Former President Bill Clinton memorialized Richard Mellon Scaife on Saturday as a man with whom he developed a "counterintuitive friendship" that proved to be an invaluable experience.
"Our differences are important," Clinton said at a memorial service for Scaife in Ligonier, Pa., the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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Scaife died on July 4, a day after his 82nd birthday.
Considered the father of modern conservatism, Scaife owned Trib Total Media, parent company of the Tribune-Review, six other daily newspapers, and 23 weeklies. He was an early investor and held a minority stake in Newsmax Media, Inc.
Clinton was introduced by Yale Gutnick, the chairman of the Tribune-Review and longtime friend of Scaife. Gutnick said that shortly before Scaife passed he said that of all the people he wanted to speak at his memorial, he hoped Bill Clinton would accept to do so.
Gutnick said Scaife and Clinton became friends because they "shared a mutual love of America."
"Our political differences, our philosophical differences, our religious differences, our racial and ethnic differences, they're important," Clinton told about 150 people at the service. "They help us to define who we are. But they don't have to keep us at arm's length from others."
Scaife's conservatism placed him at odds with Clinton during his eight years in the White House, but that changed in 2007 when former New York Mayor Ed Koch convinced Clinton that he had much in common with Scaife.
Clinton also thanked Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, for having introduced the pair through Koch. Ruddy was present at the memorial service.
Scaife, Ruddy, and Clinton met on July 31, 2007, in the Clinton Foundation's offices in Harlem, after the former president extended an invitation. Scaife later donated more than $100,000 to the foundation.
Clinton said he was amazed that Scaife had decided not only to see him, but took a strong interest in the Clinton Foundation and its work.
Scaife also endorsed Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign in his Pittsburgh newspaper.
"I think the counterintuitive friendship we formed is a good symbol of Richard Mellon Scaife's legacy," Bill Clinton said. "He fought as hard as he could for what he believed, but he never thought he had to be blind or deaf" to reconsidering his positions.
"This was a magnificent gesture for President Clinton to make," Ruddy told Newsmax after the event. "Dick Scaife thought the world of President Clinton and his foundation’s work. This unusual friendship proves that people can hold strong political differences but still work for the common good."
Scaife's memorial service was held at his boyhood home, Penguin Court, in southwestern Pennsylvania.
"If someone had asked me the day I left the White House what's the single most unlikely thing I would ever do, this would rank high on the list," Clinton said.
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