Conrad Black’s Apologist at the Sun

Lipsky's overwritten ode to a friend and funder

Yesterday, the New York Sun’s president, editor-in-chief, and co-founder Seth Lipsky waxed nostalgic about his dinner buddy, ideological fellow-traveler, and Sun funder (and let’s not forget, newly minted convicted felon, having been found guilty of obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud), Conrad Black.

You can almost feel the dampness on the page from Lipsky’s tears as he recounts what a great guy Black is, and while he admits that Black has indeed been found guilty, Lipsky tries to undercut the verdict by saying that he was convicted, “partly on testimony that an admitted swindler gave in exchange for a lighter sentence…From what I know of the circumstances, I would have voted to acquit.”

Of course he would have. Who wouldn’t want to rescue their pal and sugar daddy? A little further on, we hear about the wonderful dinner parties Black invited Lipsky to, along with an embarrassingly overwritten homage to Black’s house, which “is neither garish nor outlandish in scale. Its main features, apart from its handsome Georgian style, are the model warships, each of whose history he can recite, and the library, whose thousands of volumes are lovingly shelved.

The library contains a vast writing table, where Conrad wrote his biography of FDR and was working on his new biography of Nixon. It gives onto a little courtyard, where Conrad constructed a private, Catholic chapel. It is both spare and elegant.”

Lipsky was also careful to catalog all of the charges of which Black was found not guilty—which is kind of like writing about all of the car accidents that didn’t happen over a long holiday weekend.

Wrapping it up, Lipsky continues to lay it on embarrassingly thick (I guess if you own a newspaper, you get to edit yourself), writing that if Black fails to win on appeal, “those of us who love the newspaper life and who are invested in the struggle for America and the West, we will have lost a champion.”

This isn’t the first time the Sun has gone to bat for its friend and money man. Back on June 4, a little more than a month before the Black jury handed down its verdict, Mark Steyn took the route trod by so many conservatives when they want to sidestep reality—he accused the media, without any evidence to support his claim, of hating Black: “Many British and Canadian reporters would like to convict [Black] for his peerage, his glamorous wife and his vocabulary,” he wrote. You’ve got us dead to rights there, Mark. If there’s one thing reporters hate, it’s a guy who speaks well. Convict!

To be sure, since Lipsky runs the paper, he can do pretty much anything he wants, as long as he doesn’t step on the toes of his funders—which his piece most assuredly doesn’t do. But it does seem unseemly for the editor of a paper, no matter how lightly read—selling 13,211 daily copies, and giving away more than 85,000—to grant himself editorial space to go on about how awesome his deep-pocketed buddy is.

Finally, after holding out hope that Black might contribute some columns to the paper while he’s locked up, Lipsky offers this sugar-coated threat to his newsroom: “And to those of you who might handle his copy here at the Sun, I say this: Please treat any of his dispatches as coming from a man who made your newspaper possible and, when you edit his prose and put it into print, remember that the honor is ours.”

We hope that whoever handles Black’s copy is given more leeway with the red pen than the poor sap who had to edit (nominally anyway) Lipsky’s absurd ode to his friend and funder.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.