Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bickering Scaifes Speak For First Time On Their Messy Divorce

Editor & Publisher reports:

In a dirt-dishing account of their divorce, Richard Mellon Scaife and his second wife Margaret Ritchie Rhea Battle Scaife exchange accusations of adultery, gold-digging, and even dognapping in their first extensive interviews.

An article by Michael Joseph Gross in the February issue of Vanity Fair portrays a drama that combines the "Citizen Kane" aspects of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review owner and conservative cause bankroller Richard Scaife with a "War of the Roses" almost comic dramedy of their split.

Richard Scaife, in what Vanity Fair says are the first interviews he has given in eight years, describes "his estranged wife as conniving, greedy, and abusive," Gross wrote.

At first, Ritchie Scaife declined to interview, leaving her lawyer William Pietragallo II, Ritchie Scaife to describe her as a "very supportive and caring wife" who was thrown over for a women with reported prostitution arrests on her record.

"Later, Ritchie changed her mind and agreed to what turned out to be a long and highly animated interview. Seated between Pietragallo and another of her attorneys, Eddie Hayes (the model for the scrappy defense lawyer in Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities), Ritchie described a marriage that swung between emotional extremes, from the days when 'I always called him "my snuggle bunny" ... and he called me his "precious,"' to the public embarrassments brought on by their breakup, which she compares to 'the tortures of the damned,'" Gross wrote.

While much of the broad outlines of the marital discord have been published by Pittsburg papers including Richard Scaife's Tribune-Review, some of the Vanity Fair stories are doozies.

Ritchie Scaife sics a private investigator on her husband, and discovers he is going to a cheap hotel with 43-year-old Tammy Vasco. Enraged Ritchie Scaife tries twice to confront the two at his mansion, only to be arrested for deliberate trespass -- and tossed in jail where fellow prisoners pass the time petting her fur collar.

Richard Scaife ruefully admits bringing marijuana to his son in prep school. Ritchie is portrayed, and vehemently denies, as being a woman interested only in the Mellon name and fortune, once threatening to plunge into the ocean because she did not like the winter slip covers at a summer place.

An in-law is quoted as saying she would stick pins in pictures of Richard Scaife.

"Ritchie denies every detail of this story," Gross wrote. "There was an altercation, she admits, but she says it was Sara who 'went berserk.'
"And did she stick those pins in the pictures?
"'No, Dick did.'
"Her lawyer interrupts: ' -- Ehh -- '
"'It's true!,' Ritchie says.
"Pietragallo: 'Stop. Stop.'"

Richard Scaife became famous politically for what Vanity Fair calls his "moral crusade" against President Bill Clinton, including investigations into the so-called "Troopergate" allegations of sexual assignations and efforts to link former White House chief of staff Vince Foster's suicide to the Clinton administration.

Richard Scaife responds by telling Vanity Fair that he believes in "open marriage," and says with a laugh that philandering " "is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common."

He also recounts have a "very pleasant" lunch last summer with Bill Clinton, whom he calls the most charismatic man he's met in his life.

"It would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife's divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy," Gross wrote. "His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself. On the subject of Clinton his weather vane is now spinning wildly."

The Vanity Fair article portrays a tempestuous couple -- one of whom, Richard admits a drinking problem he says he's licked -- who set tongues wagging in Pittsburgh virtually since they got together.

At their wedding reception a fireworks display included a "a blazing sign on the lawn that proclaimed, in sparkling letters, 'Ritchie loves Dick'," Gross wrote. "Even today, a certain set of Pittsburgh women, including wives of some of the country's most brass-knuckled industrialists, speak of Ritchie's flaming double entendre as among the most shocking moments of their lives."

It was not intended as a double entendre, and only low minds could think that, Ritchie Scaife tells the magazine.

Soon after her arrest on trespassing, which was later dismissed, three dogs belonging to the couple moved in with her lawyer. Richard Scaife displayed a sign on his front lawn that said something to the effect of "wife and dog missing -- reward for dog."

One of the dogs later turned up at Richard Scaife's house, where a sign soon said, welcome home, beauregard. Vanity Fair quotes court documents that allege Ritchie Scaife, having spotted a housekeeper walking the dog, beat the woman trying to wrest the dog from her. Richard Scaife's security officer tried to break up the fight, and was allegedly scratched. Ritchie was arrested in the incident, though charges were later dropped.