Morgan Pillsbury has accused conservative pundit John Fund of sitting on her and choking her, but she and her mother can still praise his rhetorical skills. “This guy is persuasive,” said her mother, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, in an interview last week. “He gets you on the phone and you believe him. He says, ‘You know I wouldn’t lie.'”
“He’s such a good liar,” Pillsbury added, “he could walk in right now and he could convince me in five minutes he never hit me. He is the best liar I’ve ever seen.”
Fund is, of course, the former editorial-page editor of The Wall Street Journal, and he has categorically denied abusing Pillsbury, who is his ex-girlfriend and the daughter of a prominent Libertarian family in California. But she says that’s just his game. One of his most damaging “lies,” she says, came in 1997, when Matt Drudge published the false rumor that former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal had physically abused his wife. After Drudge retracted the report and apologized, Fund denied claims that he had been a source for what he knew to be “idle party chatter.” But Pillsbury says, “It was a story Fund spread with joy. He was Drudge’s source and he knew it wasn’t true.”
Pillsbury’s claim has historical significance because Blumenthal sued Drudge in 1997, hoping to discover his sources. Fund denied communicating with Drudge, and the Journal threatened to quash a subpoena. Blumenthal settled the suit unsuccessfully last year without collecting money or sources. (He paid Drudge $2500 in fees.)
Says Drudge of Pillsbury’s claim, “It’s a pack of lies.” Drudge says he first met Fund at Fox News, “a year or two” after publishing the false rumor, “maybe 1999. It was the first communication I had with him.”
Ironically, Fund is now fighting a real assault charge filed against him in February. A court hearing is set for May 16, and on that day, Fund has reportedly been telling friends, the D.A. plans to drop the assault charges and arrest Pillsbury for fraud (specifically, stealing money from Fund’s bank account). Pillsbury denies the fraud.
“The only way we’re safe dealing with these people is to make a big stink,” says Pillsbury-Foster. Among her complaints, she notes that Assistant District Attorney Eric Arnone has ignored reports of attempted break-ins to Pillsbury’s apartment and has never asked Pillsbury for details about the alleged abuse. Instead, Arnone grilled Pillsbury about “everything he could find that might be to her discredit,” including Pillsbury’s testimony in her mother’s divorce.
And that’s not all. Three months after she pressed charges, Pillsbury says the D.A.’s office has yet to retrieve possessions she left behind in Fund’s Jersey City apartment, including her passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, selected clothes, jewelry belonging to her mother, and floppy disks containing personal files. Finally, Pillsbury says Arnone told her that when she filed charges, no photos were taken. (That’s odd, because the police report indicates that she was bruised and photos were taken.)
According to one knowledgeable source, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has been personally involved in the case from the start, his prosecutors do question Pillsbury’s credibility, and the office seeks to avoid a high-profile case.
Asked what she wants from the D.A., Pillsbury’s mother said, “I want him to prosecute John Fund to the full extent possible. If the law is going to be effective as a cultural tool, it has to demonstrate to everybody watching that being abusive doesn’t pay, which means the victim should be able to go on to live a full and happy life having learned that they can’t be abused, and the abuser should learn that it’s going to cost them to be abusive.” Instead, she fears that Fund will be given a “license to abuse.”
Pillsbury-Foster has special insight into Fund, having had her own affair with him two decades ago. Her daughter met Fund in 1998 and soon became pregnant, whereupon he asked her to get an abortion and allegedly told Pillsbury-Foster that the only relationship he’d had with her daughter was to “feed her cat.” Pillsbury was so irked, she secretly taped a conversation in which Fund berated her for telling her mother about their affair. The tape showed up on WeaselSearch.com last September, after which Pillsbury claims Fund told his bosses that the tape was a fake, and that Pillsbury had merely “spent a few nights on his couch.”
In fact, Pillsbury had moved in full-time last summer, and Fund treated her as his “do-it-yourself Stepford wife,” according to her mother. Pillsbury says that when she first moved in, she found no food, only lots of dirty dishes, unopened mail, and bottles of alcohol from hotel mini-bars. The freezer was empty and “completely covered with living, crawling bugs,” while the floors were “covered with piles of black socks and dirty underwear.” She began cleaning up the mess. As she was paying overdue cable and phone bills and putting household purchases on her credit card, she says, Fund instructed her to write checks from his checkbook. “He showed me how to write the check and how to write his name, with a curlicue under it.”
Pillsbury first called the police November 12, the night after a bad fight, and called again later that month. “He was supposed to spend Thanksgiving with me and didn’t,” she recalls. “I questioned him when he got home and he beat me up. I was cowering in the corner. He was screaming. He said, ‘Get out, bitch,’ and he left, and I called the police. He came back and beat me up again. When the police arrived, I was shaking and crying and very upset. He was very calm. A lady officer walked in and asked me if I was on drugs. John told me that none of the charges would stick.”
In mid January, the mainstream media first reported on Fund’s alleged abuse. Around that time, Pillbury says, she moved out and Fund agreed to give her money to help pay her bills. He watched her write checks from his account and deposit them in her account. Soon after, she says, “I found out that my accounts were frozen and he told me that they were going to stay frozen until I contacted these members of the media and gave them papers saying that I had lied about the abuse.” She says the bank did not return her calls. Says Pillsbury-Foster, “This is obviously part of a pattern of abuse and attempted control, and yet the D.A. refused to listen to her.”
Pillsbury lives in the Village now. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com. According to Pillsbury-Foster, their final fight, the one that left the bruise, occurred because “he wanted her to go to the media and say that she had lied.” In her last conversation with Fund, Pillsbury-Foster says, he asked how she could believe her daughter’s lies and repeated his belief that “this is all part of the great liberal conspiracy to get me, because I am the hope of freedom.”
The D.A.’s office declined a detailed request for comment, as did Fund. Fund offered only the following statement: “By inviting Morgan Pillsbury to David Brock’s book party last month as a personal guest, Cynthia Cotts has made The Village Voice cross the line from objective observer to participant in this sad story. It’s not good journalism.”