- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

No-nonsense radio self-help guru Laura Schlessinger toasted The Washington Times Tuesday night for two decades of "getting it first and getting it right."

Mrs. Schlessinger ought to know. Two years ago, when her radio and television programs were besieged by homosexual rights activists who accused her of homophobic bigotry, only The Washington Times, she said, bothered to call to get her side of the story.

"Every newspaper every radio host, all clamored for my head on a platter, except for The Washington Times," Mrs. Schlessinger said, thanking the newspaper for portraying the assault "for what it was: an attack on free speech."

"From one survivor to another, we're still here," she told the crowd of 3,000 partygoers who had gathered at the Washington Hilton to celebrate The Washington Times' impact both inside the Beltway and beyond.

The evening's pre-dinner reception mirrored the newspaper's international scope. Guests, who wore traditional business attire as well as the native dress of their various homelands, joined in marveling at oversized reproductions of the paper's most remarkable front pages from the past two decades.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said everyone who can remember Washington before The Times' debut in 1982 agrees that it has had "an incredible impact."

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, whose column appears in The Times and more than 500 other newspapers, agreed and said the increasing number of one-newspaper towns in America troubled him.

"I can't imagine Washington without The Times," Mr. Thomas said, underscoring the importance of an alternative view in the capital of the most powerful country in the world.

Wesley Pruden, The Washington Times' editor in chief, took pleasure in tweaking the Greek chorus of critics who had predicted a short life for The Times.

"Six weeks, they said. The Washington Post will wring your neck like a chicken," Mr. Pruden said, acknowledging the theft of a line from Winston Churchill. "Some neck. Some chicken."

Sen. Conrad Burns was one in a series of speakers who attested to the paper's growing clout. "I wish you had a better circulation in Montana; it would sure help me out a lot," Mr. Burns said.

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the newspaper's founder, received a standing ovation. "Over the years," he said, "more than a billion dollars have been invested in The Washington Times alone, but I have never regretted this nor felt enmity toward anyone."

The guest list was notably eclectic, with administration officials, members of Congress, diplomats, teachers, journalists, religious leaders and businessmen sighted in the sprawling crowd that filled the entire ballroom and an adjacent room as well. Among those sighted: Asa Hutchinson, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration; former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore; Reps. Bob Barr, Jennifer Dunn, Joe Wilson, Dana Rohrabacher, Todd Akin and Roscoe Barnett; former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger; former Sens. Harry Flood Byrd Jr., Richard S. Schweiker and Malcolm Wallop; and more than two dozen ambassadors, including those from Peru, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Ukraine, Bahrain, Kuwait, Cyprus and Slovenia.

The dinner program blended a hearty dose of music with the heartfelt testimonials. Country singer Randy Travis played for the packed house, including a husky rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" in his inimitable baritone.

Not to be outdone, the Children of the Gospel Choir belted out a pair of gospel numbers that brought roars of appreciation. The Times also bestowed its Courage in Leadership Awards to Virginia State Trooper Michael Middleton, Fairfax County Fire Capt. Jerry Roussillon and Arlington County Fire Capt. Stephen McCoy for their heroism in the aftermath of the September 11 attack at the Pentagon.

Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria of the Organization of American States received the International Courage in Leadership Award for his efforts on behalf of human rights. The Rev. Floyd Flake of the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Queens, N.Y., and Michael S. Joyce, founder and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise, received the newspaper's National Courage in Leadership Awards.

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