Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Randolph's Hearse

Hearst Apologist?

Book cover: The Chief
Book cover: The Chief

In his comprehensive, nearly 700-page book on Hearst, entitled simply The Chief (including over 50 pages of footnotes), author David Nasaw makes scant and only cursory reference to the circumstances surrounding Ince's death. He glosses over the incident and devotes barely a page and a half to something that, alone, should have been worthy of at least an entire chapter. Writing in 1999 for the book which was published the following year, Nasaw asserted, "Today, seventy-five years after Ince's death, there is still no credible evidence that he was murdered or that Hearst was involved in any foul play."

In giving credence to the widely circulated story of Ince's death from natural causes — acute indigestion, heart attack, or whatever — Nasaw may have meekly and compliantly allowed himself to be co-opted by the still-powerful Hearst family interests. It needs to be noted that, when the private papers of William Randolph Hearst were finally opened to public scrutiny in the 1990s, Nasaw was the first writer who was granted access to them. And that access didn't come easy for him. According to a story in the Albany (NY) Times-Union (a Hearst newspaper), it came after four years of protracted negotiations with the Hearst family. It appears safe to speculate that not saying anything bad about "Pops" might have been a pre-condition for Nasaw being awarded first crack at those papers.

It's worth noting, also, that Nasaw positions himself as an apologist for Hearst on other occasions in the book. Most notable among them is his weak and unconvincing attempt to explain what Hearst's rationale was for his reported directive to Frederic Remington on the eve of the Spanish-American War: the one in which he allegedly told Remington, "You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war."

According to Nasaw's interpretation, "Hearst might well have written the telegram to Remington, but if he did, the war he was referring to was the one already being fought between the Cuban revolutionaries and the Spanish army, not the one the Americans would later fight." The historical record conclusively establishes that Hearst was trying to goad the U.S. into declaring war on Spain, and Remington himself — who was there in Havana at the time — had reported that there was no "war" going on between the Cuban rebels and the Spaniards. What other conclusion is it possible to draw from the tone of Hearst's ultimatum? Headlines like "NOW TO AVENGE THE MAINE!" and "HOW DO YOU LIKE THE JOURNAL'S WAR?" would appear to speak for themselves.

(A further note: Nasaw writes that the first Cuban rebellion against Spanish rule took place in 1868 when it is a matter of historical fact that Narciso Lopez led two expeditions to Cuba in the early 1850s that attempted to throw off Spain's rule.)

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