An inveterate blogger, McCain posted messages on FreeRepublic.com under a pseudonym BurkeCalhounDabney, raling against blacks, liberals, and interracial marriage. In one message, he complained that the media "now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Washington tell us."
McCain later bragged to people in the newsroom that Coombs and Pruden had held meetings with him where they said "they agreed with me." According to McCain, however, they warned him that "they may have to fire me" if the "mainstream press picks up on the story." But apart from a few reporters and bloggers, the press largely ignored the story. Many in the newsroom-myself included-were stunned and dismayed that Pruden and Coombs had not fired McCain for his outrageous comments.
For Coombs to now claim that he has no knowledge McCain made any outrageous racist statements is simply false. Over two dozen Times reporters and editors over the years have personally heard McCain make deeply derogatory statements about African-Americans, Hispanics, and women. If Coombs really cared about running a professional newsroom that is respectful towards women and minorities, then he should simply ask the people that work underneath him what they have heard come out of McCain's mouth. But Coombs doesn't care-and that is the point. It is an open secret in the newsroom that McCain is a racist, and that Coombs is one as well.
Ultimately, the buck stops at the top, as Harry Truman famously put it. McCain and Coombs are allowed to flourish at the paper because their neo-Confederate, anti-black, white supremacist views are shared by Pruden. In his columns, Pruden openly portrays himself as a champion of the Confederacy. He waxes nostalgically about "the War Between the States," presenting Abraham Lincoln and the Union forces as the immoral "aggressors" in the Civil War. He supports the cause of Southern independence during the war, even though the practical consequences for the region's blacks would have been the continued existence of slavery and a system of apartheid across the country, in which millions of blacks would be mired in misery, poverty and oppression.
Yet it is not just Pruden's neo-Confederate views that are troubling. It is even more troubling that Pruden has deliberately supported, nurtured, protected and promoted Coombs during his tenure at The Times. This was done even though Coombs' virulent racism and abusive management-style were well-known to almost everyone in the newsroom.