Globe-trotting journalist de Borchgrave dies at age 88
Feb. 17, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Belgium-born count who traded his aristocratic title for a reporter's notebook, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 88.
Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave said her husband died of cancer.
De Borchgrave befriended world leaders as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek, filing dispatches from Israel's Six Day War of 1967, Moammar Gaddafi's barracks in Libya and European capitals during the height of the Cold War. He later led The Washington Times during its early years.
"Arnaud was a giant of journalism," said Larry Beasley, president and CEO of The Washington Times. "His globe-trotting reporting kept America informed, and his tireless work as our editor-in-chief helped put The Washington Times on the map in its early days."
As a journalist, de Borchgrave covered 17 wars by his count, including seven stints in Vietnam over two decades. He cultivated his connections to score interviews with world leaders, including back-to-back interviews of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1971.
While his exploits in the field were legendary, so were his extravagances. A colleague told The New Yorker that all de Borchgrave needed to go on assignment were "a tuxedo and a safari suit."
His list of sources was the envy of his colleagues, as was his seemingly limitless expense account from Newsweek.
"He was a dashing figure, a charmer of sorts who knew many of the monarchs, rulers and leaders, and a fine reporter," former Newsweek owner Katharine Graham wrote in her memoir, "Personal History." ''And he was good for the magazine."
But, as The Washington Post noted in its obituary, Graham added dryly, "he also lived very well off it."
De Borchgrave left Newsweek in 1980 over a disagreement over his coverage of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He then turned to novels, co-writing two with The Economist's Robert Moss. Their first, "The Spike," described fictional Soviet efforts to influence the Western media, while the follow-up "Monimbo" dealt with Cuban-sponsored terrorism and drug dealing.
In 1985, he became editor of the recently launched Washington Times. The conservative newspaper was backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, a religious group often described as a cult.
The newspaper had a loyal following inside President Ronald Reagan's administration but at times made unusual editorial decisions. For instance, its editorial page lobbied Reagan to pardon Moon, who was convicted of tax evasion, according to the Post.
De Borchgrave retired from The Washington Times in 1991 and became the top executive at United Press International, where he began his journalism career.
Arnaud Paul Charles Marie-Philippe de Borchgrave d'Altena was born a Belgian count on Oct. 26, 1926. He told colleagues he would have been 13th in line to the Belgian throne had he not given up his title to become an American citizen.
He was educated in Belgium, Great Britain and the United States. As a teenager, he volunteered for service in the British Royal Navy.