Conason, Joe 1954(?)-

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Conason, Joe 1954(?)-


Born c. 1954; son of Emanuel V. and Eleanor L. Conason (owners of a contemporary design and crafts store); married Elizabeth Horan Wagley (a fundraising consultant), October 12, 2002. Education: Received degree from Brandeis University.


Home—New York, NY. Office—, 22 4th St., 16th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103. E-mail—[email protected]


Journalist and author. East Boston Community News, reporter; Real Paper, reporter; Village Voice, columnist, staff writer, and national correspondent, 1978-90; New York Observer, columnist, political editor, and national correspondent, 1992—;, author of daily Web log "Joe Conason's Journal." Also coproducer of the documentary The Hunting of the President based on author's book; previously editor-at-large for Conde Nast's Details magazine.


(With Gene Lyons) The Hunting of the President: The Ten-year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Raw Deal: How the Bush Republicans Plan to Destroy Social Security and the Legacy of the New Deal, preface by James Roosevelt, Jr., foreword by Al Franken, PoliPointPress (Sausalito, CA), 2005.

It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Guardian, New Yorker, and Harper's; columnist for and the New York Observer.


The Hunting of the President was adapted as a film in 2004.


Author, editor, and journalist Joe Conason is a columnist for the Internet magazine and is the national correspondent for the liberal New York Observer. He wrote, with Gene Lyons, The Hunting of the President: The Ten-year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, and is the solo author of Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth.

The Hunting of the President is a detailed account of what former U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton once called the "vast, right-wing conspiracy" directed at her and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Robert F. Nardini, a contributor to the Library Journal, commented that Conason and Lyons's reporting is "thickly documented" and "makes a firm case" for their allegations. The book begins with Bill Clinton's 1989 gubernatorial reelection campaign in Arkansas and ends with the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal. The authors discuss difficult times the Clinton presidency endured, such as the Whitewater real estate investigation, the Arkansas Project, the Paula Jones lawsuit, and the Lewinsky scandal. A Publishers Weekly contributor found that the authors' "cast of characters is enormous, and their research overwhelming," yet noted that the book would help readers "gain a considerably more balanced and complex picture of the road to impeachment."

James Bowman commented in the Washington Post that "if even a fraction of the allegations against President Clinton laboriously charted by Conason and Lyons are indeed as false and fanciful as … represented … here, then there is a powerful evidence that the siren song of a possible ‘cover-up’ enticed a great many journalists, politicians and others into error."

Noting the wealth of new books by both conservative and liberal authors, Ilene Cooper in Booklist called Conason's second book, Big Lies, "more raw meat for the lions of the Left and the Right to devour." In the book Conason sets out to refute what right-wing conservatives often remark are the hallmarks of liberal politics, ideas propagated by the right through books, television, and radio talk shows. Points heavily contested are that liberals are unpatriotic, soft on crime, "politically correct," and fiscally irresponsible; that they raise taxes and promote immorality; and that that the media is liberally biased. Jill Ortner, writing in American Libraries, noted that Conason "methodically presents evidence to the contrary while showing how conservatives/Republicans fail to measure up" to their own standards.

A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that in Big Lies Conason "flushes the hypocrisy out of conservative rants and jibes at liberals." Washington Post contributor Steve Weinberg noted that "Conason deserves high marks for the book's organization" and added: "He deserves praise as well for allowing that Republicans and/or conservatives can be good human beings…. His thinking often transcends glib and clever to warrant the phrase ‘downright deep.’" New York Times Book Review contributor Michael Janeway wrote, "His chapter on ‘crony capitalism’—the web of deals, ventures and profiteering on the part of President Bush, his family members and their allies—is worth the price of the book," even though it is drawn from other sources. William O'Rourke, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, described Conason as "straight out of the liberal muckraker tradition, a journalist … who sets out to expose corruption in big business and government." Big Lies, noted O'Rourke, "is a rigorous and devastating portrait of the last three Republican administrations."

In his next book, The Raw Deal: How the Bush Republicans Plan to Destroy Social Security and the Legacy of the New Deal, Conason looks at efforts to reform Social Security and how an ongoing campaign by government leaders, primarily Republicans, misrepresents their efforts and their true goals. According to the author, the Republicans' goal is to privatize Social Security, with the ultimate result greatly benefiting corporate interests while providing far less benefits for the general public.

Conason's book It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush borrows the first part of its title from a Sinclair Lewis novel. In an interview with Amy Goodman on the Democracy Now! Web site, the author noted that Lewis's novel "was kind of a satirical novel about the rise of fascism in the United States, which doesn't sound like a very funny subject, but he managed to bring some humor to a very grim subject, which was our descent into an authoritarian state after the 1936 election." Conason went on to describe how Lewis's then wife, Dorothy Thompson, was a reporter in Germany in the 1930s who was told to leave the country for writing the truth about Adolf Hitler. When she returned to the United States, Thompson was convinced that the world was facing a fascist rise to power, prompting her husband to write the novel It Can Happen Here. Conason told Goodman: "I read that book … and it occurred to me that there were many striking parallels, actually, between what Sinclair Lewis had imagined as the kind of authoritarianism that could come to America and some of the things that we had been seeing in the last several years here."

In his book, Conason examines what he considers to be a threat to the future of democracy in the United States. The author delves into a wide range of topics in the process, including government favoritism to big business, right-wing conservatism in religion, and attacks on logic and science. He pays special attention to what he perceives to be the proclivity of the George H. Bush administration to make a more powerful presidency and encourage a type of xenophobic nationalism based on fear. The ultimate result, fears Conason, is that these factors will ultimately consolidate dictatorial-like powers and tear down civil liberties.

Jacob Hilbrunn, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted that the author "ably catalogs the Bush administration's attempts to subvert civil liberties." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Conason delivers his usual cogent, hard-hitting critique of Republican misdeeds." Several reviewers cautioned, however, that readers should take into account Conason's liberal politics. Nevertheless, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "However readers might feel about Conason's political viewpoints, his caution is worth considering."



American Libraries, September, 2003, Jill Ortner, review of Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth.

Booklist, February 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Hunting of the President: The Ten-year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, p. 1050; August, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Big Lies, p. 1946; February 15, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush, p. 26.

Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2003, William O'Rourke, "Thunder from the Left: Journalist Conason Takes on Mudslinging Ranters of the Right," p. 11.

Daily Variety, March 19, 2004, Dennis Harvey, "The Hunting of the President," p. 36.

Economist, July 29, 2000, "Moreover: Washington, Babylon?," pp. 81-82.

Editor & Publisher, April 19, 2007, "Conason: Coulter's Alleged Voting Fraud Doesn't Bother GOP."

Hollywood Reporter, June 18, 2004, Frank Scheck, "The Hunting of the President," p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of Big Lies, p. 843.

Library Journal, February 15, 2000, Robert F. Nardini, review of The Hunting of the President, p. 182.

New York Times Book Review, August 31, 2003, Michael Janeway, "Propaganda Machinists versus Carping Harpies," p. 11; March 4, 2007, Jacob Hilbrunn, "Why They Fight," review of It Can Happen Here.

Nieman Reports, fall, 2000, Michael Gartner, "An Indictment of the Washington Press," p. 68.

Progressive, December, 2003, review of Big Lies, p. 36.

Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2000, review of The Hunting of the President, p. 301; June 23, 2003, review of Big Lies, p. 58; September 1, 2003, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Two Rights Make a Wrong," p. 18; January 1, 2007, review of It Can Happen Here, p. 41.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of It Can Happen Here.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, September 3, 2004, "‘Hunting of the President’ Looks at Starr Probe," p. 18.

Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), October 2, 2003, Pamela H. Sacks, "Big Lies Author on Tap Tonight," p. C5.

Variety, March 29, 2004, Dennis Harvey, review of "The Hunting of the President," p. 87.

Washington Post, March 29, 2000, James Bowman, "The President, Right or Wrong," p. C11; August 31, 2003, Steve Weinberg, "Going to Extremes," p. T4.


ArcaMax Publishing, (December 8, 2007), brief profile of author.

Buzz, (July 25, 2002), "Joe Conason: A Buzzflash Interview."

Democracy Now!, (March 14, 2007), Amy Goodman, "It Can Happen Here: Journalist Joe Conason on ‘Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush.’"

Joe Conason's Home Page, (December 8, 2007).