David Horowitz

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David Horowitz
David Horowitz by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Horowitz in February 2011
Born David Joel Horowitz
(1939-01-10) January 10, 1939 (age 76)
Forest Hills, Queens, New York, U.S.
Occupation Conservative activist, writer
Nationality United States
Education MA, University of California at Berkeley
BA, Columbia University
Spouse Elissa Krauthamer (1959– ; 4 children), Sam Moorman (divorced), Shay Marlowe (1990–?; divorced), April Mullvain Horowitz (current)
Children Jonathan Daniel, Benjamin Horowitz, Anne Pilat, Sarah Rose Horowitz (deceased)[1]

David Joel Horowitz (born January 10, 1939) is an American conservative writer based in Southern California. He has established a complex of institutions promoting his viewpoint: he is a founder and current president of the think tank the David Horowitz Freedom Center; editor of FrontPage Magazine, which is published by his Center; and director of Discover the Networks, a website that tracks individuals and groups on the political left. Horowitz founded the organization Students for Academic Freedom, purportedly to oppose political correctness and leftist orientation in academia.[2] He has worked as a columnist for Salon, whose Joan Walsh in 2001 described him as a "conservative provocateur."[3] Southern Poverty Law Center has designated his news organization as a hate group in 2008.

He has written several books with author Peter Collier, including four on prominent 20th-century American political families that had members elected to the presidency. They also have collaborated on books about current cultural criticism.

Horowitz was raised by parents who were members of the Communist Party USA during the Great Depression and until learning in 1956 about Joseph Stalin's excesses. Between 1956 and 1975, Horowitz was an outspoken adherent of the New Left. He later rejected leftism completely and has become an outspoken conservative. Horowitz has recounted his ideological journey in a series of retrospective books, culminating with his 1996 memoir Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey.


Horowitz is the son of Phil and Blanche Horowitz, who were high school teachers. Phil taught English and Blanche taught stenography.[4] Horowitz majored in English and received a BA from Columbia University in 1959 and a master's degree in English literature at University of California, Berkeley.

During years of labor organizing and the Great Depression, Phil and Blanche Horowitz were long-standing members of the American Communist Party and strong supporters of Joseph Stalin until Khrushchev published his report in 1956 about Stalin's excesses and terrorism of the Soviet populations.[5][6][7]

According to Horowitz,

Underneath the ordinary surfaces of their lives, my parents and their friends thought of themselves as secret agents. The mission they had undertaken, and about which they could not speak freely except with each other, was not just an idea to them. It was more important to their sense of themselves than anything else they did. Nor were its tasks of a kind they could attend or ignore, depending on their moods. They were more like the obligations of a religious faith. Except that their faith was secular, and the millennium they awaited was being instituted, at that moment, in the very country that had become America's enemy. It was this fact that made their ordinary lives precarious and their secrecy necessary. If they lived under a cloud of suspicion, it was the result of more than just their political passions. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima had created a terror in the minds of ordinary people. Newspapers reported on American spy rings working to steal atomic secrets for the Soviet state. When people read these stories, they inevitably thought of progressives like us. And so did we ourselves. Even if we never encountered a Soviet agent or engaged in a single illegal act, each of us knew that our commitment to socialism implied the obligation to commit treason, too.[8]

After the death of Stalin in 1953, his father Phil Horowitz, commenting on how Stalin's numerous official titles had to be divided among his successors, told his son, "You see what a genius Stalin was. It took five men to replace him."[9]

The Horowitz family broke with the American Communist Party after the publication of Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech in 1956. According to Horowitz,

"The publication of the Khrushchev Report was probably the greatest blow struck against the Soviet Empire during the Cold War. When my parents and their friends opened the morning Times and read its text, their world collapsed – and along with it their will to struggle. If the document was true, almost everything they had said and believed was false. Their secret mission had led them into waters so deep that its tide had overwhelmed them, taking with it the very meaning of their lives."[7]

Career with the New Left[edit]

After completing his graduate degree, in the late 1960s Horowitz lived in London and worked for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.[10][11] He identified as a serious Marxist intellectual. In 1966, Ralph Schoenman persuaded Bertrand Russell to convene a war crimes tribunal to judge American involvement in the Vietnam War.[12] Horowitz would write 30 years later that he didn't take part in the tribunal due to his political reservation. He described the tribunal's judges as formidable, world-famous and radical, including Isaac Deutscher, Jean-Paul Sartre, Stokely Carmichael, Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, and Vladimir Dedijer.[13] See Russell Tribunal.

While in London, Horowitz became a close friend of Deutscher, and wrote a biography of him which was published in 1971.[14][15] Horowitz also wrote The Free World Colossus: A Critique of American Foreign Policy in the Cold War.

In January 1968, Horowitz returned to the United States, where he became co-editor of the New Left magazine, Ramparts based in California[11] During the early 1970s, Horowitz developed a close friendship with Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton. Horowitz later portrayed Newton as equal parts gangster, terrorist, intellectual, and media celebrity.[11] As part of their work together, Horowitz helped raised money for, and assisted the Panthers with, the running of a school for poor children in Oakland. He recommended that Newton hire Betty Van Patter as bookkeeper; she was then working for Ramparts. In December 1974, Van Patter's body was found floating in San Francisco Harbor; she had been murdered. Horowitz has said he believes the Panthers were behind it. During the following years, he abandoned the radical left.[11][16]

In 1976, Horowitz was a "founding sponsor" of James Weinstein's magazine In These Times.[17]

Writing on the right[edit]

Following this period, Horowitz rejected Marx and socialism, but kept quiet about his changing politics for nearly a decade. In the spring of 1985, Horowitz and longtime collaborator Peter Collier, who had also become conservative, wrote an article for The Washington Post Magazine entitled "Lefties for Reagan", later titled "Goodbye to All That". The article explained their change of views and recent decision to vote for Republican President Ronald Reagan.[18][19][20] In 1986 Horowitz published "Why I Am No Longer a Leftist" in The Village Voice.[21]

In 1987, Horowitz co-hosted a "Second Thoughts Conference" in Washington, D.C., described by Sidney Blumenthal in The Washington Post as his "coming out" as a social conservative. According to attendee Alexander Cockburn, Horowitz related how his Stalinist parents had not permitted him or his sister to watch Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies. Instead, they watched propaganda films from the Soviet Union.[22]

In May 1989, Horowitz, Ronald Radosh, and Peter Collier travelled to Poland for a conference in Kraków calling for the end of Communism.[23] After marching with Polish dissidents in an anti-regime protest, Horowitz spoke about his changing thoughts and why he believed that socialism could not create their future. He said his dream was for the people of Poland to be free.[24] In 1992, Horowitz and Collier founded Heterodoxy magazine. The magazine focused on exposing what it described as excessive political correctness on American college and university campuses. Horowitz wrote in his memoir Radical Son that he thought universities were no longer effective in presenting both sides of political arguments. He thought "left-wing professors" had created a kind of "political terror" on campuses.[25]

In a column in Salon magazine, where he is regularly published,[3] Horowitz described his opposition to reparations for slavery; he believed that it was racist against blacks, trying to define them only in terms of having descended from slaves. He argues that applying labels like "descendants of slaves" to blacks was damaging and would serve to segregate them from mainstream society.[26]

In keeping with his provocateur position, in 2001 Horowitz purchased, or attempted to purchase, advertising space during Black History Month in several student American university publications to express his opposition to reparations for slavery.[3] Many student papers refused to sell him ad space; at some schools, papers which carried his ads were stolen or destroyed.[26][3] Joan Walsh of Salon wrote that the furor gave him overwhelming amounts of free publicity.[3][27]

Horowitz supported the interventionist foreign policy associated with the Bush Doctrine. But he wrote against US intervention in the Kosovo War, arguing that it was unnecessary and harmful to U.S. interests.[28][29] In the early 21st century, he has written critically of libertarian anti-war views.[30][31]

In 2004, Horowitz launched Discover the Networks, a conservative watchdog project that monitors funding for, and various ties among, leftists and progressive causes.[2] In his 2004 book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, Horowitz says that leftists support, intentionally or not, Islamist terrorism, and thus require ongoing scrutiny.

In two books, Horowitz accused Dana L. Cloud, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin, as an “anti-American radical" who "routinely repeats the propaganda of the Saddam regime."[citation needed] Horowitz accuses her and 99 other professors listed in his book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, of the "explicit introduction of political agendas into the classroom." (pp. 93, 377)

Cloud replied in Inside Higher Ed that her experience demonstrates that Horowitz damages professors' lives by his accusations and that he needs to be viewed as more than a political opponent.

Horowitz's attacks have been significant. People who read the book or his Web site regularly send letters to university officials asking for her to be fired. Personally, she has received—mostly via e-mail—"physical threats, threats of removing my daughter from my custody, threats of sexual assaults, horrible disgusting gendered things," she said. That Horowitz doesn't send these isn't the point, she said. "He builds a climate and culture that emboldens people," and as a result, shouldn't be seen as a defender of academic freedom, but as its enemy.[32]

After discussion, the National Communication Association chose not to grant Horowitz a spot as a panelist at its national conference in 2008. He had offered to forego the $7,000 speaking fee he originally requested. Horowitz wrote in Inside Higher Ed, "The fact that no academic group has had the balls to invite me says a lot about the ability of academic associations to discuss important issues if a political minority wants to censor them."[32] An association official said the decision was based in part on Horowitz's request to be provided with a stipend for $500 to hire a personal bodyguard. Association officials decided that having a bodyguard present "communicates the expectation of confrontation and violence."[32]

While appearing on tIn the same television program, Horowitz claimed that the Muhammad called for the "extermination of Jews".[33][34] Horowitz also states that he supports the "creation of a Palestinian State in Jordan" in opposition to the prevailing "two state" model.[33][35]

Horowitz appeared in Occupy Unmasked, a 2012 documentary film that portrays the Occupy Wall Street movement as sinister, violent, and organized to destroy the American government.[36]

Academic Bill of Rights[edit]

In the early 21st century, Horowitz has concentrated on issues of academic freedom, wanting to protect conservative viewpoints. He, Eli Lehrer, and Andrew Jones published a pamphlet, "Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities" (2004), in which they find the ratio of Democrats to Republicans at 32 schools to be more than 10 to 1.[37]

Horowitz's book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (2006), criticizes individual professors for their academic conduct. Horowitz accuses these professors of engaging in indoctrination rather than a disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Horowitz says that his campaign for academic freedom is ideologically neutral.[38]

Horowitz has published an Academic Bill of Rights (ABR), which he proposes to eliminate political bias in university hiring and grading. Horowitz says that conservatives and particularly Republican Party members are systematically excluded from faculties, citing statistical studies on faculty party affiliation.[39] Critics such as academic Stanley Fish have argued that "academic diversity", as Horowitz defines it, is not a legitimate academic value, and that no endorsement of "diversity" can be absolute.[40]

In 2004 the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution on a 41–5 vote to adopt a version of the ABR for state educational institutions.[41][42]

In Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives created a special legislative committee to investigate issues of academic freedom and whether students who hold unpopular views need more protection. In November 2006 it reported that it had not found evidence of problems with students' rights.[43][44][45][46][47][48]

Personal life[edit]

Horowitz has been married four times. He married Elissa Krauthamer, in a Yonkers, New York synagogue on 14 June 1959.[49] They had four children together: Jonathan Daniel, Benjamin Horowitz, Anne Pilat, and Sarah Rose Horowitz. (Sarah died in March 2008 at age 44 from Turner syndrome-related heart complications.)[1][50]

She is the subject of Horowitz's 2009 book, A Cracking of the Heart.[50] Sarah Horowitz was a human rights activist who cooked for the homeless, stood vigil at San Quentin on nights when the state of California executed prisoners, worked with autistic children in public schools, and with the American Jewish World Service, helped rebuild homes in El Salvador after a hurricane, and traveled to India to oppose child labor.[51] In a review of Horowitz's book, FrontPage magazine associate editor David Swindle wrote that she fused "the painful lessons of her father's life with a mystical Judaism to complete the task he never could: showing how the Left could save itself from self-destruction."[52]

Horowitz's son Ben Horowitz is a technology entrepreneur and investor (the co-founder, along with Marc Andreessen, of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz).

After getting divorced, Horowitz married Sam Moorman. They later divorced. On 24 June 1990, Horowitz married Shay Marlowe in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony conducted at the Pacific Jewish Center by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.[53] They divorced.

Fourth Horowitz married April Mullvain Horowitz, his present wife.[54] They live in Los Angeles County.

Controversy and criticism[edit]


Some of Horowitz's accounts of U.S. colleges and universities as bastions of liberal indoctrination have been disputed.[55] For example, Horowitz alleged that a University of Northern Colorado student received a failing grade on a final exam for refusing to write an essay arguing that George W. Bush is a war criminal.[56][57] A spokeswoman for the university said that the test question was not as described by Horowitz and that there were nonpolitical reasons for the grade, which was not an F.[58] Horowitz identified the professor in this story[59] as Robert Dunkley, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Northern Colorado. Dunkley said Horowitz made him an example of "liberal bias" in academia and yet, "Dunkley said that he comes from a Republican family, is a registered Republican and considers himself politically independent, taking pride in never having voted a straight party ticket," Inside Higher Ed reported.[59]

In another instance, Horowitz stated that a Pennsylvania State University biology professor showed his students the film Fahrenheit 9/11 just before the 2004 election in an attempt to influence their votes.[60][61] Pressed by Inside Higher Ed, Horowitz retracted the story.[62]

Horowitz has been criticized for material in his books, particularly The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, by noted scholars such as Columbia University Professor Todd Gitlin.[63] The group Free Exchange on Campus issued a 50-page report in May 2006 in which they take issue with many of Horowitz's assertions in the book: they identify specific factual errors, unsubstantiated assertions, and quotations which appear to be either misquoted or taken out of context.[64][65][66]

Allegations of racism[edit]

Chip Berlet, writing for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), identified Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture as one of 17 "right-wing foundations and think tanks support[ing] efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable."[67] Berlet accused Horowitz of blaming slavery on "black Africans … abetted by dark-skinned Arabs" and of "attack[ing] minority 'demands for special treatment' as 'only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others,' rejecting the idea that they could be the victims of lingering racism."[67]

Horowitz published an open letter to Morris Dees, president of the SPLC, saying that "[this reminder] that the slaves transported to America were bought from African and Arab slavers" was a response to demands that only whites pay reparations to blacks. He said he never held Africans and Arabs solely responsible for slavery. He said that Berlet's accusation of racism was a "calculated lie" and asked for his report to be removed.[68] The SPLC refused Horowitz's request.[69] Horowitz has criticized Berlet and the SPLC on his website and personal blog.[70][71]

In 2008, while speaking at UCSB, Horowitz criticized Arab culture, saying it was rife with antisemitism.[72][73] He also referred to the Palestinian keffiyeh, a traditional Arab head covering that became associated with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, as a symbol of terrorism. In response, UCSB professor Walid Afifi said that Horowitz was "preaching hate" and smearing Arab culture.[73]

Criticizing Islamic organizations[edit]

Horowitz has used university student publications and lectures at universities as venues for publishing provocative advertisements or lecturing on issues related to Islamic student and other organizations. In April 2008, his 'David Horowitz Freedom Center' advertised in the Daily Nexus, the University of California Santa Barbara school newspaper, saying that the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) had links with the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.[74] In May 2008, Horowitz, speaking at UCSB, said that the Muslim Students' Association supports "a second Holocaust of the Jews".[73] The MSA said they were a peaceful organization and not a political group.[74] The MSA's faculty adviser said the group had "been involved in interfaith activities with Jewish student groups, and they've been involved in charity work for national disaster relief."[73]

Similarly Horowitz ran the ad in The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper of George Washington University in Washington, DC. Jake Sherman, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, said claims the MSA was radical were "ludicrous." He vowed to review his newspaper's editorial and advertising policies.[75]

Horowitz published a 2007 piece in the Columbia University newspaper, saying that, according to [unnamed and undocumented] public opinion polls, "between 150 million and 750 million Muslims support a holy war against Christians, Jews and other Muslims."[76]

Speaking at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in February 2010, Horowitz compared Islamists to Nazis, saying: "Islamists are worse than the Nazis, because even the Nazis did not tell the world that they want to exterminate the Jews."[77]

Horowitz created a campaign for what he called "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," in parody of multicultural awareness activities. He helped arrange for leading critics of radical Islam to speak at more than a hundred college campuses in October 2007.[78] As a speaker he has met with intense hostility.[79][80][81]

In a 2011 review of anti-Islamic activists in the US, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified Horowitz as one of 10 people in the United States' "Anti-Muslim Inner Circle."[82]


Horowitz's Frontpage Magazine published Ron Radosh's critical review of Diana West's book American Betrayal. Conservatives John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, scholars of Soviet espionage, defended Horowitz for publishing the review and Radosh for writing it.[83] Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet dissident, rejected Radosh's criticisms and said it was an attempt to portray West as a historically inept conspiracy-monger.[84] Horowitz defended the review in an article on Breitbart's Big Government website.[85]

In 2007 Lawrence Auster (now deceased) said that Horowitz rejected him from publishing in Frontpage Magazine for making racist statements.[86][87]

Books and other publications[edit]


(all co-authored with Peter Collier)

  • The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976) ISBN 0-03-008371-0
  • The Kennedys: An American Drama (New York: Summit Books/Simon & Schuster, 1985) ISBN 0-671-44793-9
  • The Fords: An American Epic (New York: Summit Books/Simon & Schuster, 1987) ISBN 0-671-66951-6
  • The Roosevelts: An American Saga (1994)


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]