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Turning Point for the Moon Empire?

The ex-employees and fallen followers who provide insider perspectives on mysterious and powerful groups such as the Church of Scientology or Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church always have to be considered with a dose of skepticism, but they often offer real insights into what's happening within the walls of secretive organizations.

If the insiders are right, Moon's empire is at a turning point. The battle for succession has begun and the 86-year-old leader of the cult--and owner of The Washington Times--is apparently allowing his youngest son, Preston Moon, to start making some moves that could change the leadership and direction of the newspaper that the Korean family has controlled since its inception in 1982.

A widely respected former reporter for the Times, George Archibald, has come forward with a detailed look at the power struggle within the paper's newsroom. Archibald portrays the battle as one "between Washington Times Corp. CEO Dong Monn (Douglas) Joo, who is the Reverend Moon's Korean translator in many venues and has been his go-fer for many years, and the reverend's youngest son, Preston Moon, an MBA graduate of Harvard, who has been anointed by his father as corporate successor."

Archibald sees editorial control of the paper shifting this coming spring: He says Preston Moon's plan is to "oust Joo as CEO of The Washington Times Corp., force [longtime editor in chief Wesley] Pruden's retirement no later that the 25th anniversary of The Washington Times on May 17, 2007, and hire a successor to Pruden as TWT editor-in-chief...."

The Archibald piece comes in the wake of some good, tough reporting by Max Blumenthal in The Nation, focusing on "allegations of racism, sexism and unprofessional conduct" levied against Pruden and the paper's managing editor, Francis Coombs.

The younger Moon's search committee seeking to reshape the paper is headed by an old Times hand, Arnaud de Borchgrave, who has of late been critical of Bush Administration foreign policy.

It's always dangerous to predict what will come of the discord within MoonWorld. Almost a decade ago, The Post's Jeff Leen and I published a series of stories that outlined how Moon was trying to cope with declining membership, deepening deficits and a drop in the influence of his paper. The forces at work then have only further deteriorated the Times' and the church's foundations, but the paper has held on, the subsidies have continued, and the paper continues to do some good work in its chosen specialties.

But like all newspapers, the Times faces the overarching problem of readership emigrating to the web, where revenues are vastly smaller. Insiders may believe that this is the key moment for the church and the Times, but my own sense from talking to those who've left the institution and some who are unhappy but still inside is that nothing of great note will change until the old man passes on.

By Marc Fisher |  January 4, 2007; 8:06 AM ET
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"A Drop in the Influence of the Washington Times?" Wishful thinking at work, I think. While the Times' circulation in the last 10 years has stayed constant or even grown slightly, the Post's circulation is down what, 10 percent? 20? And with Post reporters being fired by the dozen, while the Times keeps on keeping on.

The Times fills an important niche so lacking in national journalism nowadays: a paper committed to impartial coverage of the news, where commentary is confined to the commentary page, and where objectivity is revered above sticking it to political opponents.

Posted by: A Post/Times Reader | January 4, 2007 10:04 AM

The Times occupies a niche, all right, but to claim that its circulation is rising is to say very little about very little. Its circulation has always hovered (some would say suspiciously) at about 100,000, compared to 8 times as much for the Post.

Ironically, since the paper is Moon-supported, the Times has far less to lose in the competition with the internet. If the Times reframes itself as an HONEST conservative voice, then it might deserve to have some influence. But until then its nothing but fishwrap.

Posted by: Missing the Star | January 4, 2007 10:13 AM

The Washington Times' niche is not one that any respectable paper would want, mouthpiece for neo-cons and doddering conservatives. I don't much care what happens to the Times unless Jr. is planning to make it into a more mainstream voice.
It is good news to me that Moon's following is falling off. What is amazing to me is how many people joined in the first place.
Cults are unhealthy for the people in them, and I don't want to read the news from their point of view.

Posted by: Southern Girl | January 4, 2007 10:15 AM

Cult. Korean. Quote The ex-employees and fallen followers who provide insider perspectives on mysterious and powerful groups such as the Church of Scientology or Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church always have to be considered with a dose of skepticism unquote does not agree with quote A widely respected former reporter for the Times, George Archibald unquote. The trip word is always. Perhaps often, instead? Point being, we all know about the Unification Church and Moon. This sort of demagoguery isn't necessary and would never be used regarding the Sulzbergers or the Grahams. It only undermines the credibility of the quote reporter unquote.

Posted by: RL | January 4, 2007 11:50 AM

Hi, Mark. As a longtime Times AND Post reader, I appreciate your fair tone in this latest blog post.

My on-again off-again Times subscription went off again after my most recent subscription lapsed. Delivery problems drove the cancellation, but also, as a Conservative, I have to say that the Times as a go-to source for Conservative news and commentary have passed. The Internet and 24-hour news networks -- not just FOX, but the Conservative guests on Chris Matthews, et al. -- simply offers too many other options.

The Times has had some great investigative reporting over the years, along with its share of big scoops. But I found the strength of the Times to be in the choices of wire-service copy it picked up in each day's paper. It knew what its readers craved, and it delivered to them.

Now anyone can grab AP and Reuters headlines off the Web, anytime of the day. Trusted blogs provide links to news stories that no one paper could ever capture in a day's edition.

As for Archibald's axe-grinding, I do think his HuffPo pieces have been fair. But I think he undersells the Times' assets by referring to its lack of scoops as a *national* newspaper. Yes, it's national coverage may have lost a step, but doesn't Archibald recognize that some of us read the Metro section, the Sports section, and the weekly Arts and Books sections, all of which have worthwhile content, albeit of a hit-and-miss variety? Sport and Metro especially continue to give the Post a run for its money -- not that Archibald seems to recognize that. Frankly, it's been a small joy to see the Redskins coverage at the Times finally reach into the mainstream, largely through the Times reporters appearing on local radio.

I admit that the Times bills itself as a national news source, and tries to reach a national audience. But local coverage makes a huge difference. I continue to subscribe to the Post, with which I also have an on-again, off-again relationship (very much ON right now). But if the Times were to disappear, I'd feel like I was missing something.

Posted by: Discman | January 4, 2007 1:10 PM

The Washington Times does seem to be in disarray these days.

But let us not forget the debt we owe them. Back in the mid-to-late 1980s, after a decade in which the Washington Post had taken a paternalistic, hands-off approach to covering the foibles of Marion Barry and his government, the Washington Times did some incredibly energetic, critical, and insightful investigative reporting on Barry and the entire corrupt apparatus around him. Their reporting was at the center of a change in tone in DC government scrutiny that presaged the end of the Barry era and the more positive era of today. The Times did that -- not the Post. And they never got enough credit for it.

Posted by: Pigskin | January 4, 2007 1:50 PM

Are you Post people really that worried about the Times? Is there no room for diversity of views (and a sense of humor) in the press?

Posted by: Times-not-Post Subscriber | January 4, 2007 3:12 PM

The Times' management sounds like a nasty bunch. That's the problem with conservatives -- they are often hateful in their personal behaviour. which makes them difficult to work with, be married to, have as neighbours... Always getting in a stoush about something. I was a newspaper reporter in the U.S. for a decade (long before I emigrated here) and I also realise how petty and spiteful newsroom pisssing matches can get. Mirrors what I saw at small-town weeklies. Yet these rinky-dinks claim to be a national newspaper!

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | January 4, 2007 8:16 PM

I wouldn't line my birdcage with "The Washington Times", so I welcome the news of these developments with more than a touch of schadenfreude.

Posted by: scooterndc | January 4, 2007 8:35 PM

Wow! I just read The Nation piece. I always thought the Times (which, admittedly, I read about twice a year) was old-fashioned paleoconservative. I had no idea it was actually an outpost of the "South will rise again" racialist fringe. I don't know how any serious journalist can take a paycheck from these guys.

Posted by: Jack | January 5, 2007 10:10 AM

Bukko, with statements like "they are often hateful in their personal behaviour. which makes them difficult to work with, be married to, have as neighbours... Always getting in a stoush about something," its sounds like you are a wonderful person to have as a neighbor! Caring, non-judgemental, open to others...what a great guy you must be! If you say that small town weekly newsrooms are the same way, and they aren't all conservative, then are they all bad friends and neighbors as well? Or just the conservative ones? I hope you are blessed with having only friends and neighbors that are exactly the same as you, and not the terrible conservatives and small town newsmen and women toiling in the "rinky dinks" that you ridicule.

Posted by: Dave | January 5, 2007 10:56 AM

In the interest of fairness, I thought you might want to note my letter to the editor of The Nation last September:

George Archibald, a former employee of The Washington Times, is virtually the only named source in Max Blumenthal's article, Hell of a Times. He also is clearly the overall architect of the piece.

Mr. Archibald resigned under pressure from The Times in August 2005. In a series of e-mails beginning Oct. 25, 2005, and in a meeting in my office between Christmas and New Year's Day of that year, he pleaded to come back but was not rehired for well-documented reasons that he is thoroughly aware of. Since then Mr. Archibald has engaged in an increasingly vicious and fictitious cyber-campaign against The Washington Times and me in particular. Mr. Blumenthal was aware of Mr. Archibald's employment history at The Times but chose not to mention it in his article.

Every situation involving me described by Mr. Archibald is a fabrication.

Every quotation attributed to me by Mr. Archibald is false and repugnant.

The newsroom described by Mr. Blumenthal in his article with Mr. Archibald's help is a fiction.

In addition, Mr. Blumenthal's smear of my wife Marian, who has absolutely nothing to do with the editorial direction of The Washington Times, is beneath contempt. It is fascinating to note that in his article Mr. Blumenthal chose to delete this portion of my wife's e-mail to Mr. Archibald: "Your charges are untrue or, at best, wildly distorted out of all proportion - and you KNOW they are."

But then this article is not about Marian, me or Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden. It is a desperate effort to undercut the fine work of the hundreds of men and women who have made The Washington Times one of the most powerful newspapers in America and the rest of the world.

Please do not regard my failure to mention other portions of the article as an acknowledgement of their veracity. In the interest of brevity, I am merely citing a few key examples to illustrate the overall mendacity of Mr. Blumenthal's piece.

Fran Coombs
Managing Editor
The Washington Times

Posted by: Fran Coombs | January 5, 2007 12:46 PM

Archibald's "reporting" on the Times looks like a former disgruntled employee seeking revenge. Considering he claims to have a book coming out on The Times, his year-long attack on his former colleagues also smacks of financial self-interest. One wonders how Mr. Archibald sleeps at night after savaging the very people who made his career.

Posted by: Benny | January 5, 2007 2:20 PM

Archibald seems to be making a full-time job of trying to destroy the reputations of his erstwhile editors with accusations of racism at the Times. "Racism" is indeed a serious accusation, and sometimes the mere accusation is taken as proof. The Times has several high-profile black editors and writers. The No. 2 editor on the editorial page is a black woman, I believe, and Wesley Pruden and Fran Coombs recently named a black man as an assistant managing editor. If the newspaper is a hotbed of racism and "Southern-ness" as Archibald claims, which the newspaper's critics seem to accept as true, why haven't we heard protests from the African American staff members? I occasionally read the Times, and sometimes wince at its conservative nostrums, but I think I smell a smear from a disgruntled and bitter employe who seems to have left just in time to avoid the sack. I think Marc's point about taking this with a little salt is right on point.

Posted by: Skeptic | January 5, 2007 2:47 PM

To the person who talked about the investigations into corruption in the Barry administration: First of all, most the real investigating was being done, honorably and heroically, by investigators with the U.S. Attorney's Offices, the FBI, the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Capitol Police and various other law enforcement agencies, acting on tips provided by people inside and outside the D.C. government, which was incredibly, horribly corrupt during the Barry years. Second, the Post broke numerous, serious, well-documented and well-sourced investigative stories on the corruption in the D.C. government. Hundreds of stories. Third, yes, so did the Times. In fact, that was some of the Times' best work, thanks to Jerry Seper, Mike Hedges, Isiah Poole, Elaine Rivera, editor John Wilson, and many, many others. Some creidt should also go to investigative reporters at the local TV and radio stations at that time. But it would be a mistake to say that anyone outdid the the other one. The great work in revealing the horrible depths of corruption in the D.C. government should be shared by the Post, the Times, the law enforcement community, and other media.

Posted by: thefrontpage | January 5, 2007 5:21 PM

Note the following comments:
"If the Times reframes itself as an HONEST conservative voice, then it might deserve to have some influence. ..."
"The Washington Times' niche is not one that any respectable paper would want, mouthpiece for neo-cons and doddering conservatives. ..."
"The Times' management sounds like a nasty bunch. That's the problem with conservatives -- they are often hateful in their personal behaviour. which makes them difficult to work with, be married to, have as neighbours..."

So, commenters say, the problem is somehow ideological, related to conservative politics. Every newspaper in America hires and fires, promotes and reorganizes, gains or loses circulation, etc., but the Washington Times is the only newspaper in America where POLITICS is the explanation for its ups and downs, ins and outs.

Notice, however, that no one ever tries to explain the problems of NY Times, LA Times, WaPo and other papers as caused by the liberal politics of their owners and editors.

Ditto religion: No one would ever dare to say that problems at NY Times are due to the religion of the newspaper's publisher. And no one ever makes such criticisms toward the (predictably liberal) Christian Science Monitor. But people never tire of recycling the "Moonie" smear against the Washington Times.

There is an obvious double standard, with conservative institutions routinely subjected to a level of scrutiny that is seldom applied to liberal institutions.

Posted by: BamaBob | January 6, 2007 3:22 AM

The WT has never been given the scrutiny it deserves.

The other papers mentioned do not have owners whose organizations have been found guilty by the Japanese courts of swindling hundreds of millions of dollars from the Japanese, literally targeting widows to help fund their efforts at influence here and around the world.

Go here for video of Moon admitting that by 1984 he had already brought "hundreds of millions" from overseas to fund his USA efforts.

Those other papers do not have owners who have stated goals of controlling the planet. They may dream it but they do not bluntly state it. They have not been quoted - as Moon has in U.S. News and World Report in 1989 - as having a goal of the "natural subjugation of the American government and population." Moon brags about using the paper to "influence" America along with his "other activities." "Activities" which included funding people like Viguerie and theocrats like LaHaye and Falwell while creating front groups like the American Freedom Coalition to bring the religious right to political power in the USA. Moon wanted a right wing and theocratic government here and he has brought in billions from overseas to make it happen. IMO, it is obvious that he created the WT to make fertile the political climate for the theocrats who now have an inordinate amount of influence within the Republican Party and the nation as a whole.

And please don't give me that "he did all this because he hated communism", he doesn't care for democracy either and wants it replaced with "Godism" his form of theocracy.

The paper has been wildly successful in serving Moon. The other papers do not have an owner which use their papers to bring them face around the world so that they can influence the planet by bringing themselves personal credibility - their ultimate goal.

How many of these other papers are owned by U.S. citizens? Moon is not a citizen and according to his daughter in law he smuggles cash into the country by the shopping bag full. She said that and other members have backed that admission up - yet our government doesn't even look into it. WHY?

A non citizen with his own agenda at world conquests, with a goal of "subjugating" the "American government and population" and who funds it all with billions in overseas cash - it all adds up to the fact that the paper not only richly deserves scrutiny, it should fall under the Foreign Agents Registrations Act as is overly documented by three very conservative former Moon media editors in this video, a video which should be watched by anyone who "thinks" they understand Moon or his operation, particularly the WT.

There is so much more that many of these comments above do not take into account. The WP would do well to point them out rather than let the misinformation and misdirection continue.

Posted by: Del | January 6, 2007 3:06 PM

If this blog post constitutes acceptable journalism, so would an analysis of the alleged sexual proclivites and activities of Marc Fisher be proper material for public inspection.

Because the two articles he endorses here are nothing more than disgusting attempts at character assassination against journalists at Fisher's competing newspaper, published by a disgruntled former employee and conveniently un-corroborated by anything other than the accuser's say-so.

The same kind of garbage and personal attacks about The Times and its staff have been published now in three consecutive decades, the 80s, 90s, and today. For 25 years the Post and its employees have been eagerly awaiting the demise of the cross-town paper. And as usual, they will continue to wait, all the while publishing personal attacks which reflect more upon those making the statements than it does upon the subjects.

Maybe this blog should be retitled "PerezHiltonLite."


I could go on but I will now have to go back and read the big national scoop reported by The Times this week - the revelation that the US and Mexican governments have reached a secret agreement to give Social Security to illegal aliens. Not bad for a little paper supposedly with no readers, no journalists, and no future.

Posted by: Disgusted | January 7, 2007 12:07 PM

Hell may or may not have no fury like a woman scorned, but it is certainly true that hell hath no fury like that of a cult disciple who has seen the error of his ways. The blog above betrays someone who is obsessed with a cult that has achieved no influence beyond its relatively tiny ragtag circle circle of true believers, and many of them, like "Del," have fallen away and can't believe how foolish they were.

The Times may or may not be everyone's cup of tea (it isn't mine, particularly) but in 25 years I have never seen any Moonie propaganda in it. I'm glad "Del" is no longer a disciple, but he should get a life, or get on with the one he has.

Posted by: Bemused | January 8, 2007 10:04 AM

The Times is hardly a competitor of the Post. It has only a small fraction of the Post's distribution, and the Times does not have its articles read widely thoughout the world as the Post does. The Times has nothing to compare to the Post's International Herald-Tribune. To compare the two is not fair to either paper. The Times, as loony as its ownerwhip may be, can be respected on its own grounds--as a small cult newspaper.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2007 3:18 PM

The Times is hardly a competitor of the Post. It has only a small fraction of the Post's distribution, and the Times does not have its articles read widely thoughout the world as the Post does. The Times has nothing to compare to the Post's International Herald-Tribune. To compare the two is not fair to either paper. The Times, as loony as its ownerwhip may be, can be respected on its own grounds--as a small cult newspaper.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2007 3:18 PM

The link to this post is up now on the UC forum so it is expected we would see some misdirection laid out here...

"The blog above betrays someone who is obsessed with a cult that has achieved no influence beyond its relatively tiny ragtag circle circle of true believers,"

The comment above - apparently a current follower of Moon's since they use the usual BS for debating which includes no specifics.

Many miss one main purpose of the paper - to give backbone to hard right politics - bring the right to power. The same people on the right who squawk about citizen George Soros spending a few million on liberal causes never mention Moon and their savior's billions spent propping the right up.

The WT has also been called a "journalistic farm system" for the right all funded with overseas cash - the "market" plays no role..

Moon is a major player in American politics and rightfully brags about being so.

We're talking billions funding people, fronts like the WT and the Moon followers and others try to say he has had little influence. hah That's funny.
Those who keep trying to say the paper has no power are wrong on many levels. Including that it was designed to give Moon face around the world which it has. I have seen his preachers waving the WT around as they tell the members Moon is the messiah and how powerful Moon is - the WT serves the organization on many levels.

Also, it is one of the most quoted publications in the world. It gives Rush and right wing radio something to quote and has for years. I'll wager Rush has quoted it more than any other "source"...all funded by Moon with overseas cash.

Funny, when Moon followers aren't trying to cloud people's understanding of the paper and their political movement's efforts, when they are with other members they brag about the influence of "father's projects". I saw one Moon preacher brag to the congregation while listing their fronts efforts include that they must use their "media power" in the litany. That comes from a preacher talking about their political efforts. Members know how the game is played when it comes to "father's projects."

No, I am not a former member. Very typical of Moon followers, anyone who is a critic needs to "get a life" and is crazy or obsessed. I have seen it many times, same old same old. Helps members rationalize things like what these former editors report in this video. People I trust more than the a group headed by swindlers.

How about this "peace" loving group with huge media holdings the world over and an agenda to go with them....


The incident where 700 worshippers of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) broke into the office building of this newspaper company in Chungjeong-ro the day before yesterday and damaged the property is a serious threat to the freedom of press and the right of the nation to know. It is very difficult to understand that the eight hours of violence and the production disturbance by the worshippers of FFWPU, who were discontent with the report in the September issue of Shindonga, a monthly publication of this company, with the title "Grand Dissection of FFWP Kingdom," was a conduct by the worshippers of a religion which stress peace in the world.

The FFWPU worshippers destroyed the computers and office fixtures of the Shindonga journalists and stole the coverage documents of journalist Cho Seong-sik, the one who wrote the report concerned. They threatened to "throw sand on the rotary press of Dong-A Ilbo" and even sent more than 200 text messages to Cho's cell phone, saying, "We'll kill you." Also, a photojournalist of this newspaper company Gang Byeong-gi and a CBS reporter Kim Jae-pyeong were attacked with violence and threats by the worshippers.
end quote

Posted by: Del | January 8, 2007 5:50 PM

As someone who was cited in Max Blumenthal's piece, "Hell of a Times," I feel compelled to respond to the comments posted in reaction to Blumenthal and to Marc Fisher's recent blog entry. In his comments, Fran Coombs reprised his original response to the Blumenthal article in The Nation. Blumenthal's answer to Coombs' original response is worth repeating:

"Coombs, for his part, baselessly labels George Archibald 'the overall architect' of my piece. I in fact relied on a dozen sources, many of whom are current Times staffers who would be fired for going on the record. Further, Coombs does not mention anywhere in his letter the alleged victim of his sexual harassment, (Melissa) Hopkins. Nor does he mention former Times arts editor Marlene Johnson, who bluntly described him to me as 'a racist.' Johnson is an African-American, so she perhaps does not count to Coombs."

Coombs' lawyerly attempt to limit his critics to a single source (Geroge Archibald) and then to bash that source could only succeed with Coombs' friends or those unfamiliar with the facts. My story was in fact told in Blumenthal's first piece in The Nation. I later went on record with Blumenthal in the Huffington Post when the chief "hatchet man" for Coombs, Randall Cassaday, was arrested in a sting for soliciting a 13-year-old girl online for sex and sending her photos of his erect penis from Times' computers. This was the same man who had said I was lying and needed to hire a lawyer to protect myself. See

As a mother of three young children, I was appalled by Cassaday's hypocrisy. I worked with the Times for nearly eight years and loved my job. As the media relations contact, I worked very hard to get the stories of these very qualified and talented reporters recognized in other media. This story is not about a Moonie Cult paper full of conservative nuts, it's about a few power hungry bullies who made it miserable to work there in the end and, in my case, impossible to do my job.

Posted by: Melissa Hopkins | January 9, 2007 9:03 PM

Fran: What's with the formality? Sure Archie's vendetta is lopsided, but I found one thing reassuring that he reported about you: you smoke pot. Now THAT is a good sign, dude: call me & we'll stoke up the old Chong Bong.

Your Pal: Tommy

Posted by: Tommy Chong | January 10, 2007 10:20 AM

Just wanted to say that Preston Moon is not the Rev's youngest son. For such an in-depth report, I find it amusing that this detail has carelessly passed around as accurate.

He is the 3rd-born son out of 13 children of Rev Moon's marriage to Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.

Posted by: Nancy | January 30, 2007 11:34 AM

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