Face facts

David Horowitz accused me of lying, but he's the one who plays loose with the facts on Reagan-era conservatism.

By Joe Conason
Published April 26, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

Among David Horowitz's virtues as a propagandist is that he rarely allows himself be inconvenienced by facts, truth or intellectual honesty. In his response to my column about Paul Weyrich, Horowitz charges me with a "bald-faced lie" for writing that "During the Reagan era, few on the right objected to the anti-Jewish bias of Patrick Buchanan." The next sentence, which Horowitz doesn't quote, explained why: "They held their fire until Buchanan made himself a political nuisance by running for president."

According to Horowitz, "During the Reagan era -- as everyone including Conason knows -- Buchanan was condemned by leading conservatives (including John Podhoretz, David Frum, William Bennett and others) as both an anti-Semite and a 'fascist' in feature articles in every major conservative magazine. Bill Buckley wrote an entire book examining the charges against Buchanan."

Really? I don't think so. In fact, that entire paragraph is wrong from beginning to end. I challenge Horowitz to produce a single citation, from any major conservative writer or magazine, on the subject of Buchanan's anti-Semitism during the Reagan era -- which clearly refers to the years between January 1981 and January 1989.

I was being gentle when I suggested that "few" conservatives had challenged Buchanan's anti-Jewish bias in the Reagan years. As far as I can determine, there were none who did so. William F. Buckley Jr.'s book "In Search of Anti-Semitism" didn't appear until 1992. The book was not entirely about Buchanan, but did include a long essay concerning his anti-Jewish statements that Buckley had first published in National Review in December 1991 (which appeared just two days after Buchanan declared his candidacy for president). At the time, Buckley told the Washington Post, somewhat equivocally, "If you ask do I think Buchanan is an anti-Semite, my answer is, he is not one. But I think he's said some anti-Semitic things."

As for the other right-wing comrades cited by Horowitz, not one of them spoke out about Buchanan while Reagan was president. As late as March 1992, William Bennett was praising Buchanan's bracing conservatism and predicting that the commentator was "certainly a relevant guy for the [GOP's] future." David Frum's 1994 book "Dead Right" mentions the Buckley essay in passing, but contains no polemic against Buchanan's anti-Semitism or "fascism."

That said, I can see why Horowitz congratulates himself for "attacking David Duke and other right-wing racists." That surely required immense courage. Blasting Falwell on the Tinky Winky issue and nutcase Alan Keyes on abortion must have taken almost as much bravery. His bold knuckle-rapping of Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Dick Armey for "careless prejudice" leaves me tingling with admiration.

What I don't appreciate, however, is Horowitz's slur against my probity. He should retract that false accusation or stand exposed as a liar himself.

Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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