“So the right-wing journalist John Fund may not be a model citizen, but contrary to the implications of many left journalists and gossip columnists, he’s likely not the kind of guy who pretends to want to marry women and then beats them up.”
Oh really? Is that so? That’s how Eric Alterman begins a somewhat astonishing article entitled “Who Framed John Fund?” published in the June 2, 2003 of The Nation.
I say “somewhat” because Eric, despite a demeanor many have described as “contentious” (ie. he doesn’t suffer fools lightly) wishes to be regarded as a gentlemen. And as a result of that he’s quite willing to extend that courtesy to others — even if they scarcely deserve it.
Sure, Sidney Blumenthal fingers Fund as the original source for the malicious rumor, published by Matt Drudge, alleging that Blumenthal had a history of spousal abuse. (Fund denies this.) And his record vis-a-vis the late Vince Foster and the entire nefarious “Arkansas Project” while working as a Wall Street Journal editorial writer brings him no honor, either as a journalist or a citizen. I’m sure a careful study of his work would fill a “how not to” book for journalism schools across the land.”
And what precisely is Fund’s denial worth on the scandal market? A gentleman accepts another gentleman’s denial at face value. But as Eric well knows that won’t get you very far in the Beltway where there are no gentlemen.
And no “ladies” either.
Just Sally Quinn.
“Naturally, it was fun to imagine, after he got himself arrested last year, that Fund was really a monster who had walked out on a planned marriage with his girlfriend and then beat her up–the dastardly deeds of which he was publicly accused in 2001. Even better, to his ill-wishers, was the rumor that Fund had long ago had an affair with the woman’s mother, and knocked up both of them.
Well, it’s a fact of life in our scandal-besotted culture that it does not take much in the way of evidence to publish charges that can ruin a man’s life. The charges against Fund appeared most prominently (and repeatedly) in Lloyd Grove’s gossip column in the Washington Post and Richard Johnson’s Page Six in the New York Post. They were trumpeted across the Internet on various leftist sites like American Politics Journal; by the controversialist John Connolly, who posted them on weaselsearch.com; and by Village Voice media reporter Cynthia Cotts, who reported on them twice and even escorted Fund’s accuser to David Brock’s Manhattan book party for Blinded by the Right, where Cotts introduced me to the woman in question, Morgan Francis Pillsbury.
Oh goodie — Dish! Well not really. The Brock and Cotts Will & Grace act isn’t much. But the introduction Cotts gave Eric to Pillsbury is more to the point of this blog entry. It’s all so “civilized” you see. And there lies the trap for the otherwise astute Alterman.
“Personally, I always thought the story was too good to be true. I discussed the accusations briefly, in this column and in my book What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News. In both places, I spoke of them as cautionary tales for conservative scandalmongers but added that I believed Fund’s denials, absent any compelling evidence to the contrary. I knew Fund a bit from our time together at MSNBC, and as I said in both places, he always struck me as a perfect gentleman (for such a political scoundrel). And Pillsbury and her mother, as I also wrote at the time, both struck me as “a little bit nutty,” to borrow Brock’s nefarious phrase. But I admit I enjoyed it. Right-wing smear artists had abused the constitutional impeachment process and all but destroyed Bill Clinton’s presidency for a lot less. Their scandal machine had now backfired on one of its own. I didn’t want to play myself, but I didn’t mind that others were eager and willing.
So now we’re getting down to cases. And in this regard it’s most informative to read what Eric actually said in his book (pages 231-232) regarding Fund.
One of the prime movers of the [Wall Street] Journal’s anti-Clinton obsession was John Fund, who spent a great deal of time meeting with members of the Arkansas Project and some of the more notorious figures in the Paula Jones lawsuit and “Get-Clinton” conspiracy. Fund acted as kind of a father figure to many of them, helping to guide their strategy in secret while simultaneously writing editorials in the Journal accusing Clinton of all manner of unproven malfeasance. It was a complicated balancing act; it could not last. In a tale that appears almost toow weird to write down, it seems that a woman named Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, with whom Fund had an affair more than twenty years ago, sent her young daughter, Morgan, to look up Fund when she went to New York. One thing led to another, and the result appears to have been a live-in relationship and an abortion.
Anyway, Fund’s relationship with the daughter of his ex-girlfriend did not exactly work out, inspiring mother and daughter to take revenge by uploading onto the Web a taped telephone call in which John attempts to reconcile his support for Morgan’s abortion with “family values” politics. Mrs. Foster then informed the media that John and Morgan had decided to wed after all. This turned out to be false, but the next thing you know, Fund was gone from the Journal’s editorial page, arrested in Manhattan for battering Melinda, and under a restrianing order. (irony of ironies, the Rush Limbaugh ghostwriter is also cited in David Brock’s book, among other places, as a likely source for Matt Drudge’s false and malicious claim that Sidney Blumenthal was a wife-beater.) Fund denies the charge and may very well be innocent. (I have always found him to be very much a gentleman in his personal dealings.)
Do we see a pattern here? Back to Eric’s column.
“The details were pretty distasteful. Among Fund’s crimes trumpeted by Cotts in the Voice, for instance, was poor housekeeping. His apartment, she reports, was full of “dirty dishes, unopened mail, and bottles of alcohol from hotel minibars”; the floor was “covered with piles of black socks and dirty underwear.”
More distasteful than a “family values” Conservative pushing abortion on a mistress who was the daughter of a former mistress? I don’t think the dirty dishes and the unsightly minibar got Fund kicked off the WSJ editorial pages.
“Pillsbury felt so betrayed by my calling her story into question earlier this year that she circulated an Internet attack against me for lacking the guts to call Fund to account. I wondered what the hell Fund had done to get involved with someone like this–and if he was completely innocent, why did he lose his high-profile gig at the Wall Street Journal editorial page and end up writing for its benighted little brother, opinionjournal.com?”
Well if “Love is blind,” where does that leave Lust?
Deaf and Dumb, apparently.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a set of documents from a close friend of Fund’s–now posted on the Internet–that demonstrate to almost any fair-minded person that Fund is probably the victim of a deeply disturbed person.”
Gasp! Clutch the pearls!
“In a signed affidavit, the woman in question–whose true age is 36, seven years older than was reported, and who was born Carolyn Anne Barteaux but carries a passport (a copy of which was provided to me by Fund) under the name Carolyn Anne Pillsbury and now goes by Morgan Francis Pillsbury–withdraws any accusations of physical abuse, accusations that resulted in Fund’s arrest. She also denies in the affidavit that they had ever planned to marry.”
It’s Juanita Brodderick — in reverse!
“In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, she acknowledges that she has “trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy” and in a sworn deposition, she says she has a “borderline personality disorder. One of the symptoms of this condition is an inability to discriminate truth from fiction.” In that same deposition, in response to the question, “What lies had you told in the past?” she answers, “Too many to name.”
So is she denying she had an affair with Fund at all ? And what about Mom?
“When I contacted Pillsbury by e-mail to ask her about these documents, she insisted that the two had planned to marry. She professed not to know that the assault charges against Fund had been dropped, claiming the DA has not been clear with her and that the case was “grossly mishandled.” Regarding the signed affidavit, she now insists, “John battered me over and over, inflicting bruises and contusions. He then forced me to write and sign a paper denying this while he stood over me, fist at the ready.” In her civil complaint against Fund, she charges him with “opprobrious, egregious, wanton, willful and oppressive” battery. (Fund has filed a counterclaim, and the two remain in litigation.)”
So what “really” happened? Where’s Nancy Grace? One should always go to Nancy Grace for the answer to such vexing questions. She invariably seems to know what really went on — and who should get the death penalty. But as no corpse as yet surfaced she might not be interested. Pity.
“I must admit, I did not find Pillsbury’s story compelling when I first read the reports.”
And I am immediately reminded of Matt Drudge’s immortal “He seemed sincere.”
“Now, given her signed or sworn statements, I find it even less so, particularly after discussing the details with Fund, who admits to many gross misjudgments and mistakes with regard to his relationship with Pillsbury but continues to deny any abuse whatever. (I did not receive a response from Pillsbury’s attorney.)”
OK, maybe he didn’t hit her. What about the abortion and what about Mom?
“It’s true, John Fund did live by the sword. But liberals and leftists must ask ourselves whether we really want to live by David Talbot’s famous claim, made in the context of revealing a decades-old adulterous affair of Henry Hyde’s, that “ugly times call for ugly tactics.”
Ah but which “ugly tactics” and directed towards whom? When I dared to criticize The Creature From the Blog Lagoon for barebacking, Salon lit out after me, not him. And even more egregiously its Joan Walsh went so far as to defend the murderers in the San Francisco dog-mauling attack.
Could it be because the victim was a lesbian? Just asking, Joan.
“When I asked Cotts by e-mail whether she had regrets about any of her coverage of the case, her only on-the-record reply was, “Eric, I have no comment for your article.” Before I had even decided to write on this subject for certain, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel received an e-mail from someone claiming to be familiar with the case arguing that Fund was guilty of the physical abuse and suggesting, therefore, that the magazine should discourage me from writing this column. A few of my liberal media friends–no quotation marks necessary in this case–concurred.”
And your problem with this is?
“Let the gossip columnists answer for themselves. But if we on the left do not stand up for inconvenient truths, really, what good are we?”
What “inconvenient truths”?
” I don’t mind the idea of a liberal Rush Limbaugh dishing it out on talk radio or cable TV the way we are always expected to take it. And I do admit to loving Media Whores Online, even though it leaps over the bounds of good taste with alarming frequency.
Well I for one have never found this to be the case. But that’s just me — right Eric?
“But the smearing of Fund raises questions that define us morally and politically.”
What “smearing”? Legally he would appear to be off the hook regarding the “he said/she” said nature of the battery charges. But the truth has yet to be established — even given the psychological instability of the woman (or women) in question.
” It did not take a lot of investigation on my part to conclude that Pillsbury was not the kind of source one could legitimately use to hang a man in public.”
“Why were so many so eager to use her that way? No principle was at stake. It was all about payback.”
“I would amend Talbot’s claim to read, “Ugly tactics make for ugly people.” As with fighting the Stalinists in the cold war, or terrorists in our own day, if our enemies succeed in making us more like them, they can claim a kind of victory.”
And in letting them roll over us like that unfortunate “human shield” did with an Israeli tank, what are we accomplishing?
” To my genuine regret, John Fund comes out the winner in this tawdry story, alas, in more ways than one.”
Name ONE way in which John Fund “comes out the winner,” Eric? He had affairs with two unstable women and paid for the abortion of one of them. In terms traditionally associated with the word “gentleman” he was — at the very least — “a cad.”
Make no mistake, when this story first surfaced my taste for schadenfreude went into overdrive to the degree that it even crossed my mind that the daughter might well have been the issue of Fund’s affair with the mother. That doesn’t appear to have been the case. But that Fund behaved shabbily with two women — however mentally discombobulated — is a matter of public record. And therefore as manifestly “fair game” as William Bennett’s slot machine fixation.
That he behaved in a “gentlemanly” fashion in your presence, Eric, proves only one thing.
John Fund has no interest in fucking you.
Consider yourself a very fortunate gentleman indeed.
The circle game
Excerpt: Jeanne D’arc mentions this piece by Atrios who links back to the post by Jeanne D’arc which picks up from…
Weblog: The Road to Surfdom
Tracked: May 20, 2003 07:30 AM