‘Herr Blatter, Have You Ever Taken a Bribe?’

In a recent piece for the Washington PostMichael E. Miller profiled Andrew Jennings— a doggedly obsessed, “curmudgeonly” investigative reporter who helped expose the FIFA scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter. According to Miller’s piece, if Blatter’s downfall can be traced to a single moment it was when Jennings grabbed the microphone at a Zurich press conference after Blatter’s 2002 reelection. After the FIFA President was done speaking, Jennings asked a “deliberately outrageous question,” hoping to attract a source within the secretive soccer association: 

“I’m surrounded by all these terribly posh reporters in suits and silk ties and buttoned up shirts, for God’s sake,” he remembered. “And here’s me in me hiking gear. I get the mike and I said, ‘Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?’”

“Talk about crashing the party,” Jennings recalled Tuesday. “Reporters are moving away from me as if I’ve just let out the biggest smell since bad food. Well, that’s what I wanted. Thank you, idiot reporters. The radar dish on top of my head is spinning around to all these blazers against the wall, saying, ‘Here I am. I’m your boy. I’m not impressed by these tossers. I know what they are. I’ve done it to the IOC, and I’ll do it to them.’”

The outcome was doubly golden. Blatter denied ever taking a bribe, which gave Jennings a great headline. But he also got the goods. “Six weeks later I’m in the dark at about midnight down where the river in Zurich widens out into the lake, standing by a very impressive looking 19th-century office block, wondering why I’ve been asked to go there by somebody I don’t know when the door opens and I’m dragged in,” Jennings recalls. “I’m taken into a very posh set of offices … and within half an hour a senior FIFA official arrived carrying a wonderful armful of documents. And it ran from there. And it still does.”

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