In addition to her connection to the Chicago Tribune publishing empire, Mrs. Tankersley, known as “Bazy,” descended from a formidable political family, as well.
Her parents and stepfather served in Congress. So did her maternal grandfather, Mark Hanna, a Republican political kingmaker who had been an adviser to President William McKinley and a force in the building of the Panama Canal.
Bazy McCormick Miller, as she was known in the 1940s after marrying for the first time, was prepared by her uncle, Robert R. McCormick, to be heir apparent to the Tribune company. The Tribune was one of the world’s most powerful newspapers, a champion of an isolationist foreign policy and an influential voice in the Republican Party.
Robert McCormick, a bombastic and mercurial publisher, was childless and doted on his niece. She got early training running a daily newspaper with her first husband in La Salle, Ill., and organizing “Twenties for Taft” clubs to support 1948 GOP presidential candidate Robert A. Taft. In 1949, her uncle tapped her to run the Tribune’s newly purchased Washington Times-Herald. She was 28.
The Times-Herald, the Tribune’s chief presence in the nation’s capital, was known for its sensationalistic coverage of politics. Its circulation of 278,000 made it one of the city’s biggest newspapers, a major competitor with the Washington Star, The Washington Post and the Washington Daily News.
Robert McCormick bought the tabloid, he said, to bring “the American point of view” to Washington.
In a nod to her uncle’s well-known political and geographic sympathies, Bazy Miller described herself a daughter of the Midwest, a region that was “the heart and soul and stability of the country.” Washington, she added, was in contrast “a parasite community.”
Following dictates from Chicago, the paper was a mouthpiece for right-wing causes and played a role in unseating Sen. Millard E. Tydings (D-Md.) in 1950 in favor of a Republican candidate, John Marshall Butler.
The Times-Herald published a four-page section during the race that included a composite photograph showing Tydings apparently casting an admiring gaze at Communist Party leader Earl Browder.
The composite — two separate images pasted together — was one of many factors that provoked a Senate subcommittee investigation of the tactics used in the Tydings race. In testimony, Bazy Miller said her friend Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.), the reckless anti-Communist crusader, asked her to print the special section.
A second scandal befell the paper in 1951, when Drew Pearson filed a $5.1 million suit against the Times-Herald, McCarthy and others for what he said was a conspiracy to smear his reputation. The columnist, a frequent McCarthy critic, dropped the suit in 1956 after reaching an undisclosed settlement.