Washington Times Cleans Out Extremists

Media Extremism

The Washington Times has appointed a new executive editor, marking a major change in direction for the perennially money-losing paper that is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. John Solomon, a former Associated Press and Washington Post reporter, replaces Wesley Pruden, who was editor-in-chief for 16 years.

Solomon's appointment may mark the end of a tumultuous period for the hard-right Times, which included a spate of extremely bad press such as "Hell of a Times," a devastating exposé of racism and sexism at the paper that was published in The Nation in October 2006. The negative coverage apparently took its toll on newsroom morale. Several prominent staffers — including Washington insider Tony Blankley, the newspaper's editorial page editor and former press secretary for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and FOX News contributor Bill Sammon — have left the organization in the past year.

The appointment of Solomon means that Pruden's once-important vision for the future of the paper, which has a reputation for shoddy journalism, will not come to pass. Pruden told C-SPAN in 2005 that he thought his managing editor, Francis Booth Coombs (who claims on his personal website to have been "in many ways the chief architect of Washington Times news coverage"), should ultimately replace him. But Coombs, whose bigotry has been detailed in the Intelligence Report and who has been accused of racism by former Times employees, also announced his retirement in January.

Coombs' wife, Marian, has written extremist material for white supremacist publications, and Coombs has actually published several of her stories in the Times. As revealed by the Report in 2005, some of those stories relied on explicitly racist sources.

One of Coombs' favorite editors, Robert Stacy McCain, is a foe of interracial marriage and a former member of the white supremacist League of the South. (McCain resigned from the Times a few days after Solomon's hire was announced.) Coombs' personal website was created and registered by George McDaniel, who has worked for and been published by the racist American Renaissance journal. Possibly even more damaging were March 2007 allegations that Marian Coombs had associated with neo-Nazi leader Bill White, whose website is filled with attacks on Jews and blacks.

During Pruden and Coombs' tenure, the Times had on its staff other extremists besides McCain. Sam Francis, who would serve as editor in the late 1990s and early 2000s for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, was the paper's deputy editorial page editor from 1987 to 1991 and then a columnist until 1995. Francis was fired that year after conservative author Dinesh D'Souza wrote about racist remarks Francis had made at a 1994 American Renaissance conference.

Even so, when Francis died in 2005, the Times wrote a glowing obituary. The article completely omitted Francis' 1995 firing from the Times and his prolific writings for white supremacist publications, describing him instead as "a leading voice of traditional conservatism."