Remembering Paul Weyrich: A Conservative Facing 'Consumer Campaigners' and 'Philanthropists'

Conservative movement leader Paul Weyrich didn’t star in too many episodes of liberal media bias. In our research, we did highlight several times where we noticed Weyrich was a conservative, while the liberals who opposed Weyrich were only consumer advocates and philanthropists. On the November 4, 1993 edition of CNN’s afternoon show Inside Politics, reporter Bruce Morton described a broad spectrum in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement: "Here...is the conservative, highly partisan, Clinton-bashing House Republican whip Newt Gingrich. Hates NAFTA, right? No. On this issue, bedfellow Gingrich is with his President, for NAFTA. Conservative activist Paul Weyrich and consumers' rights campaigner Ralph Nader have disagreed on just about everything over the years."In the April 21, 1997 issue of Time magazine, they profiled philanthropist Richard Scaife, whom the magazine labeled a "Conservative Agitator." His bio began: "If conservative thinkers like Bill Bennett and Paul Weyrich are the brainpower behind the resurgent American right, the horsepower comes from Richard Mellon Scaife. For close to four decades, the 64-year-old Pennsylvanian has used his millions to back anti-liberal ideas and their proponents." Later, Time added: "He controls the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which helps subsidize rabidly anti-Clinton magazines as well as conservative social-policy projects." If Scaife was considered a "conservative agitator," it would follow that George Soros would be tagged a "liberal agitator," but Time's subhead labeled him merely a "Philanthropist."Weyrich's biggest network television moment since the MRC began came 20 years ago, when he disparaged the first George Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, John Tower. E. J. Dionne, then a reporter for the New York Times, profiled Weyrich on March 16, 1989 and captured the irony of Weyrich’s star turn on TV: he didn’t watch it.

When Paul M. Weyrich went before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31 and questioned John G. Tower's drinking habits and the time Mr. Tower spent with women ''to whom he was not married,'' his statement was replayed repeatedly on television. But Mr. Weyrich never got to watch himself, or any other part of the battle over Mr. Tower's nomination as Secretary of Defense because, as a pre-Lenten vow, he and his family have given up television until Easter. The 46-year old conservative leader said he worried about making his religiously motivated sacrifice public because it might further his image as a holier-than-thou moral scold. ''I am being pictured as some sort of real prude who wants to outlaw sin and that's not my view at all,'' Mr. Weyrich said in an interview last week. ''We are all sinners.''

Few stayed angry at Weyrich for his dismissal of Tower’s public morality. President Bush then nominated Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis