Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fran Coombs and the Washington Times

I hadn't been following the tumult at the Washington Times until I saw a familiar name in the news coverage. Seems that the managing editor, Fran Coombs, has quit, having been passed over for the job of editor.

I've seen Fran all of once in the past 23 years, but he and I were comrades-in-arms in Washington in the early 1980s. We both slaved away for a couple of obscure news services, States News Service and Network News Inc.

I must admit that I was blissfully ignorant of a torrent of rather grotesque publicity that surrounded Fran a year ago. An Oct. 2006 cover story in The Nation alleged that Coombs was a racist and anti-Semite, which Coombs denied.

The allegations of racism surprised me. I worked alongside Fran for three years, and I can attest that he was neither racist nor anti-Semitic.

I'm sure I'd have noticed, because Fran and I worked within three feet of each other for a few months at States, where we both covered Washington for the same midwestern newspapers. Later we were senior editors of something else called Network News Inc., which was a short-lived news service and syndicate.

I guess he may have turned into a raving loon since then, but that was not the Fran Coombs I knew. I also don't recognize the right-wing Neanderthal that has been portrayed in the media. Fran was a fan of Ronald Reagan, which I was not, but that was about it.

Just thought I'd get that on the record, albeit belatedly.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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