Monday, May 13, 2024

Quote of the Day (Andrew Ferguson, on John McLaughlin, ‘A Legend’ Among Rotten DC Bosses)

“In a city famous for tyrannical bosses, from congressmen crazed with drink to bureau chiefs aflame with illicit desire, [John] McLaughlin had become a legend. You heard stories of volcanic rages, unimaginable flights of egomania. Least among his eccentricities was his requirement that all staffers refer to him as ‘Dr. McLaughlin,’ because he had once earned a Ph.D. in communications or some other of the lesser academic disciplines….

“The McLaughlin legend, I quickly discovered, had shortchanged the McLaughlin reality. When I opened the door to his production company’s suite, the first words I heard came roaring up in the famous Rhode Island drawl: ‘This is s–! Unadulterated s–!’ From the shadows of a darkened office, behind a desk as vast as the deck of an aircraft carrier, McLaughlin would bellow at his staff through an intercom. His voice ricocheted down hallways, and the epithets burst like ack-ack above the dim cubicles where his assistants cowered and trembled. The abuse was astonishing, unpredictable, and, in several instances, cruel. A single tirade could last for an hour.”—Conservative commentator Andrew Ferguson, “The Man Who Started It All,” The Weekly Standard, Dec. 24, 2007, reprinted in The Washington Examiner, Dec. 24, 2007

Since death took him eight years ago, fewer and fewer people will remember what all the commotion was about each week on The McLaughlin Group.

But nobody who heard the stentorian voice of the founder and host of that current affairs show, John McLaughlin, could ever forget it—least of all, judging from Andrew Ferguson’s profile, the staffers unlucky enough to work for him.

A high decibel level was only one aspect of his impact on employees, however. As writer and TV personality John Leonard noted in a June 2000 article for The Nation, McLaughlin “settl[ed] one sexual-harassment suit out of court, facing the prospect of at least two more–and nevertheless permitting himself to savage Anita Hill on his McLaughlin Group.”

In addition, on a scale of 1 to 10—a popular measure that the host used to rate and dismiss issues or legislation—McLaughlin, a former Jesuit who appeared to display precious little humility or piety in any part of his life, rated a “10” for his impact on the level or content of political discourse over the last 40 years. He has a fair claim to being the godfather of the cable shout-fests that have raised the nation’s emotional temperature during that time.

Did McLaughlin improve the environment around him by what he said or did—the choice that ultimately all of us face and are graded by? To quote the Beltway blowhard’s frequent response on other matters during his show’s long run: “WRONG!!!”

(The image of John McLaughlin accompanying this post was taken by Karl H. Schumacher on May 3, 1974, when the future pundit still worked at the White House as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon—whom he hailed, extremely prematurely and utterly preposterously, as “the greatest moral leader in the last third of this century.”

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