The American Spectator

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The American Spectator
EditorR. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
FounderGeorge Nathan and Truman Newberry
First issue1967; 57 years ago (1967)
CompanyAmerican Spectator Foundation
CountryUnited States
Based inAlexandria, Virginia, U.S.

The American Spectator is a conservative American magazine covering news and politics, edited by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and published by the non-profit American Spectator Foundation. It was founded in 1967 by Tyrrell, who remains its editor-in-chief, with Wladyslaw Pleszczynski its editorial director since 1980.

From 1967 until the late 1980s, the magazine featured the writings of authors such as Thomas Sowell,[1] Tom Wolfe, P. J. O'Rourke,[2] George F. Will, Malcolm Gladwell, Patrick J. Buchanan, Tom Bethell, Terry Eastland, Andrew Ferguson, Christopher Caldwell, Fred Barnes, Roger Scruton, Walter Williams, Raymond Aron, Luigi Barzini, Paul Johnson, Irving Kristol, Jean-Francois Revel, and Malcolm Muggeridge. Bill Kristol and Bill McGurn began their careers at The American Spectator, as did Greg Gutfeld and John Podhoretz, who started at the magazine as interns. Some of the earliest published articles by Dinesh D'Souza, Laura Ingraham, and David Frum appeared at The American Spectator. Among the magazine's longest-serving columnists are Thomas Sowell, economist and celebrity Ben Stein,[3] Roger Kaplan, and John Coyne. Current frequently contributing writers include conservative health care consultant David Catron,[4] Dov Fischer, Daniel Flynn, Ross Kaminsky, Paul Kengor, Robert Stacy McCain, Scott McKay, George Neumayr, and George Parry. Ali Alexander and Jeffrey Lord have also contributed.[5][6]

During the 1990s, the magazine grew in visibility and impact, primarily for its reports on Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and its "Arkansas Project", funded by businessman Richard Mellon Scaife and the Bradley Foundation.[7]

Founding and history[edit]

The American Spectator took its name from a short-lived magazine founded in 1924 by George Jean Nathan and Truman Newberry. The origins of the current magazine date to its founding by Tyrrell in 1967 in Bloomington, Indiana. That year, Tyrrell and his "Saturday Evening Club" took up the name, calling the magazine The Alternative: An American Spectator.

After operating under the name The Alternative: An American Spectator for several years, the magazine changed its name in 1977 to The American Spectator because, in editor Tyrrell's words, "the word 'alternative' had come to be associated almost exclusively with radicals and with their way of life." In fact, Tyrrell had started the magazine on the campus of Indiana University Bloomington as a conservative alternative to the student radicalism at the nation's universities in the 1960s. The American Spectator is not affiliated with The Spectator, a British magazine of somewhat similar format and conservatism founded in 1828.

During the Reagan Administration, the magazine moved from Bloomington to suburban Washington, D.C.


The publication gained prominence in the 1990s by reporting on political scandals. The March 1992 issue contained David Brock's criticisms of Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill. Brock and his colleague Daniel Wattenberg soon aimed at a bigger target: Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton. A January 1994 article about then-President Bill Clinton's sex life contained the first reference in print to Clinton accuser Paula Jones, although the article focused on allegations that Clinton used Arkansas state troopers to facilitate his extramarital sexual activities (see Troopergate). It only referred to Jones by her first name, and corroborated few if any elements of her story. This article was the basis for the claim of damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit, which started the chain of events resulting in President Clinton's impeachment.

David Brock recanted his accusations upon his departure from the conservative movement. He also denounced his Anita Hill article in his 2003 book Blinded by the Right: the Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. He implies that Rush Limbaugh's coverage of his Anita Hill article instigated advertising on Limbaugh's network, which resulted in a large increase in the magazine's circulation. He also implies that this caused the magazine's content to move "away from thoughtful essays and scholarly reviews and humor pieces" to "hit jobs".[8]

Wattenberg eventually incurred the displeasure of many fellow conservatives when he admitted that he had killed a story about rumors of Clinton fathering a child out of wedlock as a result of his relationship with a young African American woman because of insufficient evidence. The story was revived in 1999 by Matt Drudge.

Internal strife eventually led to the departure of long-time publisher Ronald Burr after a disagreement with Tyrrell led Burr to call for an independent audit of the magazine's finances. The departure of Burr and several prominent conservative figures from the magazine's board of directors resulted in conservative foundations pulling much of the funding the nonprofit had relied on to pay high salaries to Brock and Tyrrell, as well as to fund direct-mail campaigns needed to keep up the monthly's circulation. Faced with a budget crisis, the magazine, then led by publisher Terry Eastland, a former spokesman in the Reagan Justice Department, laid off staffers and cut spending significantly. The magazine also struggled to pay legal bills incurred from an investigation launched against it by the Justice Department for alleged witness tampering in the Whitewater investigation. The Justice Department investigation led to revelations about the "Arkansas Project", a campaign by businessman Richard Mellon Scaife to discredit the Clintons by funding investigative reporting at several conservative media outlets.


As shortfalls continued, George Gilder purchased the magazine and subsequent layoffs and staff departures followed. Circulation and budget losses continued and even increased in the Gilder era, and at one point the entire Washington-based staff, other than Tyrrell and executive editor and website editor Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, were laid off as operations were moved to Massachusetts, where the rest of George Gilder's businesses were based. In 2003, George Gilder, who had lost most of his fortune with the bursting of the Internet stock bubble, sold the magazine for $1 (equivalent to $1.656 in 2023) back to Tyrrell and the American Alternative Foundation, the magazine's original owner. Later, the name of the owner was changed to the American Spectator Foundation. The magazine then moved operations back to the Washington, D.C. area. Later that year, former book publisher Alfred S. Regnery became the magazine's publisher. By 2004, circulation hovered at around 50,000.


In 2013, the magazine reverted to a tabloid format, reflecting the roots of the magazine, which was originally published at a large size. For most of the 1990s and all of the 2000s the Spectator had been published in a traditional magazine format.

In 2011, Assistant Editor Patrick Howley published a piece detailing his infiltration of a protest in Washington, D.C. In the article, Howley asserts his aim to "mock and undermine" the protest against American Imperialism, and writes in the first person about his experiences protesting at the National Air and Space Museum.[9] This article, and the methods detailed within, was condemned by The Guardian, The Atlantic's "Atlantic Wire" blog, and The Economist, because they believed the correspondents who worked on the story had conflated journalism and politics.[10][11][12] Matt Steinglass of The Economist wrote that Howley "winds up offering a vision of politics as a kind of self-focused performance art, or perhaps (to say the same thing) a version of Jackass."[13]

Online publication[edit]

The magazine's final monthly print publication was released in July/August 2014. While The American Spectator did issue a September/October PDF-only version late in mid-November 2014, the masthead still claimed that it was "published monthly, except for combined July/Aug and Jan/Feb issues." A note from Editorial Director Wladyslaw Pleszczynski admitted that "...we have some problems of our own."[14] Pleszczynski added that the issue "was ready for release well over a month ago but for reasons affecting many a print publication these days couldn't be published on actual pages and after considerable delay is now being released in digital form only." Subsequently, online publications have become permanent and available.[15]

The latest editions of the magazine:

  • Summer 2021 Magazine "The Biden Economy"[16]
  • Winter 2020 Magazine "Liberty in Crisis"[17]
  • Summer 2020 Magazine "Make America Great - Yet Again"[18]
  • Fall 2019 Magazine "Technical Difficulties"[19]

Return to print[edit]

The magazine returned to print in the fall of 2017 under the direction of Hannah Rowan. It is published in the winter and summer.[20]

Core editorial staff[edit]


  1. ^ "Thomas Sowell". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  2. ^ "". Archived from the original on April 21, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Ben Stein". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on February 6, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "David Catron". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  5. ^ Alexander, Ali. "Forecast: GOP Victory But No Red Wave - The American Spectator | USA News and PoliticsThe American Spectator | USA News and Politics". The American Spectator | USA News and Politics.
  6. ^ "Jeffrey Lord". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  7. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (April 15, 1998). "Almost $2 Million Spent in Magazine's Anti-Clinton Project, but on What?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  8. ^ Brock, David (2003). Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. Random House, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4000-4728-4. An entire chapter (Chapter 5) is devoted to describing Brock's experience writing "The Real Anita Hill" article and book in the early 1990s. The "hit jobs" quote is from p. 110.
  9. ^ "The American Spectator : The Spectacle Blog : Standoff in D.C". Archived from the original on 2011-10-23.
  10. ^ McVeigh, Karen (10 October 2011). "Washington protest: American Spectator condemned over article". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2017-03-12. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  11. ^ Coscarelli, Joe. "'Journalist' Poses As Protester, Gets Pepper-Sprayed for a Story". Daily Intelligencer. Archived from the original on 2011-10-11. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
  12. ^ Coates, Ta-Nehisi (10 October 2011). "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2017-03-12. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  13. ^ "Conservative "Jackass"". The Economist. October 11, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  14. ^ Pleszczynski, Wlady (September–October 2014). "The Defiant Ones" (PDF). About This Month. The American Spectator. Vol. 47, no. 6–7. p. 2. ISSN 0148-8414. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-07-03. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
  15. ^ "The American Spectator | USA News and PoliticsThe American Spectator | USA News and Politics". The American Spectator | USA News and Politics. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  16. ^ "Magazine | The American Spectator | USA News and PoliticsThe American Spectator | USA News and Politics". The American Spectator | USA News and Politics. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  17. ^ R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr, Wladyslaw Pleszczynski (Winter 2020). "THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR "Liberty in Crisis"". E.g.The American Spectator: 122.
  18. ^ R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., Wladyslaw Pleszczynski (Summer 2020). "THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR "Make Amerika great - yet again"". E.g.The American Spectato: 87.
  19. ^ R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., Wlady Pleszczynski (Fall 2019). "The American Spectator "TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES"". E.g.The American Spectator: 71.
  20. ^ "American Spectator Foundation". InfluenceWatch.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]