The Nation is leading with an incredible story of the fight for control of the Washington Times about to blow wide open. It has been managed as an incredibly racist, far-right propaganda machine for years with frequent stories leaking out about editor's attitudes. Now the Moon family wants to take more control and and these stories will play a large part in the fight. The far-right Republicans in control now will counter-charge alleging the religious propaganda of the Moonites and a drive to take the paper leftward. The fact that 99% of the public doesn't know the views expressed inside the walls of one of the Republican Noise Machine's leading publications may change as this fight heats up. An Easter Lemming Digest:
"The Times is a terrible little newspaper that unfortunately has vastly disproportionate influence on the right wing of the Republican Party. The vast majority of people who read it don't realize that this paper is in bed with bigots and white supremacists. The Times is a key part of the radical right's apparatus in the United States."
But even as it has enjoyed cozy relations with Washington politicos, from its earliest days the Times has been a hothouse for hard-line racialists and neo-Confederates. Pruden, who started at the paper in 1982, was their wizard. His father, the Rev. Wesley Pruden Sr., was a Baptist minister who served as chaplain to the Capital Citizens Council in Little Rock, Arkansas, the leading segregationist group in town. When President Dwight Eisenhower sent Army troops to protect nine black teenagers integrating Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, Pruden Sr. reportedly told an assembled mob, "That's what we've got to fight! Niggers, Communists and cops!"
Coombs believes immigration is "the number-one issue in America today," and he has played an instrumental role in pressing far-right positions into the mainstream. In a move that many sources considered emblematic, on August 22 Coombs splashed a favorable review of Pat Buchanan's book State of Emergency across the paper's front page. Buchanan's book is a diatribe calling for an immediate moratorium on all immigration, to stave off the demise of Western civilization. "There were a lot of other things going on [in the news] that day," a Times senior staffer said. "Any other paper would have reserved that for the book review section, but Coombs had to have Buchanan on the front page." Coombs, the staffer continued, "will literally stand there and scan websites and look for anything that's anti-Hispanic, that's immigrant-bashing, and he will order the editors to go with it." According to Archibald, in 2001 Pruden issued a memo instructing reporters to stop using the term "illegal immigrant" and instead use "illegal alien"--a lead the rest of the conservative media soon followed.
Countering the "feel-good perspective" on race appears to be Coombs's passion. George Archibald told me that when he showed Coombs a photo of his nephew's African-American girlfriend, Coombs "went off like a rocket about interracial marriage and how terrible it was. He actually used the phrase 'the niggerfication of America.' He said, 'Not in my lifetime. If my daughter went out with a black, I would cut her throat.'"
McCain's views on race are well-known among his colleagues. In August 2002, according to Archibald, during a discussion in the newsroom about civil rights, McCain defended slavery as "good for the blacks and good for property owners." "We were just appalled," Archibald said. "He is just a complete animalistic racist." Describing Archibald's allegations as "bullshit," Coombs said McCain "has not made any comments in the newsroom like that, and if he had, there are African-Americans in the room who would kick his butt."
Marlene Johnson, the former Times arts section editor and an African-American, bristled at Coombs's remarks. "All African-Americans don't beat people up when they have a disagreement," Johnson told me. "That just shows what a racist Fran is. You had a guy, Stacy McCain, who was an avowed segregationist, and Fran always overlooks that, he overlooks McCain's behavior." Johnson said that while at the Times, she was given an order from Pruden, delivered to her by Coombs, to stop doing "so many black stories."
One senior staffer recalled Coombs saying, "Women are naturally inferior to men" and that women "tend to be dumber, more emotional and less dependable than men." One female former Times staffer described Coombs as hostile toward female employees. "I'm anything but a feminist. If anything, I'm against them. But it was illuminating--his tactics toward women are to terrorize them and scream and intimidate. This guy was a sicko."
In 2004 Coombs was accused of sexual harassment. The accusation stemmed from a series of incidents involving then-Times marketing consultant Melissa Hopkins during the Republican National Convention. In a letter written by her lawyer, Lynne Bernabei, that was delivered to then-Times senior counsel Allen Farber and made available to The Nation, Hopkins alleged that over cocktails one night at the convention Coombs grew belligerent and called her work "lame," and then suggested she go to his room for a "nightcap." When Hopkins refused, she claimed, the harassment increased. According to the letter, the next evening, while sharing a cab back to their hotel, Coombs pulled her toward him and attempted to kiss her. "Ms. Hopkins, who as Mr. Coombs is aware, is married and the mother of three children," the letter states, "resisted and tried to pull away, but Mr. Coombs succeeded in forcibly kissing her."
In her letter Hopkins said she complained to Pruden and Times vice president and general manager Dick Amberg. Pruden promised he would investigate the incident, but nothing happened. Amberg told her she was being "overly sensitive." And Hopkins claimed that Coombs, meanwhile, initiated a sabotage campaign against her, removing videos she had shot at the convention from the Times website, and "directed reporters and editors not to communicate with her."
Through all these disturbing incidents, Times president Joo has stood by Pruden and Coombs. In June, according to a source close to senior management, Joo received a memo detailing specific charges of sexual harassment and racism against Coombs. According to the source, Joo dismissed the memo, telling Times owners from News World Communications, including Preston Moon, "I don't fucking care." - Max Blumenthal - Print Version.