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The American Spectator

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Subject: Conservatism in the United States, Daniel J. Flynn, Patricia Buckley Bozell, John Fund, Emmett Tyrrell
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The American Spectator

The American Spectator
Editor R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
Categories Politics
Frequency Monthly
Founder Truman Newberry
First issue  1924 (1924-month)
Company American Spectator Foundation
Country United States
Based in Arlington, Virginia
Language English
Website .org.spectatorwww
ISSN 0148-8414

The American Spectator, is a Malcolm Gladwell, Patrick J. Buchanan, and Malcolm Muggeridge, although today the magazine is best known for its reports in the 1990s on Bill Clinton and its "Arkansas Project", funded by businessman Richard Mellon Scaife and the Bradley Foundation.[1]

Founding and history

The American Spectator was founded in 1924 by Truman Newberry. In 1967, the Saturday Evening Club took it over and re-christened it The Alternative: An American Spectator.

After operating under the name The Alternative: An American Spectator for several years, in 1977 the magazine changed its name to The American Spectator because, in editor Tyrrell's words, "the word 'alternative' had come to be associated almost exclusively with radicals and with their way of life." In fact, Tyrrell had started the magazine as a conservative alternative to the student radicalism at the nation's universities in the 1960s. The Spectator is also a British magazine of somewhat similar format and anti-establishment conservatism.

During the Reagan Administration, the magazine moved from Bloomington, Indiana to suburban Washington, D.C.

The 1990s

The publication gained prominence in the 1990s by reporting on political scandals. The March 1992 issue contained David Brock's expose on Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill. Brock and his colleague Daniel Wattenberg soon moved on to a target of somewhat longer-lasting relevance: Hillary and Bill Clinton. A January 1994 article about then-President Bill Clinton's sex life contained the first reference in print to Clinton accuser Paula Jones, although the article focused on allegations that Clinton used Arkansas state troopers to facilitate his extramarital sexual activities (see Troopergate). It only referred to Jones by her first name and corroborated few if any elements of her story. This article was the basis for the claim of damages a sexual harassment lawsuit which started the chain of events resulting in President Clinton's impeachment.

David Brock recanted his accusations upon his departure from the conservative movement. He also denounced his Anita Hill article in his 2003 book Blinded by the Right: the Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. He implies that Rush Limbaugh's coverage of his Anita Hill article instigated advertising on Limbaugh's network, which resulted in a large increase in the magazine's circulation. He also implies that this caused the magazine's content to move 'away from thoughtful essays and scholarly reviews and humor pieces' to 'hit jobs'.[2]

For his part, Wattenberg eventually incurred the displeasure of many fellow conservatives when he belatedly admitted that he had killed a story about rumors of Clinton fathering a child out of wedlock (with a young African American woman). Wattenberg actually tracked down a videotape of the woman being interviewed (by an unnamed third party who asked her what Wattenberg described as "softball" questions), but he never was able to interview her himself. Wattenberg's rationales for killing the story were that he had no proof that the story was true and that the woman's testimony was unconvincing. He said that she "seemed like a junkie." (The story was revived in 1999 by Matt Drudge.)

Internal strife eventually led to the departure of long-time publisher Ronald Burr after a disagreement with Tyrrell led Burr to call for an independent audit of the magazine's finances. The departure of Burr and several prominent conservative figures from the magazine's board of directors resulted in conservative foundations pulling much of the funding the nonprofit had relied on to pay high salaries to Brock and Tyrrell, as well as to fund direct-mail campaigns needed to keep up the monthly's circulation. Faced with a budget crisis, the magazine, then led by publisher Terry Eastland, a former spokesman in the Reagan Justice Department, laid off staffers and cut spending significantly. The magazine also struggled to pay legal bills incurred from an investigation launched against it by Clinton's Justice Department for alleged witness tampering in the Whitewater investigation. The Justice Department investigation led to revelations about the "Arkansas Project," a campaign by businessman Richard Mellon Scaife to discredit the Clintons by funding investigative reporting at several conservative media outlets. The Justice Department investigation led nowhere and the Spectator was exonerated.


As shortfalls continued, Internet stock bubble, sold the magazine for $1 back to Tyrrell and the American Alternative Foundation, the magazine's original owner (the name was later changed to the American Spectator Foundation). The magazine then moved operations back to the Washington, D.C. area. Later that year, former book publisher Alfred S. Regnery became the magazine's publisher. By 2004, circulation hovered at around 50,000.


In 2013, the magazine reverted to a tabloid format, reflecting the roots of the magazine, which was originally published at a large size. (For most of the 1990s and all of the 2010s the Spectator had published in a traditional magazine format.)

In 2011, Assistant Editor Patrick Howley published a piece detailing his infiltration of a Washington, D.C. protest. In the article, Howley asserts his aim to "mock and undermine" the protest against American Imperialism, and writes in the first person about his experiences protesting at the National Air and Space Museum.[3] This article, and the methods detailed within, was condemned by other publications due to perceived conflation of journalism and politics.[4][5][6] Matt Steinglass wrote that Howley "winds up offering a vision of politics as a kind of self-focused performance art, or perhaps (to say the same thing) a version of Jackass.[7]

Core editorial staff


  1. ^ Neil A. Lewis.Almost $2 Million Spent in Magazine's Anti-Clinton Project, but on What?, The New York Times, April 15, 1998
  2. ^ Brock, David (2003). Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. Random House, Inc.   An entire chapter (Chapter 5) is devoted to describing Brock's experience writing "The Real Anita Hill" article and book in the early 1990s. The 'hit jobs' quote is from pg 110.
  3. ^ The American Spectator : The Spectacle Blog : Standoff in D.C
  4. ^ Washington protest: American Spectator condemned over article | World news |
  5. ^ ‘Journalist’ Poses As Protester, Gets Pepper-Sprayed for a Story - Daily Intel
  6. ^ This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things... - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
  7. ^

Further reading

  • David Brock, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, Crown, 2002. ISBN 0-8129-3099-1
  • R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. (ed.), Orthodoxy: The American Spectator's 20th Anniversary Anthology, Harper & Row, 1987. ISBN 0-06-015818-2

External links

  • Official website
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