Paul Weyrich believes the conservative movement is charged with keeping the values of our Founding Fathers alive and well in modern-day America.
I'm very, very grateful," conservative movement stalwart Paul Weyrich tells Insight. "Most people are lucky if, in the whole of their lifetime, they are able to work at one or two things that they truly enjoy. I have been able to indulge in practically everything that I ever have been interested in."
An early interest in broadcasting, for example, led to careers in radio and television. As a young man Weyrich got to feed his fascination for politics by working in the U.S. Senate for two important senators, then as the founder and director of such influential institutions as the Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation. Smitten from an early age with a love of railroads (and especially streetcars), Weyrich has published on rail transportation and now serves as vice chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council.
Says Weyrich, "I'm the son of a guy who shoveled coal for a living. There's no reason in the world that I should have been able to do any of what I've been able to do except by the grace of God and for the fact that I was born in America."
However, recently Weyrich was denounced as an anti-Semite by Evan Gahr, then a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. Gahr since has lost his job. The name-calling initially appeared in the American Spectator and later in a Washington Post article by Thomas Edsall. Gahr based his accusation on a single sentence in an Easter commentary Weyrich wrote and posted on his Website at www.freecongress.com -- "Christ was crucified by the Jews."
None who knew Weyrich even casually thought there was anything other than polemical excess behind the statement. He immediately was defended by conservative activist David Horowitz, who called the charge "a preposterous lie." In a letter to Weyrich, Hudson Institute head Herbert London assured him that he was held in great esteem at the institute. But, once made, such smears tend to take on a life of their own.
Insight: What was your reaction when you heard that Evan Gahr had charged you with anti-Semitism?
Paul Weyrich: First, I'm a deacon in the Greek Catholic Church, and I wrote a commentary based on the Gospels. This person does not know me, but he was able on the basis of a single line to charge in a commentary that I am a "demented anti-Semite" and to get it into a major national newspaper. That says something very sad about the values of our society.
It seems to me that the people who ought to make any judgment of that kind are the people who know me. For instance, I've employed many Jews through the years, and I think they will tell you that the accusation is not true. I have dealt with legions of rabbis and others of the Jewish faith on many social issues. I think they will be my best witnesses. I have been a staunch supporter of Israel over many, many years and in all kinds of different ways, so how anyone can say that I'm a "demented anti-Semite" is beyond my comprehension.
Nor do I understand why the American Spectator would allow that to be posted on its Website. What would cause somebody to do something like this? The only thing I could think of was that he wanted attention of some kind.
It all reminds me of what Ray Donovan [the former Labor secretary under Ronald Reagan who was indicted and tried on trumped up charges and ultimately found innocent] said on the way out of the courthouse: "Where do I go to get back my reputation." To what office can I go to have my good name returned to me?
That accusation made it into the Washington Post, page A10, and it will be in the electronic files from now until kingdom come -- I will have to deal with it for the rest of my life. [Gahr] has done me great damage, and I would hope that he would get hold of himself …