Robert M. Patrick interview with Nat Hentoff, for the Human Life Foundation March 31, 2014
RMP: Good Morning Mr. Hentoff, thank you for taking the time to talk about Jim McFadden and the Human Life Review.
NH: Thank you for calling me. Yes, of course, I love the McFaddens. They are some of the most important people in my life.
RMP: As we discussed last week, the purpose of this interview is to begin the James McFadden Legacy Project. This project will consist of what the Foundation hopes to be a book, a video archive, and a collection of all of McFadden’s work.
NH: That’s wonderful. It’s so important that Jim McFadden is remembered for the great work he did and the great work of the Review which is now continued on by his daughter Maria and the others at the Human Life Foundation.
RMP: How did you meet Jim McFadden?
NH: McFadden and I never met face to face. He asked me if he could reprint an article I had done. And we started to work together from there.
RMP: Was there something that surprised you about him?
NH: I was impressed, maybe not surprised, at how knowledgeable and careful an editor he was. He always tried to be factual. I knew that when he was going to publish something of mine I had to have the facts right.
RMP: Several years ago, you received the Human Life Foundation’s Great Defender of Life Award. Could you tell me about that and what it meant to you?
NH: Oh yes, it was such an honor to be given that award. It remains my most cherished recognition. I am grateful that they decided to present me with this award for my pro-life work—I know that there are many others who are equally, if not more deserving of it. It means the most to me . . . Did you know that I worked with the editors of the Review on a book called Insisting on Life?
RMP: Yes, I was going to ask you about that. Maria [McFadden Maffucci, the Review’s Editor] gave me a copy in preparation for this discussion with you.
NH: I am grateful that they gave me the opportunity to put that anthology of my work together. It really captures what I know the pro-life arguments to be. It’s one of the most important publications in my career.
RMP: What was the relationship between you and John Cardinal O’Connor? The Cardinal was also one of Jim McFadden’s friends.
NH: I have a quick story about Cardinal O’Connor, who was a great man. He was going to Toronto for a pro-life conference and he asked me to moderate it. When I took the microphone and started to talk, several students took issue with what I was saying and ran at me on stage. Cardinal O’Connor thought it was hysterical that the Jewish, Pro-Life, Atheist was being attacked and not him. When he first came, Gloria Steinem suggested that O’Connor was the worst thing to happen to New York in a long time because of his position against abortion. I didn’t think that was fair, so I wrote some articles supporting him and received harsh criticism for that. He was a great friend.
RMP: How does being pro-life influence your work, your life?
NH: Abortion happens because of economic circumstances. Being pro-life is a basic perspective of everything I do. The need for education for the individual student should be recognized . . . home, neighborhood. But instead of that, we have the future being determined by standardized testing. Every life is different; being pro-life is not only about saving the fetus, being pro-life is about all the stages of life. Being pro-life is an essential part of being a writer . . . Duke Ellington had a song, “What Am I Here For?”—this is what being pro-life is.
RMP: What about the other McFaddens and the entire community at the Human Life Review?
NH: They have been and will always be a major part of my life. It was one thing to realize how vital it was to be pro-life, but if it hadn’t been for the Human Life Review and Jim McFadden, many babies would not be around today. Maria is such a delight to work with. She understands and gets into a piece, and you get motivated to be better than you thought you could be. They have made it possible for others to ask the questions.
RMP: What is the biggest threat to the pro-life movement today?
NH: It has to be the President and his anti-Constitutionalist ideas. It is stunning that he was voted in twice. I wrote a piece recently on all the reasons for his impeachment. A lot of friends were furious with me when I wrote that. He ignores the Constitution. We need to keep trying to rescue the Constitution from the President. He is the most dangerous President ever . . .
The need for a pro-life point of view undergirds everything you do. The organization “National Right to Life” isn’t just an academic one, but produces real investigative studies about the right to life. That is what’s needed. One of the worst elements of Obama’s career, which no one talks about, is that he voted twice for a bill that said, if there is a botched abortion, if the child emerges from the womb alive, it should be okay to kill the baby. We have elected a president—twice!—who agrees with infanticide.
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RMP: Thank you for being so open with your time. May we continue the conversation at some point?
NH: Do you know what Skype is? I have done that for other interviews.
RMP: Yes, thank you. That could be an option for a future conversation.
NH: Very good. Thank you again.