive ambush on John McLemore's career. The sting of disappointment and betrayal has lessened for him over the years, but he still has hard feelings over the way he was treated by the media -- and now by the courts.

Mostly what he feels is a sense of loss. He misses chasing stories, getting scoops, getting at the truth. "Journalism is all I ever wanted to do," he says wistfully. "It's what I went to school for and worked so hard for."

For a while he thought about teaching journalism. He was accepted in a Ph.D. program, but when a teaching assistant position didn't come through, he couldn't afford the out-of-state tuition.

For the last three years he has served as corporate communications director for a Waco insurance company that deals in the controversial area of viatical settlements -- buying insurance policies from people with terminal illnesses.

Instead of covering the news, he now helps feed it. He interacts with the press frequently because of the newsworthy nature of his company's enterprise and because his boss, Brian Pardo, attracts a lot of media attention. In recent years, Pardo has funded several investigations into high-profile capital murder cases. McLemore gets to do some of the research on these cases, and when he does, it feels like the old days. But now when he's done, he has to hand his work over to a reporter.

What frustrates him most about the recent court decision is that through all this arcane legal wordplay and hairsplitting, the real issue has gotten lost.

"What hasn't been addressed is that what the media said about me was wrong, and it was harmful," he says. "When a person is alleged to have caused the deaths of four ATF agents, how much more harmful can you get? I was screwed by the media and now by the courts. All I want is a jury of my peers to clear my name.

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Ann Zimmerman