Robert Scheer (born April 4, 1936) is an American journalist who wrote a column for Truthdig that was nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate in publications such as The Huffington Post and The Nation. He is a clinical professor of communications at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. Scheer is editor-in-chief for the Webby Award-winningonline magazine Truthdig. For many years, he co-hosted the nationally syndicated political analysis radio program Left, Right & Center on National Public Radio (NPR), produced at public radio station KCRW in Santa Monica. The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Scheer the 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for his column.
Scheer was born and raised in the Bronx, New York City. His mother, Ida Kuran, was a Russian Jew, and his father, Frederick Scheer, was a Protestant native of Germany; both worked in the garment industry. Robert graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. After graduating from City College of New York with a degree in economics, he studied as a fellow at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and then did further economics graduate work at the Center for Chinese Studies at UC Berkeley. Scheer has also been a Poynter fellow at Yale University, and was a fellow in arms control at Stanford University, the same post once held by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In 1962 in Berkeley, California, Scheer along with David Horowitz, Maurice Zeitlin, Phil Roos, and Sol Stern founded Root and Branch: A Radical Quarterly, one of the earliest campus New Left journals.
While working at City Lights Books in San Francisco, Scheer co-authored Cuba, an American Tragedy (1964) with Maurice Zeitlin. Between 1964 and 1969, he served, variously, as the Vietnam correspondent, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Ramparts magazine in San Francisco. Scheer reported from Cambodia, China, North Korea, Russia, Latin America and the Middle East (including the Six-Day War), as well as on national security matters in the United States. While in Cuba, where he interviewed Fidel Castro, Scheer obtained an introduction by the Cuban leader for the diary of Che Guevara -- which Scheer had already obtained, with the help of French journalist Michele Ray, for publication in Ramparts and by Bantam Books. After Ramparts collapsed, Scheer became a freelance writer who was published in major magazines including Playboy, Look, Esquire, Lear's and Cosmopolitan.
In the late 1960s, Scheer made a bid for elective office as an anti-Vietnam War candidate. He challenged U.S. Representative Jeffrey Cohelan in the 1966 Democratic primary. Cohelan was a liberal, but like most Democratic officeholders at that time, he supported the Vietnam War. Scheer lost, but won over 45% of the vote (and carried Berkeley), a strong enough showing against an incumbent to represent an indicator of the strength of New Left Sixties radicalism.
In July 1970, Scheer accompanied as a journalist a Black Panther Party delegation, led by Eldridge Cleaver, who also wrote for Ramparts, to North Korea, China, and Vietnam. The delegation also contained people from the San Francisco Red Guard, the women's liberation movement, the Peace and Freedom Party, Newsreel, and the Movement for a Democratic Military.
In the November 1970 California elections, Scheer ran for the U.S. Senate as the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party against Republican Senator George Murphy and Democratic Congressman John V. Tunney. Scheer received 56,731 votes and lost the election to Tunney.
After several years freelancing for magazines, including New Times and Playboy, Scheer joined the Los Angeles Times in 1976 as a reporter. There he met Narda Zacchino, a reporter whom he later married in the paper's news room. As a national correspondent for 17 years at the LA Times, he wrote articles and series on diverse topics such as the Soviet Union during glasnost, the Jews of Los Angeles, arms control, urban crises, national politics and the military, and covered several presidential elections. The LA Times entered Scheer's work for the Pulitzer Prize 11 times, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer national reporting award for a series on the television industry.
After Scheer left the LA Times in 1993, the paper granted him a weekly op-ed column which ran every Tuesday for the next 12 years until it was canceled in 2005. The column now appears in Truthdig and is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate. Scheer is also a contributing editor for The Nation magazine. He was heard weekly on the nationally syndicated political analysis radio program Left, Right & Center, produced at and syndicated by public radio station KCRW in Santa Monica, and is a host of Scheer Intelligence, a half-hour KCRW podcast with politically engaged individuals.
Scheer has taught courses at Antioch College, City College of New York, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Berkeley, and is now a clinical professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, where he teaches two courses each semester on media and society.
Scheer interviewed every president from Richard Nixon through Bill Clinton. He conducted the 1976 Playboy interview with Jimmy Carter, in which the then-presidential candidate admitted to having "lusted" in his heart. In an interview with George H.W. Bush, the then presidential candidate revealed that he believed nuclear war was "winnable." Scheer has profiled politicians from Californians Jerry Brown and Willie Brown to Washington insiders like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and figures like actor Tom Cruise.
In an August 6, 2002 article, he wrote that "a consensus of experts" informed the Senate that the Iraqi weapons arsenal was "almost totally destroyed during eight years of inspections." On June 3, 2003, Scheer concluded that White House justifications for the war were a "big lie." On November 4, 2003, he penned an article in favor of withdrawal from Iraq.
In an April 7, 2010 article, he wrote that Harry Truman perpetrated "the most atrocious act of terrorism in world history when he annihilated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Scheer has repeated this assertion on the radio program Left, Right & Center.
In the October 1, 2010 episode of the radio show Left, Right and Center, Scheer, a self-described left-liberal, expressed support for Republican Rand Paul, son of former Libertarian presidential candidate and Republican congressman Ron Paul, in his United States Senate campaign in Kentucky.
Scheer has often expressed highly controversial ideas. In a February 15, 2005 LA Times article entitled "What We Don't Know About 9/11 Hurts Us", he stated: "Would George W. Bush have been reelected president if the public understood how much responsibility his administration bears for allowing the 9/11 attacks to succeed?" After running his column for more than 12 years after he had worked as a reporter for the paper 17 years, the Los Angeles Times ended a nearly 30-year relationship with Scheer in November 2005, citing the need to cut costs, but subsequently replaced him with two conservative columnists. Scheer said in an interview with Democracy Now! that the paper's owner, the Tribune Company, owns a newspaper and a television station in the same market, which is illegal, and may have fired Scheer in an attempt to make it easier to obtain a waiver permitting the dual ownership from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He also commented during a November 14, 2005, appearance on Democracy Now!:
What happened is that I had been the subject of vicious attacks by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. ... I was a punching bag for those guys. I'm still standing, and the people who run the paper collapsed.
In a posting on The Huffington Post, Scheer wrote:
The publisher Jeff Johnson, who has offered not a word of explanation to me, has privately told people that he hated every word that I wrote. I assume that mostly refers to my exposing the lies used by President Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq. Fortunately 60 percent of Americans now get the point but only after tens of thousand of Americans and Iraqis have been killed and maimed as the carnage spirals out of control. My only regret is that my pen was not sharper and my words tougher.
Scheer's firing incited a protest held outside the LA Times downtown office on November 15, and hundreds of readers wrote letters of complaint while some, including Barbra Streisand, publicly announced the cancellation of their LA Times subscriptions. Within a few days of his column being retired by the Times, the San Francisco Chronicle offered itself as the new home paper of Scheer's syndicated column, which ran there for years.
On November 29, 2005 Scheer co-launched, as Editor in Chief, the online news magazine Truthdig, where his column is now based. Scheer's column is syndicated nationally by Creators Syndicate in publications such as The Huffington Post and The Nation. In a 2014 Los Angeles Magazine feature about Truthdig, Ed Leibowitz writes "The columnists and bloggers [of Truthdig] chart an ecosystem in irreversible decline, follow human rights crises and repression overseas, and probe the erosion of American democracy by perpetual war, the disappearance of privacy rights, the abandonment of the poor, and a political system in thrall to corporate titans, gross polluters, and Wall Street crooks. By pursuing these subjects with an intellectual rigor and relentlessness seldom found on the Web, Truthdig has become one of the most critically acclaimed Internet-based news sites in the world. Among the site's most covered stories was an atheist manifesto by writer Sam Harris and a searing birthday tribute to slain U.S. Army Ranger and former NFL star Pat Tillman, written by his brother, Kevin.
Robert Scheer is editor-in-chief of the news website Truthdig, which is a four-time recipient of the Webby Award for best political blog, and in 2013, Truthdig won a fifth award for best politics site.Truthdig is also winner of multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Los Angeles Press Club. Scheer received the 2010 Distinguished Work in New Media Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and in 2011 Ithaca College named Scheer the winner of the Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media.
Scheer was the 1998 honoree of the Shelter Partnership, an organization of Los Angeles downtown businesses as well as the recipient of the USC School of Social Work's Los Amigos Award. He won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for his writing in the Los Angeles Times and The Nation about the case of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee. He has also received awards and citations from Stanford University, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of California, San Diego, and Yale University.
Scheer's first wife was Serena Turan Scheer. Serena, now the widow of poet Lou Embry, is the older sister of film critic Kenneth Turan. A Brooklyn native, she was on the editorial staff of Root and Branch. Scheer married Anne Butterfield Weills in 1965; though they also divorced. Their son Christopher Weills Scheer was born September 8, 1968.
Robert Scheer is now married to Narda Catharine Zacchino. She worked at the Los Angeles Times for 31 years, where she became the associate editor and a vice president. She was later deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Zacchino is the co-author of three books, and is a Senior Fellow at USC's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.
Scheer's book, They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy, was released on February 21, 2015. It was published by Nation Books, who also released Scheer's previous book The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street on September 7, 2010. Publishers Weekly wrote about the latter book saying that it "proves that, when it comes to the ruling sway of money power, Democrats and Republicans, Wall Street and Washington make very agreeable bedfellows." The book made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list and on October 17, 2010 was reviewed in the same paper by Jonathan Kirsch, who wrote
Scheer has written eight other books, including a collection entitled Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power; With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War; and America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals. In 2004, Scheer published The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq, which became a Los Angeles Times Bestseller. It was co-authored by his oldest son, Christopher Scheer, and Lakshmi Chaudhry, senior editor at Alternet.
Scheer's anthology Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton - and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush (Akashic Books, 2006), is a collection of his many interviews, profiles, and columns about Presidents Richard Nixon through George W. Bush.The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America was published in 2008.
In 1998, Scheer played a journalist in the 1998 feature films, The Siege and as a television pundit in the satirical political comedy Bulworth. In 2007 he was in the Argentinian film short colloquially entitled, "La Vuelta del Perro."
Born and raised in the Bronx, and a graduate of City College, Scheer is the former editor of Ramparts, a radical magazine of the 1960s.
In 1962, Scheer and I reunited as Berkeley graduate students and, together with David Horowitz, started one of the first campus New Left journals, Root and Branch.
Horowitz, Zeitlin, and LA Times columnist Robert Scheer founded in 1960 the first journal of the New Left, titled Root and Branch.
Serena Turan Scheer: Editorial staff of Root and Branch
Scheer's wife, Anne Weills Anne he was married to Serena.
The Red Family had been started two years before by Ramparts Magazine editor Bob Scheer and his then-wife, Anne Weills, both active in the antiwar movement; they were now separated but they still lived in the commune.
I dedicated this book to Narda Zacchino not at all because she is my wife but rather because as my editor she has held me to the same high journalistic standards she adhered to during her three decades at the Los Angeles Times, where she rose to become the associate editor and a vice president.
Everyone who has known Narda in her professional capacity as the associate editor of the Los Angeles Times, where we both worked for a combined sixty years, or later as the deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, ...
At her new post as senior editor of the Chronicle, Zacchino is number three on the editorial masthead, ...