Last week, I wrote up how The New York Times wrote a demonizing obituary about Harold Simmons, a major MRC donor. NPR’s Peter Overby slimed him after he died as some sort of pioneer of negative advertising. His obituary highlighted how he “backed Swift Boat ads.” I discovered another obvious contrast in obituaries when I came across this piece on Peter Lewis in The Washington Post from November 26:
“Peter Lewis, the longtime head of Progressive Corp., died Saturday at age 80,” wrote Sean Sullivan. “In the business world, Lewis will be remembered for growing a modest automobile insurance company into one of the nation's biggest operations. In the political realm, he'll be remembered for being one of the biggest liberal mega-donors in history.”
I've not read the official obituaries because they are predictable. "Billionaire." "Reclusive." "GOP donor." "Swift Boat Vets." "Industrialist." "Controversial." "Dallas, Texas." And there you have it: the death of a sinister figure driven by greed, the puppeteer manipulating the political process, a 21st century J.R. Ewing. (Or is it Mr. Burns?) If this is what you've read, it’s written by someone who didn't know Harold Clark Simmons.
I never knew a man quite like Harold Simmons.
Harold Simmons, the Texas billionaire who has served as chairman of the board of the Media Research Center, died Saturday. If you've enjoyed any of MRC's work over the years, one major force keeping the televisions on was Mr. Simmons. So we were especially disgusted (if not shocked) when the New York Times obituary carried the headline "Harold Simmons Dies at 82; Backed Swift Boat Ads."
That’s not a positive for the Times: MRC’s Clay Waters documented in their news pages in 2004, they used the word “unsubstantiated” next to “Swift boat ads” on no less than 20 occasions (but never for the phony National Guard charges against President Bush.) Times obituary writer Emma Fitzsimmons used the word "discredited" after she began with the "attack ad" politics: