capitol riot

The Bozell Family Tradition of Right-Wing Extremism

Brent Bozell IV at the Capitol on January 5. Photo: Fuller Rath/YouTube

Some of those involved in the January 6 Capitol Riot were to most observers anonymous schmoes called to Washington by Donald Trump, while others were familiar to intrepid analysts of the far, far right. But as rioters were called to account for their conduct, one name leaped right off the page, as this HuffPost report explained:

Leo Brent Bozell IV, the son of conservative activist L. Brent Bozell III, was captured on video inside the Senate chamber during the attack on the U.S. Capitol and has been charged with three federal offenses, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday.

Bozell is charged with obstructing an official proceeding, entering a restricted building, and disorderly conduct. The complaint features several images of him on the floor of the Senate, where he was wearing a sweatshirt featuring the name of a Christian school where he formerly served as a girls’ basketball coach. Online sleuths focused in on him because of that sweatshirt and posted videos of his activity online.

Most political animals will recognize Bozell IV as the son and namesake of Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center and a relentless critic of alleged liberal bias in the mainstream media. Bozell III probably had more to do than any other single person in laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s assaults on “fake media,” which is ironic since he was initially a very vocal conservative critic of Trump. Like his hero Ted Cruz, though, Bozell came around, and now occupies a pan-Republican position of great influence. He’s never been far from the conservative fringes, however; he was finance chairman for Pat Buchanan’s insurgent presidential campaign in 1992 and was involved in the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference until he split with the event’s organizer in 2012 over its acceptance of a gay Republican group as a participant in the annual conference.

Right-wing media critic Brent Bozell III. Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

But Bozell IV’s grandfather, Brent Bozell Jr., was arguably a more influential and definitely more radical forebear. The son of an ad executive, Bozell Jr. was William F. Buckley’s best friend and debating partner at Yale, and soon his brother-in-law (he married WFB’s sister Patricia Buckley). Together the two fiery young conservatives wrote the definitive defense of Joseph McCarthy, called McCarthy and His Enemies. Bozell would later ghostwrite Barry Goldwater’s manifesto The Conscience of a Conservative. But it was his conversion to Catholicism in high school that really changed his life and ultimately his political views. As the founder of a journal of “political Catholicism,” Triumph, Bozell became more and more estranged from the more ecumenical conservatism of Buckley, and eventually, from America itself. He even moved for a while to Franco’s Spain to enjoy a society rigidly organized on conservative Catholic lines, and later had his own collision with authority (as Ben Sixsmith explained years later):

Passive dialogue was not enough for Bozell. He became, as far as I know, the only National Review contributor to be arrested for participating in a disorderly protest when with a group of like-minded Catholics named ‘Sons of Thunder’ – clad, misguidedly, in khakis and red berets – he broke into an abortion clinic with the intention of disrupting its procedures. A journalist for The [Fredericksburg] Free Lance-Star was baffled by the thought of a supposed conservative defying law and order. ‘If disorder is necessary to stop this murder of babies,’ Bozell replied pugnaciously, ‘I’m in favor of disorder.’

Brent Bozell Jr. with his writing partner and brother-in-law William F. Buckley Jr. Photo: Los Angeles Daily News

Bozell Jr. suffered from a variety of physical and mental ailments, and spent a good part of his declining years doing charity work among Hispanic immigrants. But he is arguably the ideological father of the culturally authoritarian wing of conservatism that has flourished in the wake of Donald Trump (a sort of Catholic version of Josh Hawley). And for all we know, his willingness to support disorder in the name of his cause could have inspired his grandson.

The Bozell Family Tradition of Right-Wing Extremism