David Horowitz responds to Time magazine's "slander"

Published August 25, 1999 8:00AM (EDT)

Dear Walter Isaacson,

In a column authored by Jack White in your Aug. 30 issue, your magazine has committed an outrage against me and my family, which I appeal to you to redress. As you know, the exercise of freedom of the press comes with a responsibility not to abuse its power and crush unequal individuals with statements that are defamatory and libelous. White's column, which features my image and describes me as "A Real, Live Bigot," is a hateful racial lie.

I understand from years of personal experience that the political arena can be rough. I certainly expected some strong reactions to the article I wrote for Salon News on Aug. 16. But there is not a shred of evidence in White's column or in the entire record of my very public career that would justify calling me a racial bigot. If there were, Salon's editors would not have published the piece and would not have hired me as a regular columnist for their site, which White describes as "otherwise one of the Internet's most humane and sophisticated websites." Salon's editors have known me personally for 30 years, and therefore are aware that one aspect of my career that has remained consistent is my steadfast commitment to equal rights for African-Americans and for all Americans.

In a lifetime of public activity as an author and activist, I have never written or spoken a word -- or committed an act -- that any reasonable person could call "bigoted." Nor has your columnist found a single comment in my article that would justify the hateful headline with which you have stigmatized me to millions of Americans.

I began my political career at a demonstration in 1948 in support of Harry Truman's Fair Employment Practices Commission, which sought to end employment discrimination against African-Americans in the federal government. For 51 years since that demonstration, I have fought for equal rights for black Americans and for all Americans. As a young activist in Berkeley, Calif., in the 1960s, I picketed Woolworth's for CORE, and played a small role in the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. that extended America's constitutional protections to black Americans. It is true that my politics have generally become more conservative since the 1960s. But my attitude toward racial equality and integration has not changed. On innumerable occasions, in articles I have written and in speeches I have given from public platforms, I have expressed my continuing dedication and commitment to the values and goals of the civil rights movement led by King. In all the time that has elapsed since that era, I have never once repudiated my belief in the basic dignity of all people of whatever ethnic or racial group.

Two years ago I raised a half million dollars to conduct a TV ad campaign in behalf of an African-American radio talk-show host in Los Angeles named Larry Elder, whose show was under attack. The station manager at the Disney affiliate KABC-Los Angeles had cut Elder's hours, hired a replacement and threatened to fire him. As a direct result of my campaign, Elder's ratings were increased by 30 percent, his hours were restored and the station manager was fired. Today, Larry Elder is the No. 1 drive-time talk-show host in the Los Angeles media market.

Last year I organized a conservative conference in Arizona, which the New York Times called the "alternative" to the Clinton Renaissance Weekend and which was attended by the chair and co-chair of the Republican Party along with more than a dozen Republican senators, congressmen and elected officials. My featured speakers included Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani. I also invited five African-American friends of mine -- Rep. J.C. Watts, Operation Hope Chairman John Bryant, Los Angeles Civil Rights Commission President Joe Hicks, Oakland NAACP President Shannon Reeves and Larry Elder -- to speak at this event, specifically to tell Republicans that they were not doing enough for African-Americans and other minorities who are disadvantaged, and that the Republican Party was not doing enough to reach out to minority constituencies in general.

In 1996 I was a member of the Exploratory Committee to Draft Colin Powell for President. This year I undertook my own campaign to draft Eloise Anderson for Senate in my home state of California. Eloise Anderson is an African-American, and a former welfare mother, who headed the Human Services Department in the Pete Wilson administration. She is speaking, along with African-Americans Watts, Reeves and Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers of Colorado, at this year's "Weekend" event, which will be held over Labor Day in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Presently, I am engaged in a nationwide campaign to get the Republican Party to champion the cause of poor people and minorities. I have written a booklet outlining this proposal that has already been distributed to 35,000 Republican officials and party activists with endorsement letters from a dozen state party chairmen. The chief political strategist for the Bush presidential campaign, Karl Rove, has called my booklet "the perfect pocket guide to the political battleground" and made it required reading for the entire Bush campaign staff. Part 2 of the final section of the booklet, which is devoted to "Reshaping the Republican Party," is titled "Give Minorities, Poor People and Working Americans a Shot at the American Dream."

I have created a charity organization called Hollywood Concerned that is dedicated "to helping charities that benefit minorities and poor people." We are currently serving more than 12 inner-city charities in the Los Angeles area that help homeless children and youth at risk who are mainly Hispanic and African-American. One of the most destructive aspects of your slander is the damage it will do to our efforts to help these children.

It could reasonably be said that there are few conservatives who have been as active and outspoken as I am in trying to persuade the Republican Party to embrace the cause of African-Americans and other minorities, to be more active in its concerns about the plight of citizens of our inner cities and to become a more inclusive organization reflecting the multicolored and multiethnic face of America.

All these facts are publicly known and were readily available to your reporter. In the course of the "interview" he conducted with me in preparation for his column, Jack White indicated that he had consulted my Web site, www.frontpagemag.com, where my Salon article appears in a version that restores three paragraphs the editors had cut. If White had the least interest in reporting the truth about me and my beliefs, he could have found out about Hollywood Concerned, the Larry Elder campaign and the Arizona and Colorado conferences, and he could have read the booklet I have written about the Republican Party, since all are available on the same Web site.

But White did not care about the truth. Instead he caricatured me as a racial bigot, and wrote a column that disregards the facts in order to perform a character assassination dressed up as commentary. In the process he has made me and my family the target of racial resentment and anger from who-knows-what sources. You and your headline writers have abetted this destructive agenda.

It is true that I have a polemical style that may provoke some strong reactions in others, and that certainly had an effect on your columnist. But as I explained to White during our interview, I created this rhetorical style to match that of black leaders like Jesse Jackson, Kweisi Mfume and Al Sharpton, when they are busily framing their indictments of white Americans and other ethnic groups, and even entire industries, for the problems that afflict some African-American communities.

My style was the focus of one part of the interview that White seriously distorted in his column. I told White that liberals had a habit of patronizing black people by not telling them what they really felt. I gave as an example the failure of white editorialists to be critical of the NAACP's suit against gun manufacturers for violence that inner-city blacks perpetrated on each other. I said: "White people generally are intimidated from telling black people the truth in a blunt manner." White asked me: "Why then do you think that you can talk to black people that way?" I answered: "Because I earned the right to do so in the '60s." Here is how White distorted my answer:

"Last week Horowitz told me that he had earned the right to talk down to blacks 'because of all I did in the '60s.'"

Jack White's animus toward me is one thing; Time's failure to exercise responsible editorial control over its columnist is another. The question I ask you is: How do I get my reputation back? What do I tell my African-American daughter-in-law or my three granddaughters when they ask me why an otherwise reputable magazine like Time would pillory their grandfather as a racial bigot, putting me in a category alongside Buford Furrow and other deranged hate-mongers? How, as a public figure, do I carry on the quest for a frank and honest dialogue over race if I am stigmatized with a label like this, which I have done nothing to deserve? Why would anyone else attempt to engage in candid talk about race, seeing what has happened to me?

I hope you will consider the gravity of what you and your columnist have done. I hope you will print this letter and feature it, in article form, as a response to the malicious slanders that appeared in your magazine. I hope you will accompany it with an editorial apology for the damage you have done, and thus afford me the same rectification that you would any other victim of racial injustice.


David Horowitz

By David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

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