Theocrat Buys Philly Inquirer Newspaper. Just in Time to Help Santorum?
mrblifil printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 25, 2006 at 11:07:52 AM EST

Cross posted at DKos

Who is Brian P. Tierney, and why does he want to own the Philadelphia Inquirer? NY Times business section attempts to fill us in.

Mr. Tierney, who will be the chief executive, has been involved in Republican politics, served as a corporate spokesman for Sunoco and has represented the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

"Involved in Republican politics?" Sounds harmless enough. I'm sure if Tierney had been once on the GOP payroll, had defended abuser priests, and ran a church funded marketing campaign targeting 3 million pro-life Catholics for Bush, they'd let us know. 3 million pro-life Catholics for Bush. Follow me below the jump and we'll do some novenas together.

Meanwhile Kathryn Q. Seelye can try this on for size.
In February 1999 the Republican National Committee formed a "Catholic Task Force" to work among Catholics to support Bush for President. <snip>

...Brian Tierney, a prominent Philadelphia businessman (Tierney Communications) and advisor to Cardinal Bevilaqua, was on the Catholic Task Force formed to campaign for Bush. He was later largely responsible for putting together a list of three million Catholics for a direct-mail and phone political campaign.

Ahem...starting to feel a tad uneasy? A key player in the "Catholic Task Force," assisting in a huge effort to coordinate the Catholic laity so that they will contribute to and vote for  Republicans. But altar boy Brian P. Tierney, nothing if not a good Catholic, is eager to assuage our fears:
At the news conference, Mr. Tierney said all the investors had signed a pledge that they would not attempt to influence or interfere with either the news coverage or the editorial pages of the papers. In an interview, he said the pledge would extend to the papers' endorsements of political candidates.

"I understand the concern, but we don't want to be involved in that," Mr. Tierney said. He said his expertise was in advertising and marketing and he would focus his energies on those. "The best way to kill this as a business," he said, would be to tamper with the integrity of the papers, "so I pledge to you that won't be the case."

Isn't that nice? He understands the concern. Only there's a slight hitch.

You see, not so long ago a reporter at the Inquirer got interested as to how the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was spending it's money:

In Tierney's case, there is considerable evidence that his aggressive PR campaigning for the Archdiocese crossed the line from advocacy into something more than that. The city's former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua told Editor and Publisher in 2001 that Tierney had "stopped the story" that Ralph Cipriano was trying to write about his spending practices. Cipriano, one of the best journalists we had in this city, was ultimately fired by the Inquirer. sued the newspaper for libel, and received a reported $7 million.
Ulp! How's that? Attempting to stop a reporter's story before he ever even thought of signing the checks of that reporter's editors. Well I'm sure he was polite about it...

Here's how the National Catholic Reporter. on March 2, 2001, described Tierney's response to Cipriano's efforts to investigate spending practices at the Archdiocese:

Upset at the direction Cipriano's investigation was taking, Tierney staged three meetings with Inquirer editors, where, as is his method, he does not dialogue but harangues his captive listeners non-stop, employing slangy language like "cool" and "dude," not letting his listeners forget that, with his control of his clients' advertising budgets, he is one of the most powerful men in town.

According to Nicholson's report on Cipriano's legal complaint, Tierney warned Cipriano and the editors he could "ruin" them and said to Cipriano, "We got rid of you once, and we'll do it again." The Inquirer's Jonathan Neumann, who was Cipriano's supervisor, described Tierney's method as "insulting" and "demeaning." Phillip Dixon, currently deputy managing editor, called it "venomous."

Tierney has denied some of the allegations, and surely he'd say he was merely advocating forcefully for his client -- but the idea of the implied advertising threat is alarming. How would he respond to a similar move by somebody else if he became publisher of the newspapers here?

(_hat tip to jennifer poole)

Ouch. Sounds like Tierney really enjoyed his seminar at the John Bolton School of Abrasive Assholitude.

Now, W.C. Fields may not have loved Philadelphia, but he knew something about timing.  Could it be that Brian P. Tierney also has an intuitive, uncanny sense of when to make a move?  Say, gain control of a newspaper a few months shy of November, when a Republican senatorial candidate is trailing in the polls? That's the ticket. What follows is pure supposition, but the questions raised deserve at least an airing.

As you may have surmised Brian P. Tierney is no stranger to the movers and shakers of the Republican party. The PR firm he founded, Tierney Communications, is listed several times at, not as a contributor to, but as a recipient of Republican largesse. A contract for $470,000 for "website services" during the 2000 nominating convention in Philly that gave us Bush, and again in 2002 election cycle (Oddly, Tierney himself is listed as a "salary" expenditure for 2004, with the bizarre description of a "Cottage Grove" for which the GOP paid him $284).

Call me a tinfoil hat nut, but it got me to thinking. The GOP is not known for their savvy forays into "website services." Just ask Gannon/Guckert. But is lately pretty slick, from a design standpoint. So is Santorum's "blog"/website. Now, I wonder. Let's just say I'm a conservative Senator in Pennsylvania, with an office in Harrisburg (pdf). Let's say furthermore that I am an outspoken conservative Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and I need someone to coordinate my campaign website. Doesn't it stand to reason that I might at least ask the powerful Pennsylvania PR executive with deep Catholic ties, whose firm received nearly $1 million from the GOP for coordinating their campaign web presence, how to increase my hits? Might I not be tempted to contract that individual's firm to flat out go ahead and create the site?

I'm drawing no conclusions. For all I know Santorum's webmaster works out of some darkened dorm room at Bob Jones University while being observed by a suicide watch detail. But it does seem fairly plausible that the new owner of the paper of record for the city of Philadelphia just might have some sort of a hand in Senator Santorum's campaign website (where else that hand has got to, God only knows). Which would in a way make him an employee of a political candidate, at the same time he is promising not to mix politics with journalism. Why do I feel like Tierney's promise of editorial independence, together with about $3.75 will get me a sandwich at D'Allesandro's?

I wrote to Tierney Communications and asked if they have anything to do with the or Santorum campaign websites. I have yet to receive a reply. Maybe it would be a good idea to add some other voices to my lone query. The person in charge of PR queries is: Steve Albertini. Send him some love, or don't. Whatever floats your boat. At the very least I'd like to see at least a local reporter ask Tierney about his oath not to promote candidates in the Inquirer, given his well documented history of strident advocacy, as well as the lucrative ties he has to the RNC and others.

In conclusion I'm going to pervert an old adage for my purposes: "If they say it's not about dominating editorial content with a conservative agenda, it's about dominating editorial content with a conservative agenda."

Thanks to Troutfishing for inviting me to share it here. Feel free to reformat or alter as you wish. Shout out to Mr. Clarkson and the indominatable moiv.

by mrblifil on Thu May 25, 2006 at 11:10:06 AM EST

Mrblifil, you have provided an an excellent piece of information on the Catholic Right.  You have identified a very important player--kudos!  

If you don't mind I would like to pick up on Tierney in my coming posts in my series. This fellow clearly qualifies as one of the "nefarious friends of the Church" who drive away the decent folks.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun May 28, 2006 at 12:55:58 PM EST

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