WASHINGTON: This month marks the end of one of the most successful and respected conservative PR teams in Washington, as Herb Berkowitz and Hugh Newton retire from the Heritage Foundation.
Heritage, a conservative think tank founded 25 years ago, became one of the foremost purveyors of right-wing public policy in Washington with Berkowitz and Newton at the PR helm. The two are credited with helping win credibility for conservative ideals among often-hostile liberal journalists in Washington.
"Twenty-five years ago, the general perception of conservatives was that they were a bunch of shrill ideologues who were completely divorced from the realities of political life," said Jim Weidman, director of PR at the Heritage Foundation. "What Hugh and Herb both did was take the basic approach that the business is first and foremost all about relationships, and if people get to meet you and know you, then they will actually listen to what you're saying.
"Time has proven them right," he continued. "The conservative views today are regarded as certainly worth discussing, worth reporting, and worth rebutting."
Newton, 72, reduced his involvement with the think tank several years ago, now operating on a select few issues. But with the semi-retirement of Berkowitz, 57, Newton will also discontinue working at Heritage.
The two were well known for their style of doing business at bars and cocktail parties as often as in the office, mingling socially with journalists who many conservatives considered too liberal to work with. A host of liberal editors and reporters offered praise for the pair in a Washington Times eulogy of their careers earlier this month.
Weidman said his group was just beginning the hunt to fill the position held by Berkowitz. He volunteered, however, that "replacing him is impossible."