|Reliable Reporting. The Right Opinion.|
Front page for August 22, 2016
|Owner(s)||Operations Holdings (via The Washington Times, LLC)|
|Founder(s)||Sun Myung Moon|
|General manager||David Dadisman|
|News editor||Victor Morton|
|Managing editor, design||Cathy Gainor|
|Opinion editor||Charles Hurt|
|Sports editor||David Eldridge|
|Founded||May 17, 1982|
|Headquarters||3600 New York Avenue NE|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Circulation||52,059 daily (as of 2019)|
The Washington Times is an American conservative daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., that covers general interest topics with a particular emphasis on national politics. Its broadsheet daily edition is distributed throughout the District of Columbia and in parts of Maryland and Virginia. A weekly tabloid edition aimed at a national audience is also published.
The Washington Times was founded on May 17, 1982, by Unification movement leader Sun Myung Moon and owned until 2010 by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate founded by Moon. It is currently owned by Operations Holdings, which is owned by the Unification movement.
Throughout its history, The Washington Times has been known for its conservative political stance. It has published many columns which reject the scientific consensuses on climate change, on ozone depletion, and on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. It has drawn controversy for publishing racist content, including commentary and conspiracy theories about U.S. President Barack Obama, supporting neo-Confederate historical revisionism, and promoting Islamophobia.
The Washington Times was founded in 1982 by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the Unification movement which also owns newspapers in South Korea, Japan, and South America, as well as the news agency United Press International (UPI).Bo Hi Pak, the chief aide of Unification movement founder and leader Sun Myung Moon, was the founding president and the founding chairman of the board. Moon asked Richard L. Rubenstein, a rabbi and college professor who had written on the Holocaust, to serve on the board of directors.The Washington Times first editor and publisher was James R. Whelan.
At the time of founding of The Washington Times, Washington had only one major newspaper, The Washington Post. Massimo Introvigne, in his 2000 book The Unification Church, said that the Post had been "the most anti-Unificationist paper in the United States." In 2002, at an event held to celebrate the Times 20th anniversary, Moon said: "The Washington Times is responsible to let the American people know about God" and "The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world."
The Washington Times was founded the year after the Washington Star, the previous "second paper" of D.C., went out of business. A large percentage of the staff came from the Star. When it launched, it was unusual among American broadsheets in publishing a full color front page, along with full color front pages in all its sections and color elements throughout. It also used ink that it advertised as being less likely to come off on the reader's hands than the type used by the Post. At its start, it had 125 reporters, 25 percent of whom were members of the Unification Church of the United States.
After a brief editorship under Smith Hempstone, Arnaud de Borchgrave (formerly of UPI and Newsweek) was executive editor from 1985 to 1991. Borchgrave was credited for encouraging energetic reporting by staff but was known to make unorthodox journalistic decisions. During his tenure, The Washington Times mounted a fundraising drive for Contra rebels in Nicaragua and offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of Nazi war criminals.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan is said to have read The Washington Times every day during his presidency. In 1997, he said: "The American people know the truth. You, my friends at The Washington Times, have told it to them. It wasn't always the popular thing to do. But you were a loud and powerful voice. Like me, you arrived in Washington at the beginning of the most momentous decade of the century. Together, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. And--oh, yes--we won the Cold War."
Wesley "Wes" Pruden, previously a correspondent and then a managing editor, was named executive editor in 1991. During his editorship, the paper took a strongly conservative and nativist stance.
In 1992, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung gave his first and only interview with the Western news media to The Washington Times reporter Josette Sheeran, who later became Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. At the time, The Washington Times had one-eighth the circulation of the Post (100,000 compared to 800,000) and two-thirds of its subscribers subscribed to both papers. In 1994, it introduced a weekly "national edition" which was published in a tabloid format and distributed nationwide.
U.S. President George H. W. Bush encouraged the political influence of The Washington Times and other Unification movement activism in support of American foreign policy. In 1997, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which is critical of U.S. and Israeli policies, praised The Washington Times and its sister publication, The Middle East Times, for what it called their objective and informative coverage of Islam and the Middle East, while criticizing their generally pro-Israel editorial policy. The Report suggested that these newspapers, being owned by religious institutions, were less influenced by pro-Israel pressure groups in the U.S.
In 2004, Post columnist David Ignatius reported that Chung Hwan Kwak, a top leader of the Unification movement, wanted The Washington Times to "support international organizations such as the United Nations and to campaign for world peace and interfaith understanding." This, Ignatius wrote, created difficulties for Pruden and some of the Times columnists. Ignatius also mentioned the Unification movement's reconciliatory attitude towards North Korea, which at the time included joint business ventures, and Kwak's advocacy for greater understanding between the U.S. and the Islamic world as issues of contention. Ignatius predicted that conservatives in Congress and the George W. Bush administration would support Pruden's position over Kwak's.
In January 2008, Pruden retired, and John F. Solomon began as executive editor. Solomon had previously worked for the Associated Press and had most recently been head of investigative reporting and mixed media development at the Post. Within a month, The Washington Times changed some of its style guide to conform more to what was becoming mainstream media usage. It announced that it would no longer use words like "illegal aliens" and "homosexual" and in most cases opt for "more neutral terminology" like "illegal immigrants" and "gay," respectively. It also decided to stop using "Hillary" when referring to Senator Hillary Clinton, and the word "marriage" in the expression "gay marriage" would no longer appear in quotes in the newspaper. These changes in policy drew criticism from some conservatives.Prospect magazine attributed the Times apparent political moderation to differences of opinion over the UN and North Korea, and said: "The Republican right may be losing its most devoted media ally."
In July 2010, the Unification Church issued a letter protesting the direction The Washington Times was taking and urging closer ties with it. In August 2010, a deal was made to sell it to a group more closely related to the movement. Editor-in-chief Sam Dealey said that this was a welcome development among the Times staff. In November 2010, Moon and a group of former editors purchased The Washington Times from News World Communications for $1. This ended a conflict within the Moon family that had been threatening to shut down the paper completely. In June 2011, Ed Kelley, formerly of The Oklahoman, was hired as editor overseeing both news and opinion content.
In 2012, Douglas D. M. Joo stepped down as senior executive, president, and chairman.Times president Tom McDevitt took his place as chairman, and Larry Beasley was hired as the company's new president and chief executive officer.
In 2013, The Washington Times hired David Keene, the former president of the National Rifle Association and American Conservative Union chairman, to serve as its opinion editor. Around the same time, Solomon returned as editor and also served as vice president of content and business development. Solomon's tenure was marked by a focus on profitability. He left for Circa News in December 2015.
In 1991, Moon said he had spent between $900 million and $1 billion on The Washington Times. By 2002, Moon had spent between $1.7 billion and $2 billion according to different estimates. In November 2009, The New York Times reported that The Washington Times would no longer be receiving funds from the Unification movement and might have to cease publication or become an online publication only. Later that year, it fired 40 percent of its 370 employees and stopped its subscription service, instead distributing the paper free in some areas of Washington, including branches of the government. A subscription website owned by the paper, theconservatives.com, continued, as did the Times three-hour radio program, America's Morning News. The paper announced that it would cease publication of its Sunday edition, along with other changes, partly in order to end its reliance on subsidies from the Unification movement. On December 31, 2009, The Washington Times announced that it would no longer be a full-service newspaper, eliminating its metropolitan-news and sports sections. In March 2011, it announced that some former staffers would be rehired and that the paper would bring back its sports, metro, and life sections. It had its first profitable month in September 2015, ending the streak of losses in the paper's first 33 years.
The Washington Times holds a conservative political stance. The Columbia Journalism Review wrote in 1995, that the paper: "is like no major city daily in America in the way that it wears its political heart on its sleeve. No major paper in America would dare be so partisan." The Post reported in 2002, that it: "was established by Moon to combat communism and be a conservative alternative to what he perceived as the liberal leanings of The Washington Post. Since then, the paper has fought to prove its editorial independence, trying to demonstrate that it is neither a "Moonie paper" nor a booster of the political right but rather a fair and balanced reporter of the news."Mother Jones reported in 2007 that it had become "essential reading for political news junkies" soon after its founding, and described the paper as a "conservative newspaper with close ties to every Republican administration since Reagan."
In a Harper's Magazine essay in 2008, American historianThomas Frank linked The Washington Times to the modern American conservative movement, saying: "There is even a daily newspaper--The Washington Times--published strictly for the movement's benefit, a propaganda sheet whose distortions are so obvious and so alien that it puts one in mind of those official party organs one encounters when traveling in authoritarian countries."The New York Times noted in 2009 that it had been: "a crucial training ground for many rising conservative journalists and a must-read for those in the movement. A veritable who's who of conservatives--Tony Blankley, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Larry Kudlow, John Podhoretz and Tony Snow--has churned out copy for its pages." The Columbia Journalism Review noted that reporters for the Times had used it as a springboard to other mainstream news outlets.
In 2002, Post veteran Ben Bradlee said: "I see them get some local stories that I think the Post doesn't have and should have had." In January 2011, conservative commentator Paul Weyrich said: "The Washington Post became very arrogant and they just decided that they would determine what was news and what wasn't news and they wouldn't cover a lot of things that went on. And The Washington Times has forced the Post to cover a lot of things that they wouldn't cover if the Times wasn't in existence."
Opinion editor Charles Hurt was one of Donald Trump's earliest supporters in Washington. In 2018, he included Trump with Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II as "great champions of freedom."
The Washington Times is known for promoting climate change denial.Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, characterizes the Times as a prominent outlet that propagates "climate change disinformation."Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, and Erik M. Conway, historian of science at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, wrote in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt that the Times has given the public a false sense that the science of anthropogenic climate change was in dispute by giving disproportionate coverage of fringe viewpoints and by preventing scientists from rebutting coverage in the Times. For example, the paper reprinted a column by Steve Milloy criticizing research of climate change in the Arctic without disclosing Milloy's financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
During the Climatic Research Unit email controversy (also known as "Climategate") in 2009 in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Times wrote in an editorial: "these revelations of fudged science should have a cooling effect on global-warming hysteria and the panicked policies that are being pushed forward to address the unproven theory." Eight committees investigated the controversy and found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. In 2010, the Times published an article claiming that February 2010 snow storms "Undermin[e] The Case For Global Warming One Flake At A Time". A 2014 Times editorial mocked the "global warming scam" and asserted: "The planetary thermometer hasn't budged in 15 years. Wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other 'extreme' weather events are at normal or below-normal levels. Pacific islands aren't submerged. There's so much ice the polar bears are celebrating." The Times cited a blog post in support of these claims; PolitiFact fact-checked the claims in the blog post and concluded it was "pants-on-fire" false. The Times later said that a NASA scientist claimed that global warming was on a "hiatus" and that NASA had found evidence of global cooling; Rebecca Leber of The New Republic said that the NASA scientist in question said the opposite of what the Times claimed. In 2015, it published a column by Congressman Lamar Smith in which he argued that the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was "not good science, [but] science fiction."
In 1993, The Washington Times published articles purporting to debunk climate change. It headlined its story about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change: "Under the deal, the use of coal, oil and other fossil fuel in the United States would be cut by more than one-third by 2002, resulting in lower standards of living for consumers and a long-term reduction in economic growth."
In the 1990s, The Washington Times published columns which cast doubt on the scientific consensus on the causes of ozone depletion (which had led to an "ozone hole"). It published columns disputing the science as late as 2000. In 1991, NASA scientists warned of the potential of a major Arctic ozone hole developing in the spring of 1992 due to elevated levels of chlorine monoxide in the Arctic stratosphere. However, as the Arctic winter was unusually warm, the chemical reactions needed for ozone depletion did not occur. Even though the science was not incorrect, the Times, along with other conservative media, subsequently created a "crying wolf" narrative, where scientists were portrayed as political activists who were following an environmental agenda rather than the science. In 1992, it published an editorial saying: "This is not the disinterested, objective, just-the-facts tone one ordinarily expects from scientists... This is the cry of the apocalyptic, laying the groundwork for a decidedly non-scientific end: public policy... it would be nice if the next time NASA cries 'wolf,' fewer journalists, politicians and citizens heed the warning like sheep."
In 1995, The Washington Times published a column by Fred Singer, who is known for promoting views contrary to mainstream science on a number of issues, where Singer referred to the science on the adverse health impact of second-hand smoke as the "second-hand smoke scare" and accused the Environmental Protection Agency of distorting data when it classified second-hand smoke as harmful. In 1995, it published an editorial titled "How not to spend science dollars" condemning a grant to the National Cancer Institute to study how political contributions from tobacco companies shape policy-making and the voting behavior of politicians.
In January 2020, The Washington Times published two widely shared articles about the COVID-19 pandemic that suggested that the virus was created by China as a biological weapon. One article quoted a former Israeli intelligence officer as a source but offered no other evidence.
Under Pruden's editorship (1992-2008), The Washington Times regularly printed excerpts from racist hard-right publications including VDARE and American Renaissance, and from Bill White, leader of the American National Socialist Workers' Party, in its Culture Briefs section.Robert Stacy McCain, a member of the neo-Confederate white-supremacist group League of the South, was hired and promoted to edit the Culture Briefs section, which became, according to Max Blumenthal, "a bulletin board for the racialist far right." Blumenthal also wrote that The Washington Times was: "characterized by extreme racial animus and connections to nativist and neo-Confederate organizations... from its earliest days the Times has been a hothouse for hard-line racialists and neo-Confederates."
In a February 2013 article, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that under Pruden's editorship The Washington Times was: "a forum for the racialist hard right, including white nationalists, neo-Confederates, and anti-immigrant scare mongers." Between 1998 and 2004, the Times covered every biennial American Renaissance conference, hosted by the white supremacist New Century Foundation. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, "the paper's coverage of these events--which are hotbeds for holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, and eugenicists--was stunningly one sided", and favorably depicted the conference and attendees. In 2009, journalist David Neiwert wrote that it championed, "various white-nationalist causes emanating from the neo-Confederate movement (with which, until a recent housecleaning, two senior editors had long associations.)"
A page in The Washington Times Sunday edition was devoted to the American Civil War. The Confederacy was described with admiration several times in the article. In 1993, Pruden gave an interview to the neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan where he said: "Every year I make sure that we have a story in the paper about any observance of Robert E. Lee's birthday." Pruden said, "And the fact that it falls around Martin Luther King's birthday," to which a Southern Partisan interviewer interjected, "Makes it all the better," with Pruden finishing, "I make sure we have a story. Oh, yes."
The Washington Times employed Samuel T. Francis, a white nationalist, as a columnist and editor, beginning in 1991 after he was chosen by Pat Buchanan to take over his column. In 1995, Francis resigned or was forced out after Dinesh D'Souza reported on racist comments that Francis made at a conference hosted by American Renaissance the previous year. At the conference, Francis called on whites to: "reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do so in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites... The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people." When Francis died in 2005, The Washington Times wrote a "glowing" obituary that omitted his racist beliefs, as well as his firing from the paper, and described him as a "scholarly, challenging and sometimes pungent writer"; in response, editor David Mastio of the conservative Washington Examiner wrote in an obituary: "Sam Francis was merely a racist and doesn't deserve to be remembered as anything less." Mastio added that Francis: "led a double life - by day he served up conservative, red meat that was strong but never quite out of bounds by mainstream standards; by night, unbeknownst to the Times or his syndicate, he pushed white supremacist ideas."
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted that The Washington Times had, by 2005, published at least 35 articles by Marian Kester Coombs, who was married to managing editor Francis Coombs. She had a record of racially incendiary rhetoric and had written for the white nationalist magazine The Occidental Quarterly. The SPLC highlighted columns written by Marian Kester Coombs in The Washington Times, in which she asserted that the whole of human history was "the struggle of ... races"; that non-white immigration is the "importing [of] poverty and revolution" that will end in "the eventual loss of sovereign American territory"; and that Muslims in England "are turning life in this once pleasant land into a misery for its native inhabitants."
In 2006, Moon's son Hyun Jin Moon, president and CEO of News World Communications, dismissed managing editor Francis "Fran" Coombs because of accusations of racist editorializing. Coombs had made some racist and sexist comments, for which he was sued by his colleagues.
In 2008, The Washington Times published a column by Frank Gaffney that promoted the false conspiracy theories which asserted that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was courting the "jihadist vote." Gaffney also published pieces in 2009 and 2010 promoting the false assertion that Obama is a Muslim. In a 2009 column entitled "'Inner Muslim' at work in Cairo", Pruden wrote that President Obama was the: "first president without an instinctive appreciation of the culture, history, tradition, common law and literature whence America sprang. The genetic imprint writ large in his 43 predecessors is missing from the Obama DNA." In another 2009 column, Pruden wrote that Obama had "no natural instinct or blood impulse" for what America was about because he was "sired by a Kenyan father" and "born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World." These columns stirred controversy, leading the paper to assign David Mastio, by then the paper's deputy editor, to edit Pruden's work.
Rock musician Ted Nugent, a fervent critic of President Obama, published weekly columns for The Washington Times between 2010 and 2012. Prior to joining the Times, Nugent stirred controversy by referring to Obama as a "piece of shit" and calling on him "to suck on my machine gun", and had also pleaded fealty to the Confederate flag. In 2012, Nugent was visited by the Secret Service after he alluded to beheading President Obama. He said that if Obama would win re-election: "I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year." At the time, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign condemned Nugent's remarks; Post media critic Erik Wemple noted that there was no response by The Washington Times. In 2014, Nugent (who had by then departed from the Times) described Obama as a "subhuman mongrel", which is a term for mixed-breed dogs. Pruden condemned Nugent's remarks, describing Nugent as an "aging rock musician with a loose mouth who was semifamous 40 years ago." In response to Pruden's condemnation, David Weigel remarked in Slate: "That long ago? Only a year ago, he filed a special column for the Washington Times. Before that, for a few years, he published a weekly column."
In 2016, The Washington Times claimed that $3.6 million in federal funds were spent on a 2013 golf outing for President Obama and Tiger Woods. Snopes rated the article "mostly false", because the estimated cost included both official business travel and a brief presidential vacation in Florida.
Gaffney, known for his "long history of pushing extreme anti-Muslim views", wrote weekly columns for The Washington Times from the late 1990s to 2016. According to John Esposito, a Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Gaffney's "editorial track record in the Washington Times is long on accusation and short on supportive evidence." In columns for the Times, Gaffney helped to popularize conspiracy theories that Islamic terrorists were infiltrating the Bush administration, the conservative movement and the Obama administration. In 2015, the Times published a column describing refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War as an "Islamic Trojan Horse" conducting a "'jihad' by another name."
In a 2016 report, the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations listed The Washington Times among media outlets it said "regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes." In 1998, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram wrote that its editorial policy was "rabidly anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and pro-Israel."
Some former employees, including Whelan, have insisted that The Washington Times was always under Moon's control. Whelan, whose contract guaranteed editorial autonomy, left the paper when the owners refused to renew the contract. Three years later, editorial page editor William P. Cheshire and four of his staff resigned, charging that, at the explicit direction of Sang Kook Han, a top official of the Unification movement, then-executive editor Arnaud de Borchgrave had stifled editorial criticism of political repression in South Korea under President Chun Doo-hwan. In 1982, The Washington Times refused to publish film critic Scott Sublett's negative review of the movie Inchon, which was also sponsored by the Unification movement.
The Washington Times reporters visited imprisoned South African civil rights activist Nelson Mandela during the 1980s. Mandela wrote of them in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom: "They seemed less intent on finding out my views than on proving that I was a Communist and a terrorist. All of their questions were slanted in that direction, and when I reiterated that I was neither a Communist nor a terrorist, they attempted to show that I was not a Christian either by asserting that the Reverend Martin Luther King never resorted to violence."
In 1988, The Washington Times published a misleading story suggesting that Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis had sought psychiatric help, and included a quote from Dukakis' sister-in-law saying "it is possible" he visited a psychiatrist. However, the paper misleadingly clipped the full quote by the sister-in-law, which was: "It's possible, but I doubt it." Reporter Peggy Weyrich quit in 1991 after one of her articles about Anita Hill's testimony in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nominee hearings was rewritten to depict Hill as a "fantasizer."
In a 1997 column, Frank Gaffney falsely alleged a seismic incident in Russia was a nuclear detonation at that nation's Novaya Zemlya test site, which would have meant that Russia had violated the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB). Subsequent scientific analysis of the Novaya Zemlya event showed that it was a routine earthquake. Reporting on the allegation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists observed that following its publication: "fax machines around Washington, D.C. and across the country poured out pages detailing Russian duplicity. They came from Frank Gaffney." The Bulletin also noted that during the first four months of 1997, Gaffney had "issued more than 25 screeds" against the CTB.
In 2002, The Washington Times published a story accusing the National Educational Association (NEA), the largest teachers' union in the United States, of teaching students that the policies of the U.S. government were partly responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.Brendan Nyhan (now a University of Michigan political science professor) wrote that the story was a "lie" and a "myth". The accusation was denied by the NEA.
In 2018, The Washington Times published a commentary piece by retired U.S. Navy admiral James A. Lyons which promoted conspiracy theories about the murder of Seth Rich. In the piece, Lyon said that it was, "well known in intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by WikiLeaks for that information." The piece cited no evidence for the assertion. Aaron Rich filed a lawsuit against The Washington Times, saying that it acted with "reckless disregard for the truth" and that it did not retract or remove the piece after "receiving notice of the falsity of the statements about Aaron after the publication". Rich and The Washington Times settled their lawsuit, and the paper issued an "unusually robust" retraction.
Insiders say the church's new line is that with the end of the Cold War, it's important to support international organizations such as the United Nations and to campaign for world peace and interfaith understanding. That stance would be awkward for The Washington Times's hard-line editor in chief, Wesley Pruden, and its stable of neoconservative columnists.