Dick Scaife funded a remarkable breadth of organizations. One was The American Spectator. There’s a perception that his support of The American Spectator caused him problems he regretted and for which he was bitter. I heard no such thing. He glowed when he talked about The American Spectator and Bob Tyrrell. He likewise had nothing but kind words for Dick Larry, the chief liaison in the Spectator relationship. When I handed him the latest copy of the Spectator a few months ago, he got a giant grin.
Dick appreciated being thanked by those he supported. He once told me about a certain Pittsburgh group he wrote a check to—a non-political one. (He gave huge sums to non-political things as well.) “You know what?” he asked me. “They never thanked me. So screw them!” He never wrote them another check.
I would ask from time to time what accomplishment he was most proud of. It was unquestionably his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Off the top of his head, he could rattle off the precise circulation numbers for the daily and weekend editions, particularly vis-à-vis his main competitor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He managed to significantly increase the circulation of the Tribune-Review at a time when print newspapers moved in the exact opposite direction.
During these get-togethers, I often found myself almost in the role of confessor, with Mr. Scaife volunteering a lot of private information. He was candid, and I wasn’t afraid of asking him about certain controversies. What did I have to lose? He was, after all, deep down inside, just another person, plagued with frailties, insecurities, and weaknesses like the rest of us.
Conservative friends and associates who learned of my relationship with Scaife (I didn’t tell many people) usually brought up two things: For one, they knew he was a big pro-choicer on the abortion issue, having supported Planned Parenthood in the past. They knew I was just the opposite. The subject did come up, and Dick told me flatly, “I’m in favor of abortion.”
The other elephant in the room was his faith. He was widely believed to be an atheist. “Talk to Dick Scaife about God, Paul,” friends urged me. “This man is a walking scandal. He has led an immoral life. He has some serious sins on his soul, and he doesn’t believe in God.”
One day, we did talk religion. It came up the way it needed to, naturally, with no pushing or preaching. I scribbled down what he said in the book I was holding. I jotted down every word.
It was February 21, 2013, a Thursday afternoon. We met around 3:00, our regular time. In fact, only now, at this moment, does it occur to me that that time happens to be the hour of divine mercy, as we say in the Catholic Church.
He told me with no hesitation whatsoever that he was not an atheist. I asked him point-blank. He said he didn’t go to church, hadn’t in years. Yet, he said that although he was not very religious, “I certainly believe in God and Jesus.” He added: “The older I get, the more religious I become. I’m definitely not an atheist.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.