By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

William Loeb’s stepdaughter says the toxic publisher was also a child molester

William Loeb in 1974. Photo via the Spencer Grant Collection / Boston Public Library.

The stepdaughter of William Loeb has accused the infamously toxic right-wing Manchester Union Leader publisher of sexually molesting her when she was just 7 years old. Nackey Gallowhur Scagliotti, 76, also said that Loeb sexually abused his 6-year-old daughter, the late Edie Tomasko.

“I am now in my seventies and, when I am gone, there may well be nobody left with a first-hand account of Loeb’s abuse,” Scagliotti wrote in a statement that was reported by Loeb’s old paper, since renamed the New Hampshire Union Leader. “It took me many years to learn this one true thing about family dynamics: when dark secrets are kept they have a caustic effect, not just for those who were participants or bystanders at the time, but across generations.”

In response, the Union Leader has removed Loeb’s name from its masthead. This is a huge deal. Even though Loeb died 40 years ago, the paper had never repudiated the caustic hate he espoused on his pages, and its editorial page remains an important (if toned-down) voice of New Hampshire conservatism. As the editorial puts it:

William Loeb has nothing to do with the current New Hampshire Union Leader, but he has much to do with its history. Loeb famously said, “I don’t care what people think of me, just so long as they think.” We are certainly thinking now.

We know now that William Loeb is not a man to be celebrated.

My Northeastern colleague Meg Heckman, who wrote an excellent biography of Loeb’s widow and successor as publisher, Nackey Scripps Loeb, called “Political Godmother,” tweeted out a thread that offers some further insights:

William Loeb had such disdain for New Hampshire that he wouldn’t even live there — he lived in a mansion on Boston’s North Shore. Despite his patrician background, he was a racist from the old school, once publishing his birth certificate on the front page of the Union Leader in an attempt to prove he wasn’t Jewish. He also published a headline that read “Kissinger the Kike?” For more on Loeb, I recommend Kevin Cash’s 1976 book “Who the Hell Is William Loeb?” Among other things, Cash hints that Loeb may have had Nackey Loeb’s first husband murdered. Who knows? But it seems significant that Cash was not sued for libel.

In 1972, Loeb published a letter from then-President Richard Nixon’s dirty-tricks operation falsely claiming that Sen. Ed Muskie, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had poked fun at “Canucks,” a derogatory term for French-Americans, a large ethnic group in New Hampshire. Muskie showed up outside the Union Leader’s headquarters and raged against Loeb — and, depending on whose account you believe, started to cry. Muskie’s campaign unraveled after that, leading to the nomination of Nixon’s preferred opponent, Sen. George McGovern.

The ugly tale told by Nackey Scagliotti adds to the Loeb lore, and certainly not in a good way. According to the Union Leader account, as well as conversations I’ve had with Meg, the story had been making the rounds for years, but couldn’t be pinned down as long as Scagliotti was unwilling to go on the record.

Now she finally has.

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  1. David Scannell

    Thank you for mentioning Kevin Cash’s seminal work, “Who the Hell is William Loeb?” The book documented what a true reprobate Loeb was, detailing how a man who espoused “family values” actually mistreated all of the women in his family — from his mother to his wives to his daughters. When the book was published, NH conservatives circled the wagons, and Loeb published a series of front page “corrections” of the alleged mistakes in the book. (I do think Loeb tried to sue Kevin Cash, but I am not sure suggestions that he had someone killed were raised in the lawsuit.)

    While I appreciate the coverage of the sexual abuse revelation in today’s paper and believe that the paper’s employees had no knowledge of this aspect of Loeb’s character, William Loeb revealed his true self on the front page of the paper each day in editorials headlined in the manner you noted. He was a proud anti-Semite and racist. Yet people continued to work for him, and NH’s power structure kissed his ring. Today’s revelation is shocking and terribly sad, but it is not a surprise given the person he revealed himself to be on a daily basis.

  2. Nancy Stewart

    It was by court order, in their divorce proceedings, that Loeb was required to remain out of the State of New Hampshire. Presumably, his children were being protected.

  3. William Keating

    “Canucks” is a derogatory expression? That would come as news to the Vancouver Canucks, an NHL hockey team. In these highly polarized times, I exercise my right to not believe anyone.

  4. Hartley Pleshaw

    Say what you will about him, William Loeb must have been a very charming man. Two of his friends were David Brudnoy, the gay and Jewish radio talk show host (Loeb was also virulently homophobic) and Janet Langhart, the Black Boston TV personality. (Loeb once called for preventing Black people from moving into New Hampshire.) He may have been a raving bigot, but from the above, it appears that some of the people he was bigoted against liked him. Go figure.

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