THE BLOG
09/21/2006 06:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time for Regime Change at The Washington Times

The Washington Times is in crisis. Max Blumenthal's
fair and accurate cover story in the Oct. 9, 2006
issue of The Nation, "Hell of a Times,"
documents the
rampant racism, sexual misconduct and abuse of power
at the top of The
Washington Times
. In particular, the Nation article
focuses on the paper's Editor-in-Chief Wes Pruden, and
his loyal number two and hand-picked successor, Managing Editor Fran Coombs.

I am quoted on the record throughout the story,
bearing witness to heinous racist comments made by
Coombs and Pruden, as well as to the mass discontent
in the paper's newsroom because of their abusive
management style. Rather than deal with the substance
of the allegations and
the widespread evidence presented in the article,
Coombs and Pruden are seeking to destroy my
credibility.

For example, Coombs recently claimed to Patrick Gavin
at FishbowlDC that I am a "disgruntled former
employee" who sought to get my old job back at the
paper in late 2005. Coombs also attacks me as someone
who is detached from "reality." In other words, The
Times
' top editors
are spreading the false (and vicious) rumors that I am
out to get The Times out of some
vendetta, and that I am a little crazy to boot. Pruden
and Coombs have even hired a public relations firm,
Hill & Knowlton, to help them in their campaign of
personal destruction. I know how the Washington power
game is
played: I am the whistle blower and hence, I need to
be discredited for fear the story will get picked up
in the mainstream media.

But Coombs, Pruden and their PR team have a major
problem: The truth is against them. Contrary to what
Coombs asserts, I never specifically asked to return
to The Washington Times after I retired in September
2005. My
mother's cancer was progressing more quickly than
anticipated and I wanted to return to Virginia from
Phoenix as quickly as possible. I simply inquired of
Coombs in a friendly meeting in his office last
Christmas if my reporter slot on the national desk had
been filled, and he said the slot and salary
had been moved to another department (the paper's Web
site staff). End of subject. I did not specifically
ask to come back. Coombs is just making that up.

I had considerable savings and decided to write my
book, "Journalism is War," full-speed and full-time. I
am not a disgruntled ex-employee of the Times, as
Coombs asserts.

Moreover, what he and Pruden cannot explain is if I am
somehow detached from "reality," why was I nominated
by the paper four times for the Pulitzer Prize? If I
am so mentally detached from "reality," why did Coombs
and Kenneth Hanner, his dutiful successor as national
editor, consistently write very laudatory annual
reviews of me during my 21-year
career at the paper? If I am detached from "reality,"
why does Blumenthal have more than a dozen current and
former employees of The Times testifying that Coombs
is a racist, a sexual predator, and an abusive
micro-manager?

The answer is a simple one: Pruden and Coombs are
trying to demonize me because they know I am saying
the truth. Also, they are trying to make me the issue
in an effort to detract attention from the real
issue-namely, their neo-Confederate, white supremacist
worldview and the immense damage it has caused The
Times
over the years. In fact, don't even take my word
for it. On the record comments by Coombs proves
without a doubt he is an unreconstructed
racist.

Take the issue of the late Samuel Francis. For years,
one of Coombs's closest friends at the paper was
Francis, a former
staff columnist, who was eventually fired by Pruden
--reluctantly I might add - in 1995 for remarks made
at the American Renaissance Conference. The event was
a gathering of academic racists and neo-Nazis.
(Francis said, "The civilization that we as whites
created in Europe and America could not have developed
apart from the genetic endowments of the creating
people.") Francis was a leading
theoretician of the "white nationalist" movement. One
would think having been fired from one's paper for
being a eugenicist and rabid white supremacist would
put Francis beyond the pale of respectable political
opinion. But not according to Coombs. Recently, he
praised Francis as "the
voice of the Founding Fathers speaking down through
the ages," on a Web site promoting a posthumous
collection of Francis's writings called Shots Fired.
This is akin to saying that David Duke or some current
KKK Grand Wizard is "the voice of the Founding Fathers
speaking down through the ages."

(In fact, Coombs sent me down to Louisiana in 1991 to
cover the governor's race between Duke, the former Ku
Klux Klansman and the Republican candidate, and Edwin
Edwards, the ultimate Democratic victor. Coombs was
solidly for Duke and instructed me to cover the story
in his favor. After I interviewed Duke and determined
for myself that he was a racist scoundrel, Coombs made
sure my reporting was heavily edited to reflect his
pro-Duke sympathies.)

Or take Coombs' support for current Times assistant
national editor, Robert Stacy McCain. Coombs played a
pivotal role in hiring McCain from Georgia, who is an
avowed white supremacist. McCain belonged to a white
supremacist group called the League of the South that
opposes interracial marriage, and he has frequently
made bigoted comments against interracial couples in
the newsroom. He is also a staunch defender of
slavery.

When confronted with this evidence by Blumenthal,
Coombs is quoted in The Nation article as calling my
allegations against McCain "bullshit," and he goes on
to say McCain "has not made any comments in the
newsroom like
hat, and if he had, there are African-Americans in the
room who would kick his butt."

Coombs is clearly lying-and he knows it. 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.

Under Pruden's and Coombs' inept leadership, the paper
has slowly but relentlessly lost its way as a serious,
independent and relevant voice within the larger media
landscape. They represent the worst traits of an older
Southern conservatism-nativism, racism, chauvinism,
xenophobic nationalism-that is out of touch with the
modern
conservative movement and with the general reading
public.

They are viewed by most of my former colleagues as the
primary obstacles to unleashing the vast talent and
stifled energies in the newsroom. Morale at the paper
is very low. The Times still has excellent reporters
and editors. But their skills cannot flourish as long
as Pruden and Coombs remain at the top. The paper will
continue to lose many of its
finest reporters. It will continue to lose its
readership andultimately, its relevance.

This is why no matter how much they try to smear me or
attempt to obfuscate the truth by attacking me they
cannot spin their way out of this. Pruden and Coombs
have lost the confidence of the best at The Washington
Times
, where cheers will be heard if they are gone and
a new, feisty leadership team is brought in to do
honest, complete coverage again.