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.
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-à-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.
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.
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.
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.”