David Horowitz: Losing Friends, Keeping Donors

As right-wing firebrand breaks with friends of many decades, he can take comfort in the fact that supporting Trump's authoritarianism will keep him in the money.

Illustration from FrontPage Mag.

David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh first met seventy years ago in a communist youth club. Horowitz was 12, two years younger than Radosh. The year was 1951, surely the worst period to be a red-diaper baby in America. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty of espionage that year and executed in 1953. The Rosenberg’s execution orphaned the couple’s two sons. For boys who had communists parents, as Horowitz and Radosh did, this was surely a tragedy that hit a little too close to home.

The two boys remained friends through a tumultuous period the length of an average lifespan, even as they experienced ups and downs in their domestic affairs (Horowitz married four times, Radosh twice) and they both made a wild swing across the political spectrum. Both broke with their Stalinist patrimony, both were part of the nascent New Left of the late 1950s and early 1960s, both starting shifting to the right in the 1970s, flirting ever so briefly with liberalism or social democracy before settling into their own variation of neo-conservatism. (One of the major pivot points on this journey was Radosh’s co-authorship of a book that argued for the guilt of Julius Rosenberg).

Through it all, although not always in alignment, Horowitz and Radosh remained buddies. In this political trek, the duo had a third wheel in the form of Sol Stern, who Horowitz met in graduate school in Berkeley. Stern also trod the path from the New Left radical to neo-con stalwart.

Horowitz has now broken with his two former boon companions. Writing in FrontPage Mag, Horowitz insists, “Radosh and Stern are not my friends, and I am left wondering if they ever were.” Under the headline “My Former Friends Have Joined the Fascists,” the article is accompanied with a startling illustration showing one of the men (I think Stern but maybe Radosh) stabbing Horowitz in the shoulder blade, like Brutus assailing Julius Caesar on the steps of the Roman Capitol. Since Horowitz wrote a book on Shakespeare when young, he surely cried out “Et tu, Radosh and Stern?”

Horowitz’s screed belongs to one of my favorite micro-genres: the right wing pundits lamenting why no one loves him or her. Venerable tomes in this field include Toby Young's How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (a very witty memoir), Barbara Amiel's Friends & Enemies (spiteful memories of high society cronies who snubbed Amiel after her husband was arrested), and Norman Podhoretz's Ex-Friends (a recollection of the brief period when Podhoretz hung out with brainy people). Martin Peretz is reportedly working on a volume along this line called The Book of Grudges.

The instigation for Horowitz’s disowning of intimates that he has known for almost an entire lifetime is an article Radosh and Stern co-wrote for The New Republic denouncing Horowitz’s claims that Joe Biden stole the presidential election. “We were once political comrades, and we admired him for his prodigious intellect,” Stern and Horowitz write. “But by spreading the big lie that the election was stolen, our old friend has become a danger to American democracy.”

Radosh and Stern are right to emphasize Horowitz’s historical importance. Even those who chronicle the political right rarely give Horowitz the attention he deserves. This is largely due the the fact that he’s both a voluminous writer and a tedious one. He has endless rehashed the story of how he was editor of the popular New Left journal Ramparts (still something he mentions in his twitter avatar), how he became disenchanted by alleged Black Panther violence, and how he evolved into an anti-left warrior who can teach the right to fight dirty. All of this get tiresome when told for the thousandth time in sledgehammer prose. A typical Horowitz sentence tells us that Joe Biden “has clearly defined itself and its party as a fascist vanguard.” To paraphrase Russell Kirk, Joe Biden is a bicyclist, not a fascist.

But Horowitz’s historical importance is that he helped nurture trolling cultural grievance politics that plays to whites who feel dispossessed by the the political activism of people of color. It’s not an accident that Horowitz helped groom Stephen Miller. So it’s natural for Horowitz to be a Trump dead-ender: he helped create Trump.

Our friends can sometimes see our faults better than anyone. In charting Horowitz’s political evolution, Radosh and Stern are often too generous to his threadbare intellectual achievements. Where they land a blow is raising questions about the charitable status of the non-profit Horowitz helms, the modestly named David Horowitz Freedom Center. In his response, Horowitz is particularly aggrieved by these questions.

Radosh and Stern quote the IRS website as stating, “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

They comment:

We aren’t lawyers, but those prohibitions sound as if they would apply to the Horowitz Freedom Center’s relentless support of Trump, as well as its financial support, to the tune of $175,000 (as reported in The Washington Post and The Intercept), of the Party for Freedom of the Dutch ethno-nationalist politician (some would say white supremacist) Geert Wilders, then campaigning for the Netherlands Parliament. (The first of the donations came in March 2014; later that year, Wilders was a speaker at the Restoration Weekend.)

The IRS appears reluctant to provide any serious oversight, so Horowitz manages to raise a significant percentage of the Freedom Center’s yearly $6 million budget through tax-exempt donations from conservative foundations and individual big funders. That budget allows Horowitz to take a salary of over $600,000, according to the center’s latest tax filing.

A further twist, which Radosh and Stern don’t mention, is that much of the funding of the David Horowitz Freedom Center comes from the Bradley Foundation, a sponsor of many right-wing causes. A 2017 report revealed that to that point the Bradley Foundation gave the Horowitz Center $8,953,000. This money tree continues to shed profusely for Horowitz.

One of the Board Members of the Bradley Foundation is Cleta Mitchell. As The New York Times reported on January 5, Mitchell “resigned from her law firm after it was revealed that she participated in the call where Mr. Trump pressured Georgia officials to help him reverse the state’s election results.” In other words, the cause of overturning the 2020 election is near and dear to those who fund Horowitz’s enterprise.

David Horowitz admits Trumpism has been personally costly. “This is a struggle shared by family members and friends across the country who have been put at odds by the political schisms of these difficult times,” he writes.

But thanks to the Bradley Foundation, David Horowitz can afford to lose all the family and friends he has. He’ll always have his donors, Perhaps that is all that counts.

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