This week, Sun Myung Moon, media tycoon and spiritual leader of the Unification Church, died at the age of 92. In this interview from 2008, Bob talks John Gorenfeld, author of Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right and Built an American Kingdom about Moon's newspaper The Washington Times.
Strange Names - Broken Mirror
BOB GARFIELD: The messiah died this week.
[CLIP/MUSIC UP AND UNDER]:
NARRATOR: He spent his days with heaven in one hand, the earth in the other, seeking to correct the course of history.
BOB GARFIELD: At least, Sun Myung Moon claims to be the messiah.
NARRATOR: - crawling through the mud, while bearing the burden of history on his back. His days of pioneering the path of heaven, which God and humanity have long awaited, living strictly in line with heavenly principles every moment of the day.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER] BOB GARFIELD: He also claimed to be innocent of the felony tax evasion for which he served time in federal prison. And he, or his proxies, claimed to exert no political influence on the international newspaper properties, including the Washington Times that constituted his media empire. The tycoon, spiritual leader of the Unification Church and influence peddler of mythic proportions, Moon succumbed Monday in South Korea at the age of 92.
In 2008 we spoke to John Gorenfeld, author of “Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right and Built an American Kingdom.” I began by asking him to evaluate the Church’s claim that the Times was editorially independent of its ultimate owners, the Unification Church.
JOHN GORENFELD: What I discovered in talking to editors of the Washington Times over the years, including some who had quit, saying that they had blood on their hands for empowering a man that they considered a cult leader, what I discovered was that among some people it was really considered a joke that there was this separation, considering that whether it was demanding that the editorial page favor the Unification Church’s stance on South Korean policy or, more recently, even running full fledged plugs for Reverend Moon initiatives at the United Nations, it’s really not much of a, a wall but more of a floor. And, in fact, on the third floor of the Washington Times Building are church offices. And I, I think if the New York Times had the Church of Scientology on the top floor and if Tom Cruise was showing up, as Moon has, raving about how his newspaper has contributed to the church’s agenda, I think they would get a lot of flak for that. BOB GARFIELD: Let's right now get to that idea of how the paper does fit into Moon’s modus and his motives. The book begins with an absolutely astonishing moment on Capitol Hill in 2004. Can you tell me about the coronation? JOHN GORENFELD: Yeah, well the Washington Times Foundation arranged for Reverend Moon to be honored on Capitol Hill as the Messiah, as the Second Coming and the King of America. And a number of congressmen were present while he donned a magnificent crown and robes, and there were congressmen bowing to him, literally, and bringing his holy costume. BOB GARFIELD: Now, a lot of prominent politicos who do show up at Moon events and offer endorsements of various kinds seem to have been caught unawares. But others who are associated with Moon’s operations are actually on the payroll; they - they get large speaking fees, and so forth, like President George H. W. Bush. JOHN GORENFELD: George H. W. Bush has long maintained a relationship with Reverend Moon, taking over a million dollars to tour Japan and Argentina with Sun Myung Moon or his wife, showing up in 1995, most notably, to help bail out the Unification Church from a lot of trouble it was in for separating desperate widows from their life savings, saying that their husbands were in hell and wouldn't escape unless they gave millions of yen to the Unification Church. In Buenos Aires, George H. W. Bush called Reverend Moon “the man with the vision who - whose newspaper restores sanity to Washington, D.C.” BOB GARFIELD: Now, here’s a guy who says he’s talked to Stalin in hell, person-to-person [LAUGHS], and has been convicted of tax fraud, in fact, was in prison like five minutes after the Washington Times first appeared. He conducts mass arranged marriages in stadiums. He’s accused of brainwashing children and using them as, almost as slave labor. He’s got followers who are appointees in the Bush Administration. He was, as you said [LAUGHS], crowned as the Savior in the Dirksen Office Building. Why aren't people just showing him the door? How does he continue to operate? Maybe he is God. JOHN GORENFELD: [LAUGHS] Well, he’s richer than God. Conservatives have been enormously grateful for what they see as the balance that’s been provided by Reverend Moon’s newspaper, and so they've been willing to work with this guy, even as more and more shocking things have happened over the years. What we're looking at is one of the most dazzling acts of either con artistry or public relations in modern day history. The enormous outlay for the Washington Times has made the Unification Church part of conservative history, whereas otherwise they might well have been booted from the country in the 1980s. The issue isn't so much the idea of getting tentacles within the administration or having some sort of actual power. What it is, is this cynical relationship with conservatives that’s allowed Reverend Moon, in places beyond our borders, to continue bilking all sorts of people out of money and ruining a lot of people’s lives, while finding a surprisingly comfortable home for himself right here in Washington, DC. BOB GARFIELD: Okay John, well, thank you so much. JOHN GORENFELD: Hey, thanks so much for having me. BOB GARFIELD: Reporter John Gorenfeld is author of “Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right and Built an American Kingdom.”
[REVEREND MOON SPEAKING IN SOUTH KOREAN LANGUAGE]
INTERPRETER: In other words, what I’m trying to say, the Messiah we are waiting for today is coming for the same purpose, same mission who came 2,000 years ago among the chosen people.
[REVEREND MOON/KOREAN LANGUAGE]
INTERPRETER: And that’s the very reason I’m here. I don’t why but God has chosen, chosen me to be a channel of God, and I reveal the name, any hidden truth of the bible.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That’s from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Declaration Speech, delivered September 18th, 1974 at Madison Square Garden.