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Scaife's impact praised

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 11:27 p.m.
KEITH HODAN | tribune-review
Dick Scaife receives an award from Carol Robinson, president of the board of directors for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, during the organization's Hunger Awareness Day luncheon in June 2009.

Civic and political leaders across the country remembered Pittsburgh Tribune-Review publisher Dick Scaife as a complex figure committed to America's great public conversation, following news of his death on July 4.

Lauded by Republicans for underwriting conservative causes, and vilified by some for his role in promoting investigations of Democratic President Bill Clinton, whom he later befriended, Scaife, 82, commanded admiration from many on both sides of the aisle, at home and in Washington.

“Dick Scaife was a giant in the conservative movement whose work will be felt for generations. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, recalled the publisher's personal kindness and his great commitment to news.

“During a time of great evolutionary changes in the media business, Mr. Scaife managed to adapt and expand his paper while maintaining meaningful content. Under his leadership, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has become a powerful source of information and investigative journalism throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Casey said.

Joyce Murtha, widow of Democratic congressional powerhouse John P. Murtha of Johnstown, said her husband and Scaife would meet to discuss national defense, a topic that was a passionate priority both men championed in Washington.

In the city Scaife loved, Pittsburghers will remember him on Saturday when the Pirates take on the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I will always have tremendous appreciation and respect for Mr. Scaife,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said. “He was a great newspaperman, philanthropist and family friend.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Scaife “always considered himself a Pittsburgher and spent much of his wealth to improve this community. His preservation of Station Square back in the '70s, contributions to education, and other cultural assets are a big part of that legacy.”

Scaife's interests in national security ranged far beyond Pittsburgh, but his love of the region and its people always was a priority, said Tom Sanderson, co-director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Sanderson called Scaife's impact on counterterrorism research through his sponsorship of the Transnational Threats Project “significant and enduring.”

Not only was the project's research, including recent studies in war-torn Syria, featured in briefings to the White House, Pentagon, State Department and CIA, among others, “we also brought that knowledge straight back to the people whom Dick loved the most: Pennsylvania and the citizens of Allegheny County,” Sanderson said.

At Scaife's request, the center delivered briefings on its findings to high schools in Western Pennsylvania.

“Dick knew the fight for freedom was never an easy passage, but he fought it for a lifetime,” said Carnegie Mellon University economist Allan H. Meltzer, a close friend of the publisher for many decades.

Best known for his support of conservative initiatives, Scaife considered himself a libertarian. He supported Planned Parenthood and same-sex marriage and opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

And he remained committed to ensuring that readers of his newspapers heard a diverse range of opinions and voices.

Duquesne University law professor Joe Mistick, long a figure in Pennsylvania Democratic circles, had a platform for his views in a weekly column in the Sunday Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“As a liberal Democrat, much of what I have written for the Trib over the years put me on the opposite side of Mr. Scaife and many of our readers. Not a word was ever changed or a column rejected. He provided a forum for all in service to society. It's a remarkable American life he led,” Mistick said.

Others weighed in via Twitter.

“Richard Scaife was a remarkable patriot, philanthropist and conservative activist. His passing today is a great loss to America,” tweeted former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

“RIP Dick Scaife. Great newspaperman. Set the highest standard. True patriot for first principles we honor today. Prayers for his family,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, tweeted.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, echoed those sentiments.

“Dick was an ardent champion for the cause of freedom. ... Elsie and I will remember him every time we pick up a copy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,” Rothfus said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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