David French (political commentator)

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David French
David French by Gage Skidmore.jpg
French in 2012
David Austin French

(1969-01-24) January 24, 1969 (age 52)
Alma mater (JD)
Political party
Spouse(s)Nancy French
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service2007-2014
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
UnitJudge Advocate General's Corps
Battles/warsIraq War
AwardsBronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal [1]

David Austin French (born January 24, 1969) is an American political commentator and former attorney. A fellow at the National Review Institute and a staff writer for National Review from 2015 to 2019, French currently serves as senior editor of The Dispatch.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

French was born in Opelika, Alabama. His parents were students at nearby Auburn University.[3]

French graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.[4][5] He then went on to Harvard Law School where he graduated cum laude in 1994 with a Juris Doctor degree.[6][7][8]


French has served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom,[9] has lectured at Cornell Law School and spent much of his career working on religious-rights issues.[10] He served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).[7] French retired from FIRE in 2005, citing plans to serve in the United States Army Reserve as a judge advocate general officer.[11][better source needed] A staff writer for National Review from 2015 to 2019,[12][7] and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute,[13] French has authored several books.[7] In October 2019, he left National Review to work at The Dispatch, a conservative news site.[14][12]

Military service[edit]

French is a former major in the United States Army Reserve[15] and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[7] French was deployed to Iraq in 2007 during the Iraq War, serving in Diyala Governorate as squadron judge advocate.[16] He was awarded a Bronze Star.

Potential 2016 U.S. presidential campaign[edit]

In January 2016, French said that he would vote for Donald Trump if he became the Republican nominee; he later changed his mind and said he would not vote for Trump.[17][18] Political commentator Bill Kristol, a supporter of the Stop Trump movement, named French as his choice to run for U.S. president as an independent conservative candidate to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Trump on May 31.[19] On June 5, French announced that he had considered running, but ultimately decided otherwise.[20][21] In a June 18, 2016, interview with The Daily Herald, French revealed that he had strongly considered entering the presidential race, but ultimately decided that he had neither the name recognition nor the financial support to mount a viable campaign.[22]

Attacks by the alt-right[edit]

In 2016, French and his wife and family were the subject of online attacks when he criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and the alt-right. French was bombarded with hateful tweets, including an image of his child in a gas chamber.[23]

Dispute with Sohrab Ahmari[edit]

A high-profile dispute between David French and New York Post editor Sohrab Ahmari broke out over the summer of 2019 as a result of the publication of Ahmari's polemic "Against David French-ism",[24] sparking numerous essays and commentaries in politically conservative publications such as the National Review and The American Conservative,[25] as well as in several left-leaning outlets such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.[26] The dispute first began on May 26, 2019, when Sohrab Ahmari expressed on Twitter his frustration with a Facebook advertisement for a children's drag queen reading hour at a library in Sacramento, California, which he described as "transvestic fetishism", and argued that there is no "polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war".[27] This prompted a response from French in a May 28 essay published in the National Review entitled "Decency Is No Barrier to Justice or the Common Good".[27] The dispute escalated significantly after Ahmari published the essay "Against David French-ism" in the conservative religious journal First Things on May 29, 2019.[24] The direct targeting of French and the impromptu creation of the "David French-ism" political philosophy led the essay to gain significant notoriety, prompting a response from French[28][29] and the publication of numerous commentaries.[25][26] On September 5, 2019, French and Ahmari engaged in an in-person political debate moderated by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.,[30] again prompting a flurry of commentaries.[31]

The dispute centered around their differing opinions on how conservatives should approach cultural and political debate, with Ahmari deriding what he calls "David French-ism", a political persuasion he defines as believing "that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side".[24] He argues that this belief leads to an ineffective conservative movement, and contends that the best way for culturally conservative values to prevail in society is a strategy of "discrediting...opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions", which he maintains is a tactic already utilized by progressives, leaving conservatives who adhere to the David French-style of politics impotent in what he views as a raging culture war in the United States.[24] He argues that the political realm should be viewed as one of "war and enmity", and that the power of the government should be directly utilized to impose culturally conservative values on society.[24] French, by contrast, advocates a conservative libertarian approach in which decency, civility, and respect for individual rights are emphasized, and argues that Ahmari's beliefs "forsake" the philosophy of classical liberalism that the Founding Fathers of the United States espoused.[29][28] He placed particular criticism on Ahmari's desire for direct government intervention in the lives of individuals, which he argues is not only antithetical to liberty but is a politically ruinous tactic for conservatives, who would end up on the receiving end of progressive policies if the government were given greater license to interfere in the private lives of individuals.[28]

Personal life[edit]

French is an evangelical Christian,[10] who is married to author Nancy French.[21] French and his family have lived in Columbia, Tennessee, since 2006.[32] They have three children, including a daughter adopted from Ethiopia.[33]


  • A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Church, Home, and School. Broadman & Holman. 2002. ISBN 0-8054-2491-1.[34]
  • Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War. Center Street. 2011. ISBN 978-1-931722-90-2. With Nancy French.[35]
  • The Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore. Howard Books. 2014. ISBN 978-1-5011-0513-5. With Jay Sekulow, Jordan Sekulow, and Robert Ash.[36]
  • Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. St. Martin's Press. 2020. ISBN 978-1250201973.


  1. ^ Corbett, Erin (May 31, 2016). "Who Is David French? Bill Kristol Has Suggested A Third-Party Candidate To Run Against Trump". Bustle. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  2. ^ Rowland, Geoffrey (March 1, 2019). "National Review's Goldberg, Weekly Standard's Hayes to launch conservative media company". The Hill. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  3. ^ French, David (22 July 2020). "Episode 414: Religious Power vs. Religious Liberty with David French". Holy Post Podcast (Podcast). Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  4. ^ "David French Mediation Attorney – Child Custody Mediation Attorney in Kentucky". Mediation. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Lipscomb Conversations program discusses threats to national community Oct. 4 |". www.lipscomb.edu.
  6. ^ "ADF files lawsuit to stop ongoing attacks on religious groups at the University of Wisconsin". Alliance Defending Freedom. November 9, 2006. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Moore, Jack (June 1, 2016). "Who Is David French, the Third-Party Conservative Who Might Be Running for President?". GQ.
  8. ^ Olasky, Marvin. "A patriot's perspective - WORLD". world.wng.org.
  9. ^ Morrow, Brendan (May 31, 2016). "David French: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Wallace-Wells, Benjamin (2019-09-12). "David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and the Battle for the Future of Conservatism". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  11. ^ "A Personal Message from FIRE President David French". November 11, 2005. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  12. ^ a b French, David (October 18, 2019). "Farewell". National Review.
  13. ^ David French (March 22, 2017). "The Left Distorts Originalism to Attack Judge Gorsuch". National Review. Retrieved March 24, 2017. Having failed to undermine Gorsuch’s nomination on substantive grounds, liberals are now using a straw-man argument instead
  14. ^ Calderone, Michael (October 8, 2019). "Trump critics on the right join the media wars". POLITICO.
  15. ^ "'National Review' Writer And Former Service Member On Defining Patriotism". NPR.org. May 26, 2018.
  16. ^ Stanley, Paul (September 16, 2011). "Nancy French Talks About Career as Mom, Wife and Bestselling Author". Christian Post. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  17. ^ Giaritelli, Anna (June 1, 2016). "Watch David French say he'd vote for Donald Trump". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  18. ^ French, David (June 5, 2016). "Why I Changed My Mind and Joined the #NeverTrump Movement". National Review. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  19. ^ Matthews, Dylan (May 31, 2016). "Meet David French: the random dude off the street that Bill Kristol decided will save America from Trump". Vox. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  20. ^ French, David (June 5, 2016). "I'm Not Running for President". National Review. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Halperin, Mark; Heilemann, John (May 31, 2016). "Kristol Eyes Conservative Lawyer David French for Independent Presidential Run". Bloomberg Politics. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  22. ^ Bennett, James (June 18, 2016). "David French came 'really close' to running for president". The Daily Herald. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  23. ^ "Harassed On Twitter: 'People Need To Know The Reality Of What It's Like Out There'". NPR. October 26, 2016.
  24. ^ a b c d e Ahmari, Sohrab (29 May 2019). "Against David French-ism". First Things. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  25. ^ a b Conservative publications:
  26. ^ a b Left-leaning publications:
  27. ^ a b French, David (28 May 2019). "Decency Is No Barrier to Justice or the Common Good". The National Review. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  28. ^ a b c French, David (30 May 2019). "What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong". The National Review. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  29. ^ a b French, David (6 June 2019). "In Defense of 'Frenchism'". The National Review. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  30. ^ "Sohrab Ahmari debates David French 9.5.2019". The American Mind. 5 September 2019.
  31. ^ Further commentary:
  32. ^ Ross, Janell (June 1, 2016). "Who, exactly, is David French, the 'Never Trump' white knight candidate?". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  33. ^ Easley, Jonathan (June 5, 2016). "Who is David French?". The Hill. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  34. ^ "Tuesday, Nov. 10: National Review's David French Lecture". Iowa State University. November 10, 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ McDevitt, Caitlin (July 12, 2011). "Meet Bristol Palin's ghostwriter". Politico. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  36. ^ "Rise of ISIS". USA Today. June 21, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2016.

External links[edit]