CBS correspondent Ike Pappas spent several minutes talking with his friends Warren and Sonia Adler Monday night as the Adlers picketed in front of the Corcoran Gallery during a party for The Washington Times. Pappas walked briefly with the small group protesting the Times' association with the Unification Church, but refused to carry a placard and was not present to be a part of the demonstration.
Crab claws and lobster were devoured by the boatload, tiny beads of perspiration dripped onto designer dresses, expensive champagne flowed sweet and steady and the Strolling Strings strummed love themes from every musical imaginable. As jammed Washington receptions go, it seemed quite typical.
But it wasn't. After 10 months of mourning the death of The Washington Star, the city got a second newspaper yesterday. And the publishers wanted to make good and sure everyone heard the news.
The Washington Times--the one-day-old daily that is already commonly referred to as "The Moonie Paper" because of its backing by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church--threw a grandiose inaugural gala last night at the prestigious Corcoran Gallery of Art.
There wasn't a Cabinet member or senior White House official in sight, although they had all been invited, but conservative leaders Terry Dolan and Howard Phillips were there. So were Richard Allen, the former national security adviser, and Ernest Lefever, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Sen. Sam Hayakawa (R-Calif.) also showed up. He seemed to be the sole member of Congress who did.
They were not the familiar faces often found at exclusive receptions in Washington--but then again it wasn't exactly exclusive. The crowd was unusually thick with "pro-life" and other conservative lobbyists, agency underlings who came for dinner and curious reporters. About 8,000 were invited, and at least 2,000 ultimately thronged into the Corcoran.
Such as Baptist minister Colin Thorne. "I certainly have some misgivings about a church that tries to control people's minds," said Thorne, making his way from the raw bar to the roast beef, "but as a minister I had to come and find out what was going on so I could make a recommendation to my people."
But this was certainly not a fertile environment for the politically timid.
Outside, police watched as about 50 protesters picketed the party, and the fledgling newspaper, because of its association with the Unification Church. "You've been duped by the Moonies" and "Washington Times is a Moonie Paper" were among the slogans on the placards carried by polite picketers, who included CBS correspondent Ike Pappas, former ambassador to Switzerland True Davis, socialite Judy Lewis, and Dossier magazine owners Warren and Sonia Adler, whose son David was briefly a member of the Unification Church. These people are not convinced the paper will have editorial autonomy.
"You're giving them social acceptance, and they don't deserve it," called out one protester to arriving guests, who included many of the paper's new staff members and Bo Hi Pak, News World Communications president, a longtime friend and adviser to the Rev. Moon.
"We are not giving them social acceptance," responded a woman.
"For a lousy drink, you're legitimizing them," shouted another picketer. "I'll buy you a drink."
Inside, executives of the newspaper stood in the sweltering gallery shaking hands with their guests, relatively insulated from the commotion outside. "Why should I be concerned with 20 protesters when 2,000 people showed up here," said Washington Times publisher and host James Whelan.
"I am not unsympathetic to whatever circumstances led them to this position," said Phil Evans, an assistant managing editor, "but I think they're out of touch with the reality of the situation. My experience is that it is not a sinister organization kidnaping children."
Ruth Dean, veteran reporter from The Washington Star who is a feature writer for The Washington Times, was visibly angered that an old friend and fellow reporter who was at the party had asked her why a "good Catholic girl like you" is writing for The Times. "I couldn't believe it," said Dean. "I asked her what she was doing here. Stuffing her face, that's what."
Even Whelan, however, alluded to the concerns surrounding the paper's birth in his remarks, promising that "trust and confidence in The Washington Times will not be misplaced. You will not be disappointed." Opera singer Lavina Garner then sang "God Bless America," followed by "The Sound of Music," to the guests, most of whom sported large decorative gold ribbons reading "The Inauguration of the Washington Times."
It was only last week that the board of directors of the Corcoran discovered the newspaper was backed by the Unification Church. Infuriated by the news, they fleetingly entertained the idea of canceling the reception.
Not even the caterer was immune from the critical eye of his other customers. "I'll tell you I got a few calls about why we decided to do this," said Ridgewell's president Jeff Ellis. "But we don't discriminate. These people are not fascists. They're not communists. And it might just be a good paper."
Although Ellis would not comment, the cost of the party was estimated by others to be in excess of $50,000. The food was extravagant, but getting to it was another story. And the stifling temperature inside the gallery would have wilted the stiffest hairdos.
Many of the guests came in support of another voice in the nation's capital.
"They all swear they're going to try very hard to be fair," said Hayakawa. And then, getting slightly agitated, he asked, "Is The Washington Post fair for God's sake?"
"Anyone who wants to start a second paper, I'll go to their party," said mayoral candidate Betty Ann Kane.
As the last cocktail shrimp vanished, guests slowly trickled out of the Corcoran by 9. The protesters were replaced by two little girls carrying their own placards. They read, "My Uncle Is A Moonie, And We Love Him. Give The Washington Times a Chance."