Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune and a newspaper publisher who funded libertarian and conservative causes and various projects to discredit President Bill Clinton, has died. He was 82.
Scaife died early today at his home, his newspaper, the
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reported. Scaife's death comes less than two months after he announced in a first-person,
front-page story in his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he had
an untreatable form of cancer.
"Some who dislike me may rejoice at the news," wrote
Scaife, who acknowledged making political and other enemies.
"Naturally, I can't share their enthusiasm."
He was the grand-nephew of Andrew Mellon, a banker and
secretary of the Treasury who was involved with some of the
biggest industrial companies of the early 20th century. Forbes
magazine estimated Scaife's net worth in 2013 at USD 1.4
The intensely private Scaife became widely known in the
1990s when first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said her husband was being attacked by a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
White House staffers and other supporters suggested Scaife was playing a central role in the attack.
Several foundations controlled by Scaife gave millions of
dollars to organisations run by critics of Clinton, including
USD 1.7 million for a project at the conservative American
Spectator magazine to dig up information about his role in the
Whitewater real estate scandal.
Scaife rarely gave interviews, but in a sit-down with
George magazine editor John F Kennedy Jr in 1998, he called
President Clinton "an embarrassment."
In the interview, Scaife denied that his money helped
support an effort to hurt the president, but he suggested
Clinton might be linked to the deaths of dozens of
administration officials and associates, including White House
Deputy Counsel Vince Foster and onetime Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.
Foster's death was determined to be a suicide; Brown died in a plane crash.
Scaife also accused Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel
whose investigation led to Clinton's impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, to be a "mole working for the
Scaife's stance toward the Clintons softened years later.
In an interview published in early 2008, he told Vanity
Fair magazine he and the former president had a "very
pleasant" lunch the previous summer, and "I never met such a
charismatic man in my whole life."
Clinton gave Scaife an autographed copy of his book, and
Scaife said he later sent USD 100,000 to the Clinton Global
Initiative. (Scaife also said philandering "is something that
Bill Clinton and I have in common.")
Scaife's newspaper also endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton's
bid for president in 2008.