Does USA Today's Al Neuharth Have a Messianic Complex?

USA Today founder Al Neuharth (file photo at right), who in February blustered that George W. Bush should be "planted firmly at the top" of the list of the worst U.S. presidents, reportedly dressed up as Jesus Christ --crown of thorns and all-- at a dinner with USA Today senior staff in the newspaper's infancy.

The October 25 Washington Post "The Reliable Source" column relayed the account by newspaper publisher Cathie Black, as found in her memoir "Basic Black" (emphasis mine):

"Al Neuharth was sitting at the table, dressed in a robe, a crown of thorns perched atop his graying head. With his hand he was steadying a giant wooden cross."

Had Neuharth gone off the deep end? Nah, he was just trying to make a point, Black says: He was giving his lifeblood for the paper and wanted his team to give their all, too. Alas, Black didn't snap a photo, so we'll just have to imagine Al in all his glory.

Insane? Probably not, but it sure sounds like a messianic complex of some sort. But then again, I'm a media critic, not a shrink. At any rate, it's a level of bombast that's not surprising for Neuharth.

In February, MRC's Brent Baker noted that Neuharth blasted President George W. Bush as the worst president in the history of the Republic:

Joining the media ranks of Helen Thomas and Keith Olbermann, in his regular Friday column in USA Today Al Neuharth, the founder of the nationwide daily, proclaimed George W. Bush to be the worst ever President. Announcing a "mea culpa," Neuharth recalled how "a year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying 'this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.'" At the time, he declared her "wrong," explaining: "I rated these five Presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, [Herbert] Hoover and Richard Nixon. 'It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list,' I added. I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top." Neuharth fretted that "Bush didn't learn the value or meaning of mea culpa (acknowledgment of an error) during his years at Yale," but "Bush admitting his many mistakes on Iraq and ending that fiasco might make many of us forgive, even though we can never forget the terrible toll in lives and dollars."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters