The second most powerful editor at The Washington Times is a white supremacist racist who says blacks are "born genetically 15 to 20 IQ points lower than a white person" and that abortion is necessary "to keep the black and minority population down in this country." His wife, Marian, confirmed this, on the record, in an interview with reporter Max Blumenthal for the Oct. 9 issue of The Nation magazine.
Francis B. Coombs Jr., the managing editor of The Washington Times, a major media ally of the Bush administration, is described by multiple newsroom sources in Blumenthal's piece as an unreconstructed "racial nationalist" and a hater of blacks and Jews.
Following Blumenthal's cover story in The Nation (posted Sept. 20 on the magazine's Web site), Coombs wrote a letter denouncing the supposed "mendacity" of the piece and categorically labeled its serious allegations as false without explanation.
The serious problem with Coombs' line of defense is that his wife, Marian Kester Coombs, confirmed his racist white supremacist worldview in her own on-the-record interview with Blumenthal.
Fran Coombs attacked Blumenthal for his story's "smear" of Marian, saying it was "beneath contempt." Yet the only reason Blumenthal described Marian Coombs' white supremacist activities in detail was because they confirmed her husband's own racist views.
Marian Coombs is a close friend of Jared Taylor, notorious white supremacist and founder of the neo-eugenicist group, American Renaissance. She admitted in her Nation interview that she attended American Renaissance conferences to meet with her old friend, Nick Griffin, leader of the neo-fascist whites-only British National Party (BNP).
Marian Coombs has written frequently for Occidental Quarterly, an openly white supremacist and anti-Semitic publication. In one article, she wrote the United States had become a "den of iniquity" because it allowed too many minority immigrants. In another piece, she criticized interracial marriage, stating: "white men should 'run, not walk' to wed 'racially conscious' white women and avoid being outbred by non-whites."
On American Renaissance's Web site, she posted this comment in 2001: "Whites do not like crowded societies, and Americans would not have to live in crowds if our government kept out Third-World invaders."
Marian Coombs is a self-proclaimed "white nationalist" and avowed racist who writes for white supremacist magazines and spends time hobnobbing with fascist leaders. Some may say, so what? The sins of the wife are not necessarily the sins of the husband. True. But when Max Blumenthal asked Marian Coombs whether her husband shared her political and racial views, she said, "Pretty much" - while insisting that Fran Coombs' personal views were not reflected in the pages of the Times.
Wrong. I know from many years' experience with this couple that this is not true. Just look at the paper's slant on immigration coverage over the past several years. But why would the owners of The Washington Times want a white supremacist and neo-eugenicist as its No. 2 editor, let alone possible successor to outgoing Editor-in-Chief Wesley Pruden?
Fran Coombs attacked Blumenthal for my on-the-record disclosures and for using some Times reporters and lower-level editors who spoke for his Nation piece on condition of anonymity. But his own wife confirmed publicly, on tape and on the record, that Fran Coombs is a racist and white supremacist.
In conversations with Times senior reporters, editors, and corporate executives over the past several months, I was told that a report about the management and ideology of Fran Coombs was compiled and submitted in June 2006 to Dong Moon Joo, South Korean president of The Washington Times Corp. (who has anglicized his name to Douglas M. Joo).
The report documented Fran Coombs' extensive racist comments and abusive, unpopular management style. Several Times employees who attended a party at a Times editor's home in spring 2003 were told by Coombs that, "I would never want to be born black. This would mean that I would be born genetically 15 to 20 IQ points lower than a white person."
At the party, Coombs repeatedly said he was "unequivocally for abortion ... since abortion disproportionately impacts blacks and minorities, it helps to keep the black and minority population down in this country."
I personally heard Coombs express such racist comments to me and others over the years when I was a senior national reporter at The Times. Coombs claimed that he never said such things. Yet Blumenthal reported that such statements attributed to Coombs were confirmed to him by at least three other Times sources - all who said they personally heard Coombs laud abortion as a means to stem the tide of black, brown, and Asian babies.
Coombs also claimed that I, a former veteran reporter nominated on four occasions by The Times for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, was "virtually the only named source" in Blumenthal's piece. This is false. Marlene Johnson, former Times arts section editor was quoted as saying "what a racist Fran [Coombs] is."
Johnson recounted how she was given an order from Wesley Pruden, delivered to her by Coombs, to stop doing "so many black stories." She also recounted how Coombs had protected and promoted Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain, even though he is an "avowed segregationist."
But in Coombs' eyes, Marlene Johnson probably doesn't count as a genuine named source as she is an African-American.
Yet if Coombs was interested in more named sources willing to testify to his virulent neo-Confederate racism and abusive and unpopular management style, he should read a letter sent to The Nation by former Times assistant book section editor, Amanda Kolson Hurley, in response to Blumenthal's piece and posted on his blog site:
"As a former (albeit short-lived) staffer at the Washington Times, I was eager to read Max Blumenthal's expose," Hurley wrote. "What I found was largely a rehash of revelations about Fran Coombs' hateful, but well-known, views on race, along with a fair summary of the struggle for the Times' soul. What's missing is a larger indictment of a newsroom culture that quashes real journalistic talent for the sake of an extremist ideology."
Hurley added: "Readers may get the impression that editors like Coombs and Stacy McCain have handpicked a staff of right-wing crazies to support their agenda -- but that's simply not the case. Coombs and especially McCain, a virulent misogynist, are reviled by most Times staffers, who would like nothing more than to turn the crass propaganda sheet into a respectable newspaper.
"One detail did give me a jolt: Blumenthal wrote that on August 22, Coombs devoted page 1 to a positive review of Pat Buchanan's anti-immigrant screed. How typical. In my brief tenure at the Times' Sunday books section, I remember being pre-empted again and again by McCain (presumably with Coombs' all-clear) placing fawning 'news' stories about right-wing books in the main section, despite the fact that said books had already been assigned to experts for objective review."
So there was myself, Marlene Johnson, Amanda Hurley and 10 other current and former reporters and editors who all said the same thing: Fran Coombs is governed by deeply racist views and is a highly unpopular managing editor, who has stifled the energies and skills of the Times newsroom.
For me, it was necessary to go on the record in gratitude for devoted service to The Times by so many wonderful reporters, writers, editors, photographers, and support staff - my colleagues over almost a quarter century. The two senior editors under fire who have disparaged me with character assassination have it completely wrong. It is emblematic of the Christian faith always to uphold truth, and for believers even to take on the role of prophet against powerful opposition to tell the truth, not for personal material gain, but simply to uphold truth and the faith.
I was surprised to find out how many Times staffers were willing to talk to Blumenthal about the rampant racism and abusive management of Pruden and Coombs, the paper's top two editors, who are legendary for their spiteful vindictiveness and ruthlessness. It took a lot of courage for Times people to speak out.
In fact, nothing illustrated this better than the joint reaction of Pruden and Coombs to The Nation piece. Instead of honestly confronting the very serious and credible allegations against them, they were bent on savaging the reputations and careers of people who spoke to Blumenthal, or they believed spoke to him -- with yours truly designated as public enemy No. 1.
For example, Coombs maliciously asserted that I was a "disgruntled employee" who had become detached from "reality" and claimed that I had "resigned under pressure from The Times in August 2005," after which he claimed I had "engaged in an increasingly vicious and fictitious cyber-campaign against The Washington Times and me in particular."
This is false. As Coombs well knows, I retired in September 2005, not under pressure from the Times, but because I had another challenge offered to me in Arizona. I had built up a considerable retirement nest egg which enabled me to begin writing my memoir of my 20-plus years at the Times, entitled "Journalism is War."
I also had an ailing mother dying of lung cancer to take care of. The notion that I somehow left the paper "under pressure" is complete fiction invented by Coombs in his attempt to manufacture a false impression that I had some kind of ulterior motive for speaking out against the racist ideology and abusive management of Coombs and Pruden.
I was able to speak truthfully when Blumenthal first called last spring while reporting for his Nation article because I am financially secure and no longer dependent on a paycheck from the Times. Even if Coombs and Pruden had asked me to return to my old job atmy previous salary, with just a handshake and no contract as before, I would have turned down their offer in a heartbeat. Why would I want to return to their distasteful bigotry and iron editorial grip?
Moreover, if I supposedly left under pressure, why did Coombs lavish praise upon me at a going-away luncheon on Sept. 2, 2005, attended by Virginia's retired Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., leading D.C.-area politicos, policy leaders, and journalists?
Coombs said in response to The Nation and FishbowlDC.com pieces that I was somehow detached from "reality." But why did Times senior editors over the years, including Coombs and Pruden, nominate me four times for the Pulitzer Prize? Why did Coombs and Kenneth Hanner, his dutiful successor as national editor, consistently write laudatory annual reviews of me during my 21-year tenure at the paper?
Coombs has unfairly smeared my character, questioned my mental stability, and now has lashed out at others who he believes spoke to Blumenthal. Many sources at the paper tell me there are growing concerns that Coombs, Pruden and Washington Times Corp. president Joo are preparing to retaliate against those whom they believe spoke. I assure them, however, that I shall keep a vigilant eye on the next series of events at the Times in order to help protect former colleagues who have been sources in this unfolding story.
If Coombs, Pruden and Joo are really serious about trying to restore the credibility of the Times, why don't they issue a legal document that offers protection from being fired to any employee who wishes to reveal his identity? And why don't the paper's owners come forward to ensure that no employee is bullied and intimidated?
Surely the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the paper's founder, cares about the people who work for The Times? Why has he or his son, Preston Moon, CEO of parent company News World Communications who has a Harvard MBA, not made a statement ensuring they willaddress the situation? Why have they not come forward at all? Is their silence a clear sign that they do not wish to defend senior editors whom their own internal reports confirm are guilty of racist ideology and abusive management?
There is even more evidence to confirm the veracity of Blumenthal's story. Sources at the paper told me that once Joo was informed The Nation piece would appear, he immediately hired a law firm, Covington & Burling, to defend himself, Pruden, and Coombs. But once Covington & Burling's attorneys conducted their initial internal investigation, they were so appalled and outraged that they refused to defend the Times and be linked with the editors' racist ideology. Imagine: Even lawyers who defend almost anyone could not stomach the atmosphere at the Times. And my sources confirmed that Joo was absolutely livid when rebuffed by the law firm.
The behavior of Coombs and Pruden has deteriorated further since The Nation piece emerged. Newsroom sources told me that Coombs and Pruden circulated an internal e-mail to reporters and editors mocking me as a deranged alcoholic. My sources said Coombs vowed to "take a baseball bat to Archibald's head." The sources said their stance has the full knowledge and support of Joo.
"Joo, Pruden and Coombs are like cornered animals right now," said a senior official at the paper. "They know they've been exposed; they know they are despised by most of the newsroom and corporate management. But they refuse to let go of power and are willing to do absolutely anything to hang on."
However, I believe they are living on borrowed time. The question remains: How long must The Washington Times continue to bleed in its public reputation and media credibility before Coombs and Pruden are replaced by a new regime of editors who will take the paper back to sensible, complete, and honest daily coverage of the news?
Only the owners know the answer, and whether they have the sense in the face of published facts to clean house sooner rather than later.
- George Archibald was the first reporter hired in early 1982 by founders of The Washington Times in the newspaper's pre-publication days. He went on to win four Pulitzer Prize nominations from Times editors and awards from national and state newspaper associations as a national investigative reporter for the paper over two decades. His forthcoming book, "Journalism is War: Power Politics, Sexual Dalliance, and Corruption in the Nation's Capital," tells stories behind the breaking of his big-hit stories over a quarter century and is set to come out early next year.