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Howard Ahmanson Responds To Vanity Fair

Philanthropist denies magazine report about his support for my TAC work

Howard Ahmanson Jr.

I hate to send to you paid subscribers a second email on the same day, but this is important. Last week, Vanity Fair wrote a scurrilous article about my departure from The American Conservative. The magazine relied on anonymous sources, who told the reporter that the philanthropist Howard Ahmanson, who has generously funded my position at TAC these past twelve years — not totally, but in large part —, withdrew his funding because he objected to certain things I had been writing, that he allegedly found “weird”. 

I did not response to the reporter when he sought comment, nor did TAC’s editor, because Howard had never objected to either of us about anything I had written. If Howard secretly held these opinions, they were news to us. I wrote to Howard repeatedly asking him if he felt that way, and if so, why didn’t he come to me with his concerns. He responded that the article was untrue. I asked Howard to please set the record straight publicly, to try to rescue some of my reputation.

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He has provided the statement below for publication in TAC, though I don’t know if TAC will publish it, though I wish it would. Howard gives me permission to share it here:

To The American Conservative’s readers:

On Friday, March 10, Vanity Fair published an article entitled “How Rod Dreher’s Blog Got a Little “Too Weird” for The American Conservative,” which alleged that I said a number things that I never said. I want to correct the record.

In the first place, I have not been for many years “the sole benefactor” of Rod’s salary at TAC. My granting entity Fieldstead & Company has indeed reduced its current grant to The American Ideas Institute (TAII), the 501c3 organization that publishes TAC, but that is primarily because my wife’s and my move to Texas, along with our businesses and family office, has proved to be very expensive. Fieldstead’s grant to TAII had to be reduced for that reason, along with a reduction in the amount of current donations to a number of other traditional grant recipients. When I advised TAC that Fieldstead’s grant would be reduced, I made it clear that TAC was free to use any portion of the reduced Fieldstead grant to support Rod’s work. It is my understanding that the executive staff of TAC concluded that Rod’s blog should be discontinued due to TAC’s own reduced funding.

Regarding some of the specific statements made in the Vanity Fair article, I have thought that some of Rod’s recent work (over and over again about Tarkovsky and St. Galgano) was getting a little too far out there, but I remember nothing about his post on “Gary Shteyngart’s Gentile Region,” whatever that was, or ever saw him obsessed with things anal. I am not familiar with the terms of TAC’s out-of-court settlement in Kentucky, nor am I aware of any major disturbances arising from Rod’s praise of Orbàn. Personally, I don’t know what to think of Orbàn. Overall, I have been pleased that Fieldstead has been able to support Rod’s work for a number of years.

I do not know who the Vanity Fair reporter’s two sources were, but I am certain they were not among my staff or my circle of friends and close acquaintances. Whoever they were, they have done a disservice to Rod, as well as to me.


Howard F. Ahmanson

14 March 2023

I appreciate this statement so much. I know for a fact that at least one of the opinions attributed to Howard — that the recent controversy over my reporting of PM Viktor Orban’s words were a factor in Fieldstead withdrawing the grant — was not true, and could not have been true. The Orban controversy happened a few weeks ago; Howard withdrew the grant in December of last year. Whoever Vanity Fair’s sources are, they got some things right, but mostly didn’t know what they were talking about. 

I should say, for the record, that Howard’s objection to my mentioning Andrei Tarkovsky and St. Galgano “over and over” was not something to do with my TAC blog, but rather with this Substack newsletter, to which Howard subscribes. I absolutely wrote a great deal in the past two years about Tarkovsky and St. Galgano, but almost everything I wrote about them was in this space, not the space Fieldstead helped subsidize at TAC.

In any case, I remain deeply grateful to Howard and Roberta Ahmanson for their steadfast support for my work at TAC over the years. So very much of what I have been able to accomplish is because of their faith in and financial support for me. 

I hope that the people running TAC now will do what they can to find out who within TAC world went to Vanity Fair bearing malicious half-truths designed to hurt me, to hurt Howard, and to diminish the magazine. The mystery might never be solved, and anyway, I’m no longer part of TAC, so it’s not my business anymore. That said, to have within the magazine’s orbit the kind of people who would pull something like this has to be unnerving to the others who work there, who now have to watch their backs. It was a damn shame to have left a dozen years of working at TAC on that sour note, but hey, that’s life. 

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About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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