The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, December 23, 2003  

This is You, Tina Brown
Meanwhile, George Will Gets All Tough and Stuff

It seems Tina Brown’s pal Conrad Black is even more generous and indiscriminate in doling out gratuities to would-be journalists than is the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of America.

Friendship and Business Blur in the World of a Media Baron,” by Jacques Steinberg and Geraldine Fabrikant, in Monday’s New York Times, makes clear that Black and his company, Hollinger International, which just might turn out to have been as much of a personal fiefdom as was Tyco International Co. under the helm of Dennis Kozlowski, thought nothing of placing former government leaders and policymakers, and current slothful conservative “opinion-makers” on its own private dole.

It’s a scathing piece; an example, at last, of real journalism that is all the more impressive because real journalists wrote it in a real outlet for real journalism.

Of course, that previous sentence means nothing to the likes of Andrew Sullivan. The PofP is having a minor meltdown over all this -- gee whiz, I don’t know, something about Enron, I think.

In his nonsensical take on the Times article Sullivan failed to include the “money quote,” this from former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski about former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, both of whom were feeding greedily at the Hollinger trough: “For quite a while, Mrs. Thatcher would participate. I was one of those people who suggested to Conrad that it wasn’t productive to hear her speak at such length.”

And speaking of money quotes, let’s take a look at a couple of American journalists pundits who were taking Hollinger’s “money calls”: George F. Will and William F. Buckley Jr.

About Will, Steinberg and Fabrikant write:

In a column syndicated by [t]he Washington Post Writers Group in March, Mr. Will recounted observations Mr. Black had made in a London speech defending the Bush administration’s stance on Iraq.

In a rebuttal to Mr. Bush’s critics, Mr. Will wrote, “Into this welter of foolishness has waded Conrad Black, a British citizen and member of the House of Lords who is a proprietor of many newspapers.”

Far be it for me to express surprise that Will would think his readership so ignorant as to be impressed that someone is a “member of the House of Lords.” Anglophilia: The last refuge of the truly pathetic.

Steinberg and Fabrikant continue:

Asked in the interview if he should have told his readers of the payments he had received from Hollinger, Mr. Will said he saw no reason to do so.

“My business is my business,” he said. “Got it?”

Oh, yes sir. Hey, no problem. Trust me, I don’t want to take this outside!

There’s still more:

Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of [t]he Washington Post Writers Group, said he was unaware of Mr. Will’s affiliation with Hollinger or the money he received. “I think I would have liked to have known,” Mr. Shearer said.

Michael Getler? Your phone is ringing again. Only this time it’s not Andrew Sullivan. It’s Alan Shearer.

About Buckley, Steinberg and Fabrikant wrote:

Similarly, in a column published in The [sic] National Review in 2002, Mr. Buckley, the magazine’s editor at large, wrote of attending a dinner at Lord Black’s home in London.

In an effort “to divulge all my personal conflicts in talking about the subject,” Mr. Buckley wrote in the column that Lord Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, were among his “five closest friends in the entire world.”

Excuse me, Bill, that’s Lady Amiel to you. (I wonder how many “Friends of Bill” were counting their fingers after reading that. “‘My friend’ this, ‘my friend’ that” is a nauseatingly recurrent construction in Buckley’s writing.)

Steinberg and Fabrikant, again:

Asked later why he had not mentioned his payments from Hollinger, Mr. Buckley said, “I didn’t think that had any bearing whatsoever.”

To underscore that he did not feel beholden to Lord Black -- “Giscard d’Estaing and I don’t bribe very easily,” he said -- Mr. Buckley mentioned a “withering review” of the Roosevelt book that The [sic] National Review published on Nov. 24.

And yet, Mr. Buckley dashed off a letter to the editor of [t]he New York Observer after the newspaper published a front-page profile of Lord Black last week that interspersed criticism of his business with criticism of his book.

“Your editorial on Conrad Black was febrile with hate which [sic] one has to assume is personal,” he wrote.

“You are entitled to ask how I presume to write with ostensible authority,” Mr. Buckley added. “I write because I have known Conrad Black for 15 years.”

He concluded: “Since your mind inclines in that direction, hear this: he has never donated a nickel to any of my enterprises.”

No, Bill, just your checkbook. And remind me to send you my memo explaining the difference in usage between “that” and “which.” Many a cub reporter has cut his teeth on that missive.

And then there’s Richard N. Perle, a man whose complete and utter sleaziness can no longer be denied among reasonable people:

Mr. Perle, the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board who served on the Hollinger board, also served as chairman or co-chairman of Hollinger Digital, a unit of the parent company, since its inception in 1996. In that capacity, he was paid more than $300,000 a year and $2 million in bonuses over part of that period, said someone with knowledge of the company, figures that have not previously been disclosed.

Reached for comment, Mr. Perle referred all questions on these payments to the company.

Which company? Hollinger? Or one of the many other companies with which Perle’s outstretched hands and greedy fingers are associated?

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