McCarthyism Fallout

Posted By on November 7, 2005

Greta Van Susteren UPDATED 11/14/2005
Occasionally there is over the line commentary that aggitate me enough to respond. One such review in the Orlando Sentinel has me irritated enough to comment. (read full review by Roger Moore, Sentinel staff writer)

To the editor:
I realized that Roger Moore, writing for the Orlando Sentinel, is expressing his ‘opinion’ in writing reviews, but in the case of a November 6th article titled, ” McCarthyism remains in present as much as past,” he has stepped beyond review of the material and has attempted to opine and slander the Fox News organization, and in particular Greta Van Susteren. Mr. Moore has taken his review very personal in slapping attributes of a 1950s Senator on a yet to be born journalist, Greta Van Susteren or for that matter her father of which he takes extraordinary liberty:

Moore writes: “McCarthy’s best friend, the man who loaned him a copy of Mein Kampf, was a fellow Wisconsin conservative, Urban Van Susteren. Progressives won’t be surprised that Greta Van Susteren, a Fox News mainstay and Urban’s daughter, grew up in a home with a cherished edition of Hitler’s famous template for fascist political organization and bigoted scapegoat.”

Regardless of one’s view of Fox News or Greta Van Susteren, I find it irresponsible to allow Sentinel writers the freedom to publicly defame people in this way. The remarks associating Hitler, Mein Kampf, Fascism, Greta Van Susteren and Fox News is wrong and deserves an apology by any fair minded newspaper, editor or honorable reporter in America. Your readers deserve integrity and your readers deserve better from our paper. Please print an apology.

EDIT on 11/14 – The Orlando Sentenel did indeed acknowledge this:

Review reached too far to connect dots
November 13, 2005

Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin led a witch hunt in the 1950s to expose and punish people he suspected of having “un-American” allegiances.

In the end, he exposed instead the dangers of overreaching to assail others’ beliefs.

That revelation has been revived half a century later in a film, Good Night, and Good Luck, and in a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Haynes Johnson, The Age of Anxiety, McCarthyism to Terrorism. The Sentinel’s Roger Moore reviewed the book quite favorably a week ago in the Life & Times section, noting parallels in the current war on terror.

The review recounted Urban Van Susteren lending his best friend, McCarthy, his copy of Adolf Hitler’s blueprint for fascism, Mein Kampf. “Progressives won’t be surprised,” Moore wrote, “that Greta Van Susteren, a Fox News mainstay and Urban’s daughter, grew up in a home with a cherished edition” of Hitler’s book.

When the talk-show host saw that, she cried foul. She had good reason.

As Van Susteren explained to readers of her blog, although her father was McCarthy’s campaign manager in 1946, she hadn’t been born at the time, and McCarthy died before her third birthday. She added that she had written a book, herself, in which she acknowledged her father’s McCarthy connection and condemned what the late senator did.

In less-than-vitriolic tone, she asked her readers, “Ready for some Monday-morning mischief?” She suggested that they “drop Moore a line or call and tell him to apologize.” She added, generously, “We all make mistakes.”

The “mischief” wasn’t necessary. The Sentinel’s standard for correction is inaccuracy not pressure. It acknowledged the error Friday.

Before that correction appeared, however, more than 200 of Van Susteren’s readers did just as she asked, inundating Moore and Sentinel Editor Charlotte Hall with complaints.

Marie LeFevers of Dallas, mother of an Orlando nurse, wrote, “How dare you accuse the daughter of a man who followed his political beliefs as far as he saw fit of being something that even he himself may not have been? How dare you relate Greta Van Susteren’s opinions to those of her father — or anyone else for that matter?”

Ross Williams wrote, “In classical rhetoric terms, what Moore did to GvS is called ‘poisoning the well’; associate the name of someone you don’t like with a well-known No-Good, and let the ‘ill-informed public’ draw their own conclusions.”

Moore agreed that his review “went beyond the factual associations made in the book” but explained, “I wasn’t suggesting she [Van Susteren] was fascist in the least.” His dart, he intimated, was aimed at the perceived political leanings of her employer, which professes balance but tilts right.

If that missed its mark, so did the description of the talk-show host’s childhood household. Johnson, The Age of Anxiety’s author, told me he didn’t know if, as the review stated, Urban Van Susteren kept his copy of Mein Kampf at home.

Was Hitler’s book “cherished” in that house?

“I can’t say,” he stated. “Van Susteren was a captain during WWII, and there is nothing to suggest he admired Hitler.”

The night before the Sentinel corrected those references, Greta Van Susteren recounted to me coming home as a little girl with a colorful flag she had found at a yard sale. When her father saw the banner flying outside their home, he pulled it down and explained that it was the symbol of a man who had done very bad things. That was her introduction, she said, to the swastika of the Third Reich.

Symbols aside, conservatism is not fascism, and overreaching to assail others’ beliefs — on the left or the right — is as objectionable today as it was in McCarthy’s time.

Manning Pynn can be reached at or 407-650-6410.


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