Martha Gellhorn: Pioneering the Mainstream Media


When mentioned by female journalists today, Martha Gellhorn is cited as a pioneer by breaking the bounds of females reporting in combat conditions.

But Gellhorn is also a pioneer in another area; that of the mainstream media. As with today’s leftist-dominated news media, Gellhorn threw objectivity to the wind (although, to her credit, she was much more forthright about this than the CNN crowd today who feign objectivity), and was clearly soft on the political left.

Gellhorn came from a liberal background; her mother was a decided feminist. Her marriages were all to left-wing men. But it took the Great Depression and the New Deal efforts to combat it that activated her political sentiments. Working for the government as a field investigator into the living standards of the poor, she blasted the capitalist system that allowed such misery, and soon came to the attention of the FBI as a “dangerous communist” determined to incite riots.

Acting like a groupie to Ernest Hemingway, she managed to persuade the anti-war writer to support the left-wing Loyalist government in Spain besieged by a Hitler-backed military rebellion. Her politics on her sleeve, she made enemies of the non-communist reporters stationed there for “writing less than they know and caring less than they should.”

Fur-coated, the very image of the limousine leftist, she visited Loyalist troops and ignored the murders carried out by the Soviets (who were providing select military aid to the obedient) against those who dared to criticize Stalin.

To her credit, Gellhorn was no coward. To cover the D-Day invasion, she disguised herself as a nurse on a ship bound for the French coast. Wherever bullets were flying–in Vietnam, in Nicaragua–she was there.

But she was a pioneer for the soft-on-the-Left- blame-America-first journalism we labor under today. During the Cold War, she designated America as the “number one threat” to peace. She never wavered in her belief that Alger Hiss (outed as a Soviet spy) was framed by sinister anti-communist forces in the United States as a means to urinate on her beloved FDR’s grave.

Nor did she ever abandon her bobbysoxer awe of Mao Tse Tung (who she met with Hemingway on a visit to bombed-out China in 1941), even when the communist dictator was murdering his people in the millions during his Cultural Revolution.

She was a decided apologist for Castro’s Cuba, even when his murderous excesses were becoming apparent even to those initially supportive of the communist dictator. She wore such leftist blinders that she never questioned what her “heroic” Vietcong would do to democracy if they won (she kept quiet when the North conquered the South and instituted ruthless executions), and never sought to interview the South Vietnamese government.

There is certainly merit in celebrating Gellhorn as gutsy. She did indeed break grounds for female journalists wishing to report from combat zones. But courage comes in all forms, and with regard to the intellectual brand of courage, which involved reporting the blemishes of both sides, she was hardly brave.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

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