WASHINGTON -- On the day after his 82nd birthday, on Independence Day to be precise, a giant passed away, Richard Scaife. The man had style. He departed decorously as the nation was happily celebrating its 238th birthday. His sense of style has not been often mentioned in the obituaries, nor have his wit and engaging warmth.
His philanthropy has been mentioned, though it is often his political philanthropy, not his cultural philanthropy. Dick came from a long line of philanthropists, dating back to his grand uncle, President Calvin Coolidge's secretary of the treasury Andrew Mellon. Dick generously supported medical research, various educational institutions, the National Gallery, a slew of Pittsburgh-based museums, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Toward the end of his life, he donated to the Clinton Foundation and had a friendly meeting with Bill Clinton. He admired the president's charitable work with the Clinton Foundation, and I have always believed he wanted to encourage Bill's good side.
I think Dick would have wanted his cultural, educational and medical philanthropy to be stressed in any obituary before his political and public policy philanthropy. I have known him for over 40 years, and in all that time I have never heard a rude word uttered by him on politics or otherwise. He was a gentleman. In 1998, owing to a series of articles that The American Spectator and his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published, he was hailed before a grand jury in Fort Smith, Arkansas, another point ignored by the obituarists. The Wall Street Journal described his ordeal as exercising his First Amendment rights. "Committing journalism is not a crime," it added. At any rate, the assembled Arkansans all marveled at Dick's good nature and charm. He was the patrician gentleman.
The articles he was called down to Arkansas over were crudely referred to as "The Arkansas Project," a joke in our office, but a joke taken seriously by the mainstream media. It suggested dark deeds. The Justice Department and other arms of the federal government almost put The American Spectator out of business in their ensuing investigations, but they never found us guilty of anything. Moreover, the government's special counsel reviewed "The Arkansas Project," and the harassment of us, and concluded that the accusations were "unsubstantiated or, in some cases, untrue." That is exoneration that the Clintons have rarely enjoyed.