As readers of Christopher Hitchens’ point by point refutation of virtually every "factual" comment made by Sidney Blumenthal about Christopher in his new book The Clinton Wars know, Sid is such a compulsive and mean-spirited prevaricator that he gives ordinary liars a bad name. Sid is also litigious and therefore I will take this opportunity to invite him to sue me for any libel he detects in the article that follows. I have no concerns about Sid filing such a suit because in matters of libel, truth is a bulletproof defense.
I am going to focus on my personal experience with Sid, who has written about me twice in his life. In both instances -- and they are related -- there are more factual misrepresentations than there are sentences in his text. Moreover, the misrepresentations are all – with almost no exceptions -- wittingly made, and therefore lies, and also malicious. I haven’t sued Sid (and won’t) because as everyone knows (and as Sid would have learned had he not ended his own vindictive tort against Matt Drudge) one has to prove damages -- loss of income or a job -- and actual malice in order to win. Another consideration is the fact that libel laws exert a chilling effect on the democratic exchange of ideas and should therefore be used sparingly.
I have myself once or twice used the threat of a suit to deter particularly scurrilous charges and to avoid the kind of damage that libel suits were made for. Alex Cockburn, for example, spent a lot of time at cocktail parties in the 1980s spreading the rumor that I was a CIA agent. In fact, I have never had contact with a CIA official or operative to my knowledge, or worked for any government agency or -- with three exceptions – any outside employer for that matter. The exceptions are a one year stint as a teaching assistant at the University of California and as a lecturer in a University of Marlyand College program in the 1960s, and four years with Ramparts Magazine in the 1970s, the leading organ of the left in its time. For the last six months, I have worked on a contract basis for the FoxNews Channel. This exhausts my employment record for the last 45 years. During the rest of the time, I have been a "self-employed" author.
Sidney Blumenthal’s first outburst of unprovoked literary malice was directed at me in a profile he wrote for The Washington Post in 1987. The article was called "Thunder on the New Right," and purported to be a report of the "coming out" conference Peter Collier and I organized in 1987 for new left radicals who had grown tired of supporting totalitarian causes, as Sidney evidently had not. Oh, I am aware that Sidney thinks of himself as "third way" liberal and a small "d" democrat. But at our "Second Thoughts" conference we did not propose conservative or "right wing" agendas and did not regard ourselves as conservatives or right-wingers. This was a label that Sid pinned on us. In fact we had featured several self-professed liberals make this point. One of them -- David Ifshin had been the general counsel of the Mondale campaign and was a well-known Democrat. In our interview with Sidney (and with other reporters) we made a big point of the fact that our only political litmus for the event was that the "second thoughters" (as we called ourselves) be anti-Communist and anti-Sandinista (Nicaragua was the current battleground country in the still active Cold War.) Sidney’s attack, therefore, was a matter of the enemy of my friend being my enemy. Why else would he have attacked us so viciously?
In addition to the big lie he told about our conference as a gathering of the rightwing conspiracy – a term he later coined for Hillary Clinton – Sidney added three other specific lies about myself: "When Horowitz abandoned radicalism, he also left his wife and three children, escaping into conservatism and Beverly Hills. ‘When I was a Marxist, I was puritanical,’ he said, ‘Then I got loose.’"
In fact, I had four children not three; I abandoned radicalism in 1975, while my marriage dissolved in 1978; I never left my children; never lived in Beverly Hills and never made the statement Blumenthal attributed to me. When I lodged a complaint with the ombudsman of the Washington Post he removed Sidney’s slander from the national edition of the paper. But when Sidney reprinted the same piece in his book Pledging Allegiance, he included it with all of the slanderous and false statements intact.
I felt the sting of Sidney’s personal slanders for a long time afterwards, since I did not have the access to powerful media like the Washington Post in which to respond. These days, Sidney rarely appears on television without bemoaning "the politics of personal destruction," which he attributes entirely to the demonic political right, and whose victims he insists are entirely on the political left. This is the same White House operative who invented the term "vast rightwing conspiracy," habitually refers to Richard Mellon Scaife as its "Daddy Warbucks," and who led the charge in defaming Clinton’s female accusers. In its Blumenthal incarnation, Hypocrisy also gets a really bad name.
The Second Thoughts conference that Peter Collier and I organized was a huge success, although it was trashed in the leftwing media by half a dozen ljournalists, including Alex Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, Eric Alterman, Jim Sleeper and Todd Gitlin. Twenty years later Peter and I learned from Hitchens that Blumenthal had called these "reporters" prior to the event, and summoned them to attend in order savage our proceedings as a political act.
In The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal returns to my case, because I introduced Matt Drudge to the lawyer who defended Drudge against Blumenthal’s suit. I am described as funding the lawyer as well. In Blumenthal’s text, the Matt Drudge affair was a sinister manifestation of the vast right wing conspiracy’s efforts to overthrow his President. The puppet-master of these efforts is the philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife. Two related players are Barbara and Michael Ledeen. I willingly stipulate that I am fond of Dick Scaife, an eminently decent American, and that Barbara and Michael Ledeen are old friends. Here is the entire Blumenthal account of our conspiracy, along with my inter-linear comments:
In July, the Ledeens’ testimony yielded the information that they had arranged through a friend, David Horowitz, for Drudge’s defense to be paid for and handled.
It is true that Barbara Ledeen called me and said, "You have to help Matt Drudge," whom I had never met. As Barbara and many other people knew, I had created an "Individual Rights Foundation" which mainly fought speech codes on college campuses, but also defended a liberal feminist under attack from the politically correct left and filed an amicus brief for a leftwing racist, Leonard Jeffries, because he was fired for making a public speech (a violation of his First Amendment rights).
I had no other conversations with Barbara or any other member of Sidney’s conspiracies about the legal defense of Matt Drudge. Following Barbara’s phone call, I had a lunch with Matt Drudge and persuaded him he needed a lawyer. I then set up a meeting with Drudge and my lawyer for the IRF, whom he took on as his counsel. I then created a "defense fund" which raised money through direct mail and Internet appeals to pay the lawyers’ fee. The Ledeens had no hand in these matters whatsoever.
The next sentence of Blumenthal’s text describes my interest in the case as an instance of Blumenthal-phobia, which his Rosetta stone for explaining any and all opposition he happens to encounter to his political agendas:
Horowitz shared [the Ledeens’] animosity, in his case because of an article I had reported for the Post about a political project of his that became a public embarrassment.
Note please the invention of this "public embarrassment." I have already described the Second Thoughts conference and the fact that outside the leftwing press (and the press infiltrated by leftwing hatchets) the event was an unmitigated success. The only "public embarrassment" I had from it was from the particular lies for which Sidney was responsible, in particular the claims – reported as facts – that I had abandoned my family along with my principles and fled to the fleshpots of Beverly Hills.
Having concocted this segue, Blumenthal turns in the very next sentence to Scaife orchestrated right-wing conspiracy and my alleged ties to it:
Horowitz now headed a conservative group funded by Scaife, and he would serve as a conduit for Scaife’s underwriting of Drudge’s defense and provision of a lawyer employed by a Scaife-funded front group. [End of Sidney’s discussion of me.]
Sidney Blumenthal has been characterized as a vulgar Marxist before, for constructing descriptive daisy chains like this. There is little more to this one than a smattering of guilt by association seasoned by a large dollop of ignorance. The lawyer employed the Scaife "front" group would be Drudge’s attorney Manny Klausner and the front group would be my Individual Rights Foundation. The term "front group" suggests that Dick Scaife was the controlling and decision-making power behind the scenes. The fact is that I have had four conversations with Dick Scaife in the 17 years I have received money from his foundation. This money represents about 10% of the total monies that have gone to fund my efforts. Though I would certainly miss them, if Dick should decide to terminate his support, their absence would hardly cripple my operation. I am supported by more than 30,000 individuals and 15 foundations and am confident that if any among them should abandon me, there will be others to fill their place.
But I operate through several entities and programs. The most important of these is the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. I am not even certain that Dick Scaife is familiar with the activities of the Individual Rights Foundation, which was actually funded by his son, David, a liberal, who has not been on speaking terms with him for years. Manny Klausner is on retainer as the general counsel of the Individual Rights Foundation which handled the Matt Drudge Defense. But most of the funds that went to Manny Klausner and were earmarked for his legal efforts in behalf of Drudge were raised by the "Matt Drudge Defense Fund," and were contributed by tens of thousands of individuals and no foundations at all, including Dick Scaife’s. Moreover, 90% of the underwriting for the Drudge legal effort was provided by Klausner himself who in effect worked pro bono on this case. The money we raised barely covered the court costs, expenses for depositions, court costs and travel to Washington DC.
Blumenthal makes a big deal in his book (and in all his self-dramatizations) of the fact that Matt Drudge didn’t call him to fact check the original story that precipitated his libel suit. Here is a passage from the letter Sid’s lawyer wrote to Drudge when the story appeared, which is reprinted in The Clinton Wars:
Your action in disseminating these outrageous falsehoods across the country was despicable. You acted with actual malice in that you knew that these allegations were false, but published them anyway. You took no steps to verify your allegations… Indeed, in your cowardice, you never even bothered to check with Mr. and Mrs. Blumenthal before scattering your lies…
Which is a perfect description of Sidney Blumenthal’s journalistic and political m.o.