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The Washington Times Cleans House

The hard-right Washington Times has appointed a new executive editor, Washington Post reporter John Solomon (right), marking a major change in direction for the perennially money-losing paper that is owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Solomon, who is taking over a paper with a long history of shoddy journalism, replaces Wesley Pruden, who was editor in chief for 16 years.

Solomon’s appointment marks the end of a tumultuous period for the Times, which included a spate of extremely bad press, including an extensive piece on racism and sexism at the paper by Max Blumenthal. That seemed to take its toll on the newspaper’s professional employees. 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, left the organization in the past year.

The appointment of Solomon means Pruden’s vision for the Times’ future will not come to pass. Pruden told C-SPAN in 2005 that his managing editor, Francis Booth Coombs, who claims on his personal web site to have been “in many ways the chief architect of Washington Times news coverage,” should replace him. Coombs, whose white supremacist thinking has been reported on in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report several times (here and here) and who has been accused of racism by former Times employees, announced his retirement yesterday.

Coombs’ connections to extremists are extensive. Coombs’ wife, Marian, has direct ties to white supremacists and Coombs has published several stories by Marian in the Times, many of which relied on racist sources (as revealed in 2005 by the Intelligence Report). One of Coombs’ favored editors, Robert Stacy McCain, is an ardent foe of interracial marriage and a former member of the white supremacist League of the South. Coombs’ personal website was created and registered by George McDaniel, who has worked for, and been published by, the academic racist outfit, American Renaissance. Possiby even more damaging to the Coombses were the March 2007 reports of their alleged associations with neo-Nazi leader Bill White, whose website is filled with virulent 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 Times’ deputy editorial page editor from 1987 to 1991, and was a columnist until 1995. He was fired in 1995 after conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza wrote about racist remarks Francis made at the 1994 American Renaissance conference.

When Francis died in 2005, the Times wrote a glowing obituary. The article failed to mention Francis’ 1995 firing from the Times or his prolific writings for white supremacist publications, describing him instead as “a leading voice of traditional conservatism.”

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