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How an Accused Child Sex Predator Covered Up Racism, Sexual Harassment at the Washington Times

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"The Washington Times is the only newspaper where the moral issues of family and faith are proudly reported on the front page on a regular basis. From 1992 to 2002, The Washington Times' focus was on keeping the moral standard in America and on reviving the American family."
--Washington Times President Douglas Joo, speaking at the Times' 21st anniversary celebration

On September 26, Washington Times Human Resources Chief Randall Casseday was nabbed in a sting by Washington Metro Police. Casseday is accused of soliciting sex over the internet with an undercover police officer who he believed was a 13-year-old girl. He sent several graphic photographs of himself and in return, received pictures of a young girl in a bathing suit, according to an affidavit filed in US District Court. When Casseday appeared to rendezvous with someone he reportedly thought would be his young prey, he was immediately cuffed by DC cops.

The revelation of Casseday's alleged solicitation of sex with a child is emblematic of the culture of lawlessness and arrogance fostered at the Washington Times by its president, Douglas Joo, editor-in-chief Wes Pruden and managing editor Fran Coombs, which I detailed in my recent article for The Nation, "Hell of a Times." According to two sources who have dealt directly with Casseday, the accused sex criminal has played a central role in stonewalling internal investigations into the racist and sexually predatory behavior of Times managing editor Fran Coombs, and did so on orders from Joo and Pruden.

"Whatever Joo, Pruden and Coombs wanted, Casseday did," a senior staffer in the Times newsroom told me today. "Casseday literally was their hatchet man, the hit man for Pruden, Coombs and Joo. Now the whole story is exploding that they had a ticking time bomb all these years and they did nothing. There was no background check or anything."

Times former media relations staffer Melissa Hopkins complained to Casseday in 2004 that Coombs had sexually harassed her then attempted to undermine her career. Hopkins said Casseday accused her of lying, then sabotaged a subsequent investigation into her charges. Today, Hopkins expressed outrage at the news of Cassadey's secret life. "Randall Casseday, the Washington Times' director of Human Resources who was arrested Tuesday for attempting to entice a minor on the internet with sexually explicit communications, is the same man who said to me that my claims of sexual harassment and hostile environment against Fran Coombs at The Times were baseless," Hopkins told me.

She continued, "Was it that Casseday was trying to discredit me because he had a vested interest in not bringing any attention to sexual misconduct happening at The Washington Times? I'll let people draw their own conclusions. In one year from the time of my incident, I went from being offered an expanded role at the paper to being stripped of duties that I performed for over 7 years, to losing my long-term contract with them with zero explanation. As the mother of three children I am outraged that someone like this was out there allegedly preying on children while at the same time overseeing employee protocol at The Washington Times. It is beyond hypocrisy."

I described Hopkins' disturbing episode with Coombs and Casseday in my Nation article:

In 2004 Coombs was accused of sexual harassment. The accusation stemmed from a series of incidents involving then-Times media relations staffer 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."

...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."

...Three weeks after Hopkins formally complained to the Times's human resources department and a subsequent investigation by Farber, the paper's lawyer, went nowhere, she demanded a settlement, which Bernabei's letter made the case for. Instead, a year later, in October 2005, after the statute of limitations in which she could have filed a criminal complaint against Coombs expired, the Times terminated her contract without explanation.

As director of Times human relations, Casseday was in charge of recording Hopkins' complaint against Coombs and recapitulating it during a subsequent internal investigation. But as Hopkins told me, Casseday insinuated that Hopkins had fabricated her story, telling her, "I'm sorry, but nothing you say can be corroborated."

(Nevermind that the incident between Hopkins and Coombs occured in a taxi cab with no witnesses present. At Douglas Joo's Washington Times, a paper that publicly supports conservative "victims' rights" crusades, the victim is always wrong.)

After recording Hopkins' complaint, Cassadey detailed her account to the Times' legal counsel, Alan Farber. But Casseday had already tacitly rejected her allegations as false. Unsurprisingly, Farber's "investigation" into the incident between Coombs and Hopkins fizzled out in short order. It may be more accurate to call Casseday and Farber's actions a cover-up. Ultimately, Casseday's dismissive attitude toward Hopkins opened the door for Coombs to intensify his ultimately successful campaign to destroy Hopkins' career at the Times.

This year, Casseday was instrumental in sidelining an investigation into a longstanding pattern of racist behavior by Coombs. I described Coombs' racist attitude in the Nation. Here is a very small excerpt of what I reported:

[Former veteran Times correspondent] 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.'"

Archibald recounted a discussion in 1992 among several Times reporters and editors: "We were having a conversation about abortion. We were all pro-life, anti-abortion, and we were trying to explain how we would discuss this in the paper. All of a sudden Fran blurts out that he is pro-abortion. I argued with him and he said, 'How do you think we're going to stop the population growth of the minorities and all the welfare people?'" Another Times senior staffer recounted similar statements about abortion and race by Coombs at a party, where Coombs called himself a "racial nationalist." A former staffer alleged that Coombs used racial slurs including "spic" and "towel-head" inside the Times.

And there is more. Much more.

Today, I spoke by phone to a mother of children attending the same school as Coombs' daughters, South River High in Maryland's Ann Arundel County. Last year at the overwhelmingly white school, five students were arrested and charged with hate crimes for spray-painting pro-Klan graffitti on school stairwells and distributing fliers for neo-Nazi groups.

The mother, who requested anonymity, told me that she encountered Coombs outside South River High recently. "I heard your daughter is starting South River this year," the mother said to Coombs.

"Yeah, it's perfect," Coombs allegedly replied. "It has a really low clientele rate."

The mother said she asked Coombs to clarify what he meant. She said he told her, "The rate is 3 percent. You know what I mean."

The current enrollment rate of African-American students at South River High happens to be 3%.

This summer, when Times President Joo learned staffers inside the Times newsroom were talking to me about Coombs' racist behavior, he ordered an investigation which swiftly morphed into a cover-up, thanks largely to the handiwork of Casseday and Pruden. (Pruden is himself an ardent neo-Confederate activist with many of the same reactionary racial attitudes at Coombs.)

According to a Times senior staffer, Joo attempted to hire the Washinton-based law firm Covington and Burling to investigate the racism allegations. Covington and Burling has worked on behalf of a parade of morally dubious clients, including Phillip Morris and the chronically polluting Southern Peru Copper Company. But the staffer said Covington and Burling judged the claims against Coombs to be so serious, they refused to take on the job. Reached by phone, Judge Sarah Wilson, who was allegedly to have headed up the investigation of the Times for C&B, refused to confirm or deny whether her firm rejected the job.

In the wake of Covington and Burling's reported rejection, Joo ordered Pruden to conduct his own investigation. The senior staffer said Pruden's investigation lasted "about two hours" and reached its pre-determined conclusion: Coombs had been vindicated.

Casseday moved in for clean-up duty. "Cassadey just basically winked at Pruden's sham investigation and said, 'As human resources director, I agree with everything,'" the senior staffer recalled. "[Casseday] began talking randomly to editors in newsroom, and what he told them was, 'I'm coming on the orders of Douglas Joo. I'm not very happy with this, we don't want this story to come out. And I don't care if Fran [Coombs] is a racist or white supremacist, I care if the story gets out.'"

The staffer went on: "So the crime is not his [Coombs'] racism, it's whether the outside world is told about it. And Casseday basically intimidated everyone and said, based on the employee handbook, talking to a reporter is a firing offense."

The Washington Times metro section has reported on Casseday's arrest. But according to the senior staffer, that article was ordered by Pruden and Coombs as a means of "washing their hands" of Casseday.

Joo, meanwhile, is reportedly urging his underlings to remain loyal to his former axe man. Casseday, according to the staffer, is a former devotee of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, and his wife is still an active member. "Joo thinks, like an old godfather, that this guy [Casseday] has buried a lot of bodies for us, so let's get him a good lawyer and not savage him on paper," the staffer said.

Back in Korea, the Times' paymasters in the Unification Church are fuming. "The Koreans are furious watching this go down," said the senior staffer. "They're asking Joo, "Are you running a newspaper, or a bordello?' Because the Times has literally become a bordello."

And somehow, even with Casseday's dismissal, that "bordello" on New York Avenue remains open for business.

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