WASHINGTON – Richard Mellon Scaife, formerly No. 1 on Bill Clinton’s enemies list as the so-called “marionette” of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” has chosen to endorse Pennsylvania Democrat Congressman John Murtha, who infamously declared U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, were cold-blooded killers and in recent days called his constituents “racist.”
Scaife, who personally funded many of the investigations of the Clinton administration that led to the president’s impeachment, used his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper to express support for Murtha.
“Mr. Murtha, seeking his 18th House term, has become a lot of people’s favorite whipping boy. Just this month, he was eviscerated for – GASP! – confirming there are racists and rednecks in our midst. And his sharp words following the Haditha killings in Iraq might not have been the most artful but they certainly did force a change in basic tactics, as did his call for U.S. forces to leave Iraq. The military still has no better champion. It’s no contest. Re-elect Jack Murtha,” the editorial in the newspaper said.
Murtha is facing a challenge in the state’s 12th Congressional District from Republican Bill Russell.
Murtha, who recently called constituents in his western Pennsylvania town “racist” because Barack Obama may not win big there, later explained his use of “racist,” saying he meant only that skin color will be a factor in the race between Obama and Sen. John McCain.
He also called individuals living in that region “rednecks.”
Murtha is being sued by one of the Marines cleared of charges after he publicly accused them of being murderers in a firefight with insurgents in Iraq. Eight Marines were charged for the firefight, and so far six have been cleared or had their charges dropped. The top officer involved, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, also was cleared of charges, but the government is attempting to re-try the case. The last case still remains to be heard.
The choice of Murtha was not entirely unexpected, given the recent endorsements of the newspaper. Just months ago, Scaife, who also is a principle owner of NewsMax.com, declared how impressed he was with Hillary Clinton.
“Her meeting and her remarks during it changed my mind about her,” Scaife wrote.
There is little question that when then-first lady Hillary Clinton
famously lashed out at foes as a “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” Scaife
was one of the people on her mind. It was Scaife, an heir to fortunes
made in banking, oil and aluminum, who subsidized the Pittsburgh
Tribune-Review and underwrote countless conservative and Republican
causes – including “the Arkansas Project,” specifically designed to
expose Clinton scandals.
But this is now.
Scaife has joined the anti-war movement, directing his
newspaper in 2007 to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and
watching another of his media prizes, NewsMax.com, embrace Clinton with
a surprisingly friendly interview about his new book, “Giving: How Each
of Us Can Change the World.”
It is nearly impossible to overstate the antagonism that existed between Scaife and Clinton throughout the 1990s.
Time magazine identified him as “King of the Clinton Haters” and
also as a “super-Clinton hater.” Its April 13, 1998, issue referred to
”Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and the
American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has
And in the April 27, 1998, issue of Newsweek, reporter Mark
Hosenball wrote: ”The evidence linking Starr to conservative
Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon Scaife.
… Scaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions
trying to undermine the president.”
But Scaife doesn’t give interviews to the national media. How would they know he hates the president?
No other individual warranted as much attention in the
“Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” the Clinton White
House’s 331-page report on who was directing Hillary’s “vast,
right-wing conspiracy” and how it worked.
Everywhere the Clintons looked, they saw Dick Scaife’s hand at work
– funding the Heritage Foundation, funding Joseph Farah’s Western
Journalism Center before he founded WorldNetDaily, funding Paul
Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC, Larry
Klayman’s Judicial Watch, Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation, Brent
Bozell’s Media Research Center and so on.
But times change – and so do people.
In the midst of a messy divorce from his wife, Ritchie, Dick Scaife
stunned many in his own community of Pittsburgh by joining hands with
Clinton, George Soros, Rep. Jack Murtha, Sen. John Kerry and other
former political foes in anti-war activism.
In a July 15,2007, editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
Scaife’s editorial writers pushed for an immediate pullout from Iraq
and called President Bush “delusional.”
They then quoted Murtha.
“The Pennsylvania congressman,
among the first to make the cogent argument that staying the course in
Iraq was the exercise in futility that indeed the war has become, says
President Bush is delusional,” they wrote. “Based on the president’s
recent performance, we could not agree more. ‘Staying the course’ is
not simply futile – it is a prescription for American suicide. We’ve
urged for months to bring our troops home. Now is the time.”
The editorial went on to question Bush’s “mental stability.”
Scaife’s NewsMax, a popular and once enthusiastically pro-Republican
news website co-owned with Christopher Ruddy, who famously investigated
the mysterious death of Clinton’s deputy White House counsel Vincent
Foster and the strange death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, also
began attacking the war in Iraq following Scaife’s personal
Whatever has caused the change in Scaife, it appears infectious. In
an interview last year with Bill Clinton published in NewsMax, Ruddy
has nothing but kind words for the “new Bill Clinton”:
Clinton argues in ‘Giving’ that individuals, non-profits, even
churches, can work together to improve the health and living conditions
of the world’s poor. This is certainly a laudable effort.”
his Clinton Foundation, the former president has sought to enlist
private and corporate help in major global initiatives that tackle a
range of concerns from AIDS to childhood obesity. The Clinton Global
Initiative boasts more than 570 commitments worth an astounding $10
billion, involving more than 1,000 organizations and targeting 100
- “There is no doubt Bill Clinton has broken the mold of what we expect from a former president.”
there is also no question that in the past Bill Clinton has engendered
considerable controversy. But there should be little disagreement today
that he is doing exemplary work and is acting as a positive force for
the United States.”
So what’s behind the “new Dick Scaife”?
Insiders say his changing ideas coincide with the personal crisis in
his marriage – one that could cost him half his fortune. Speaking on
background, friends and long-time associates say the public battle
between man in his mid-70s and his wife over everything, including their
dogs, plays some role – though no one is certain how much.
Ritchie Scaife contends her husband was involved in a long-term
affair with Tammy Sue Vasco, a tall, blond, 43-year-old mother arrested
in 1993 for offering to have sex with an undercover policeman for $225.
Beginning in 2005, Ritchie Scaife hired a private investigator to tail
her husband, who found him meeting with Vasco in a seedy motel where he
would be chauffeured, flowers in hand twice a week, said the Washington Post
According to divorce papers, Scaife is beneficiary of nine different
trusts, including one called the “1935 Trust,” with an approximate
value of $210 million, and another called “The Revocable Trust,” valued
at $655 million. Altogether, his net value is around $1.4 billion,
making him one of the richest men in America.
Scaife’s lawyers say he has invested as much as $312 million into
the Tribune-Review over the years. It continues to lose about $20
million a year. Ritchie Scaife’s attorneys say the paper operates with
so little concern for profit and loss that it is more of a hobby for
her husband than a business.