George Will

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This article is about the journalist. For the golfer, see George Will (golfer).
George Will
George Will attending a Nationals-Cardinals baseball game, Labor Day 2006
Born George Frederick Will
(1941-05-04) May 4, 1941 (age 76)
Champaign, Illinois
Residence Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Trinity College
Magdalen College, Oxford
Princeton University
Occupation Columnist, journalist, author
Employer Fox News, Newsweek, The Washington Post
Spouse(s) Madeleine Will (divorced 1989)
Mari Maseng (m. 1992)
Children Victoria, Geoffrey, and Jonathan (first marriage); David (second marriage)
Parent(s) Frederick L. Will and Louise Hendrickson Will

George Frederick Will (born May 4, 1941) is an American newspaper columnist and political commentator. He is a Pulitzer Prize–winner best known for his conservative commentary on politics. In 1986, The Wall Street Journal called him "perhaps the most powerful journalist in America," in a league with Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[1][2]

Education and early career

Will was born in Champaign, Illinois, the son of Frederick L. Will and Louise Hendrickson Will.[3] His father was a professor of philosophy, specializing in epistemology, at the University of Illinois.

Will graduated from University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois, and Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut (BA, Religion, 1962).[4] He subsequently studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford, (BA, MA), and received MA and PhD degrees in politics from Princeton University. His 1968 PhD dissertation was entitled Beyond the Reach of Majorities: Closed Questions in the Open Society.

From 1970 to 1972, he served on the staff of Senator Gordon Allott (R-CO). Will then taught political philosophy at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, and at the University of Toronto. He taught at Harvard University in 1995 and again in 1998.

Journalism career

Will served as an editor for National Review from 1972 to 1978.[citation needed] He joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 1974, writing a syndicated biweekly column, which became widely circulated among newspapers across the country and continues today. His column is syndicated to 450 newspapers.[5] In 1976 he became a contributing editor for Newsweek, writing a biweekly backpage column until 2011.[citation needed]

Will was widely praised by liberals for condemning the corruption of the Nixon presidency.[citation needed] He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for "distinguished commentary on a variety of topics" in 1977.[6] Often combining factual reporting with conservative commentary, Will's columns are known for their erudite vocabulary, allusions to political philosophers, and frequent references to baseball.[7]

Will has also written two bestselling books on the game of baseball, three books on political philosophy, and has published eleven compilations of his columns for The Washington Post and Newsweek and of various book reviews and lectures.[citation needed]

Will is currently a contributor for Fox News.[8] Prior to joining Fox News in 2013, Will was a news analyst for ABC News since the early 1980s and was a founding member on the panel of ABC's This Week with David Brinkley in 1981, now titled This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Will was a panelist on This Week until his departure from ABC News. Will was also a regular panelist on television's Agronsky & Company from 1977 through 1984 and on NBC's Meet the Press in the mid-to-late 1970s.[citation needed]

Political views

Foreign policy and national security

Will has proposed that the United States withdraw all troops from Afghanistan[9] and defended Barack Obama's response to the uprisings after the 2009 elections in Iran.[10] He also criticized the Bush administration for engaging in warrantless surveillance[11] and supported trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. On immigration, Will supports tighter border security and a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants.[12]

Social issues

Will argued that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision caused a "truncation of democratic debate about abortion policy."[13] On crime, Will is opposed to the death penalty.[14] He thinks that higher incarceration rates make the populace safer.[15] Additionally, Will is generally skeptical of affirmative action programs.[16] Will favors the legalization of drugs.[17]

Economic issues

Will supports low taxes, as he thinks that they stimulate economic growth and are more morally fair.[18] He was opposed to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama's stimulus plans.[19] Will supports abolishing the minimum wage [20] and creating voluntary personal retirement accounts in order to reduce the federal cost of Social Security.[21] In February 2013, Will wrote in support of a proposal by "relentlessly liberal" Sherrod Brown to break up consolidated banks and finance industry conglomerates, ending "too big to fail" by restoring the Glass-Steagall Act.[22]

Criticism of Republican politicians

Despite his identification with conservative politics, Will has criticized Republicans.

Will was among the first to oppose President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court.[23]

Even though Will had been hawkish in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he eventually expressed reservations about Bush administration Iraq policies, eventually openly criticizing what he perceived to be an unrealistically optimistic set of political scenarios. In March 2006, in a column written in the aftermath of the apparently sectarian bombing of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Baghdad, Will challenged the Bush administration—and U.S. government representatives in Iraq—to be more honest about the difficulties the United States faced in rebuilding and maintaining order within Iraq, comparing the White House's rhetoric unfavorably to that of Winston Churchill during the early years of World War II. Will described the optimistic assessments delivered from the Bush administration as the "rhetoric of unreality".[24] He criticized the Bush Iraq policy, and broader White House and congressional foreign and domestic policy making, in his keynote address for the Cato Institute's 2006 Milton Friedman Prize dinner.[25]

Will was also a harsh and early critic of both Sarah Palin and John McCain's 2008 election campaign. He criticized Palin's understanding of the role of the Vice President and her qualifications for that role.[26]

In late 2011, as the 2012 Republican Party presidential primaries approached, Will said that frontrunner Newt Gingrich "embodies almost everything disagreeable about modern Washington", and described him as "the classic rental politician.".[27]

While speaking at Yale University on January 17, 2013, Will criticized conservative commentator Ann Coulter, labeling her an "enemy" to conservatives' pursuit of an intellectual brand.[28]

In a 2013 interview with Reason Magazine writers Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Will revealed that his views have steadily been leaning more libertarian over time.[29] Will has argued against campaign finance reform as "a euphemism for controlling free speech."[30][better source needed]


1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign

Main article: Debategate

Will helped Ronald Reagan prepare for his 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter. Immediately after the debate, Will—not yet a member of the ABC News staff—appeared on ABC's Nightline. He was introduced by host Ted Koppel, who said "It's my understanding that you met for some time yesterday with Governor Reagan", and that Will "never made any secret of his affection" for the Republican candidate. Will did not explicitly disclose that he had assisted Reagan's debate preparation, or been present during it. He went on to praise Reagan, saying his "game plan worked well. I don't think he was very surprised".[31]

In 2004 and again in 2005, Carter accused Will of giving the Reagan campaign a top-secret briefing book stolen from Carter's office before the 1980 debate.[32] In a 2005 syndicated column, Will called his role in Reagan's debate preparation "inappropriate" but denied any role in stealing the briefing book.[33] In response to Will's column, Carter wrote a letter to the Washington Post retracting his accusations. Carter apologized to Will for "any incorrect statement that I have ever made about his role in the use of my briefing book...I have never thought Mr. Will took my book, that the outcome of the debate was damaging to my campaign or that Mr. Will apologized to me".[34]

2009 global sea ice level

In a Washington Post column which expressed doubt over the effects of global warming, Will stated that: "According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979".[35] This and several other claims attracted the attention of environmentalists, such as British author and activist George Monbiot.[36] Asked to respond, the website of Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois states that: "We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979".[37] Will responded in a column that he accurately reported the Center's information and the challenge was mistaken.[38] This drew a second response from George Monbiot, who insisted Will had not accurately reported the Center's information.[39] The debate continued in several forums, including a subsequent op-ed by Chris Mooney published in The Washington Post challenging Will's assertions.[40]

Rape victimization comments

Will's 6 June 2014 newspaper column about "the supposed campus epidemic of rape" was widely criticized,[41] with U.S. senators and feminists taking Will to task. Wrote Will, "...when [colleges and universities] make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."[42] Will's column sparked an outcry on Twitter, with rape victims recounting their stories of sexual assault and violence.[43] "It takes a particular kind of ignorance to argue that people who come forward to report being raped in college are afforded benefits of any kind," wrote Jessica Valenti in The Guardian."[44] In an open letter to Will, Senators Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, Tammy Baldwin and Bob Casey wrote, "Your column suggests that we — including some of us who have worked on this issue for many years – all have missed a subculture on college campuses where survivors of sexual assault are inducted into a privileged class. The culture you described is so antiquated, so counter-intuitive and so contrary to anything we heard that we hope you will make an effort to hear the stories survivors bravely shared with us about the struggles they face in addressing what has happened to them — often with little meaningful assistance from authorities expected to help them."[45] The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dropped Will's column from its pages as a result of the column. "The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it," editor Tony Messenger wrote.[46] Will responded to the senators in his blog, saying his article was based on "simple arithmetic involving publicly available reports", and that sexual assault "should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes".[47]

2014 Ebola spread claim

In 2014, Will claimed that Ebola could be spread via sneezing, contrary to settled science which say that Ebola can only be spread by direct contact with infected bodily fluids.[48] The comments occurred in a context of Republican criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Politifact rated Will's claim as "False".[49]

Donald Trump

George Will has attacked Donald Trump multiple times during his 2016 presidential campaign, calling him a "one-man Todd Akin." Trump criticized Will and brought attention to the fact that his wife Mari Maseng Will is an advisor to Scott Walker's presidential campaign. He attacked Donald Trump once again, claiming that he was a bigger threat than Hillary Clinton.

Bill O'Reilly

In 2015, following the release of Bill O'Reilly's book, Killing Reagan, Will opined that the book contained poorly sourced, inaccurate information that disparaged President Ronald Reagan. Describing the book as "...a tissue of unsubstantiated assertions," and O'Reilly as " opportunistic interloper", Will concluded, "O’Reilly’s vast carelessness pollutes history and debases the historian’s craft."[50] The feud escalated when Will appeared on O'Reilly's show, The O'Reilly Factor during which O'Reilly accused Will of libel.[51] The interview ended with O'Reilly calling Will "...a hack and a liar."[52]



Will has three children—Victoria, Geoffrey, and Jonathan—with his first wife, Madeleine;[53] Jonathan was born in 1972 with Down syndrome, which Will has written about in his column on occasion.[54][55][56] In 1989, he and Madeleine divorced after 22 years of marriage.[57]

In 1991 Will married Mari Maseng. They have one child, a son named David, born in 1992, and live in the Washington, D.C. area. Maseng is a political consultant and speechwriter who was in charge of communications for the Rick Perry 2012 presidential campaign, and most recently worked on Scott Walker's 2016 presidential campaign. She earlier worked on Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign, and offered her services to the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign.[58][59] She previously worked for Ronald Reagan as a presidential speechwriter, deputy director of transportation, and Assistant to the President for Public Liaison. She also was a former communications director for Bob Dole.

Religious beliefs

Will is a self-described "amiable, low voltage atheist."[60][61]


Will is a fan of baseball, and has written extensively on the game, including his best-selling book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. He was one of many interview subjects for Baseball, Ken Burns' PBS documentary series. He is a Chicago Cubs fan.[62][63]

References in popular culture

Will was lampooned in a skit on an April 1990 episode of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Dana Carvey played Will as the host of the fictional baseball trivia game show George F. Will's Sports Machine, in which the answers are all highflown literary metaphors that leave the contestants befuddled; the exasperated contestants finally get Will to try to throw a baseball, which he is unable to do.[64]

In the 1995 Seinfeld episode "The Jimmy", Kramer mentions Will during a conversation with Jerry, George, and Elaine about men finding other men attractive. While Jerry and George say they "can't find beauty in a man", Kramer says, "I'll tell you who is an attractive man … George Will."[65]

In the 1997 Duckman episode Vuuck, as in Duck, wherein Duckman inherits a AAA baseball team, Cornfed brings Will in as a 3rd base coach. However, while he is showing Duckman his coach signals, Will is hit by a breeze block and is not seen again.


In addition to more than 16 honorary degrees:

  • 1977: Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
  • 1978: Headliner Award for consistently outstanding feature columns
  • 1979: Finalist for National Magazine Award in essays and criticism
  • 1980: Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1991: Silurian Award for editorial writing
  • 1991: First Place in Interpretive Columns: Clarion Awards from Women in Communications
  • 1991: Cronkite Award, Arizona State University
  • 1992: Madison Medal Award, Princeton University
  • 1993: William Allen White Award, William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas
  • 2003: Walter B. Wriston Lecture Award, The Manhattan Institute
  • 2005: Bradley Prize, The Bradley Foundation[66]
  • 2006: Champion of Liberty Award, Goldwater Institute[67]


  • The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts. Harper & Row, 1978.
  • The Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions. Simon & Schuster, 1982.
  • Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does. Simon & Schuster, 1983.
  • The Morning After: American Success and Excesses, 1981–1986. Free Press, 1986.
  • The New Season: A Spectator's Guide to the 1988 Election. Simon & Schuster, 1987.
  • Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. Macmillan, 1990.
  • Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home. Free Press, 1990.
  • Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy. 1992.
  • The Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture and Other News, 1990–1994. Viking, 1994.
  • The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric: 1994–1997. Scribner, 1997.
  • Bunts: Pete Rose, Curt Flood, Camden Yards and Other Reflections on Baseball. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  • With a Happy Eye But...: America and the World, 1997–2002. Free Press, 2002.
  • One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation. Crown Publishing Group, 2008.
  • A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. Crown Archetype, 2014.

See also


  1. D'Evelyn, Thomas (October 26, 1986). "Will's collection of columns chronicles his conservatism". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  2. Quoted in Eric Alterman, Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy (1999) pp. 87–88.
  3. Will, George F. (July 13, 2006). "A Mother's Love, Clarified". The Washington Post. p. A23. 
  4. "Illinois Scholars at Trinity College" – Trinity College website
  5. "Washington Post - News Service & Syndicate". 
  6. "The Pulitzer Prizes - Commentary". 
  7. "George Will Quotes". Baseball Almanac. 2000–2007. Retrieved December 15, 2007. 
  8. Mirkinson, Jack (October 1, 2013). "George Will Joins Fox News, Leaves ABC After 3 Decades". The Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  9. Will, George F. (September 1, 2009). "Time for the U.S. to Get Out of Afghanistan". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  10. Armbruster, Ben (June 21, 2009). "Will calls right-wing attacks on Obama’s Iran response ‘foolish criticism.’". 
  11. Will, George F. (February 16, 2006). "No Checks, Many Imbalances". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  12. Will, George F. (March 30, 2006). "Guard the Borders – And Face Facts, Too". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  13. Will, George F. (December 1, 2005). "The Abortion Argument We Missed". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  14. Ponnuru, Ramesh (November 6, 2003). "Penalty Box: George Will gets capital punishment wrong.". National Review Online. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. 
  15. Will, George F. (June 22, 2008). "More Prisoners, Less Crime". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  16. "George Will: The distortion of affirmative action". 
  17. Will, George F. (April 11, 2012). "Should the U.S. legalize hard drugs?". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  18. Will, George F. (June 10, 2007). "Democrats' Prosperity Problem". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  19. Will, George F. (July 12, 2009). "Liberal Policies Paving Way for Higher Taxes". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  20. Will, George F. (January 4, 2007). "The Right Minimum Wage". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  21. Will, George F. (January 20, 2005). "Social Security: Opportunity, Not a Crisis". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  22. "Time to break up the big banks" George F. Will, The Washington Post, February 08, 2013
  23. "George F. Will - Can This Nomination Be Justified?". 
  24. Will, George F. (March 2, 2006). "Rhetoric of Unreality: Where Is Iraq After Nearly 3 Years of War?". The Washington Post. p. A21. 
  25. Will, George. (Summer 2006). "Cato: Upholding the Idea of Liberty" (PDF). Cato's Letter. 4 (3). Retrieved August 31, 2008. 
  26. Will, George F. (October 30, 2008). "Call Him John the Careless". The Washington Post. p. A23. 
  27. James Joyner, Newt Gingrich Embodies Everything Disagreeable About Modern Washington Outside the Bellway, November 21, 2011
  28. Mullins, Michael. "George Will Calls Out Ann Coulter as 'Enemy' to Intellectual Conservatism". Newsmax. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  29. Reason TV,George Will's Libertarian Evolution on YouTube, September 13, 2013
  30. "Money in Politics: What's the Problem?". Prager University. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  31. Nightline Special Edition, October 28, 1980
  32. Fresh Air, October 21, 2004; The Alabama Plainsman, July 28, 2005.
  33. Will, George F. (August 11, 2005). "Briefing Book Baloney". The Washington Post. p. A23. 
  34. Carter, Jimmy (August 31, 2005). "Putting an End to the 'Briefing Book Baloney'" (Letter to the Editor). The Washington Post. p. A22. 
  35. Will, George F. (February 15, 2009). "Dark Green Doomsayers". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  36. Monbiot, George. George Will's climate howlers, The Guardian. February 18, 2009.
  37. "The Cryosphere Today". February 15, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  38. Will, George F. Climate Science in A Tornado Washington Post. February 27, 2009.
  39. Monbiot, George. We all make mistakes but Washington Post's George Will just won't admit his, The Guardian. March 3, 2009.
  40. Mooney, Chris Climate Change Myths and Facts "Washington Post". March 22, 2009.
  41. Zara, Christopher (June 10, 2014) "Washington Post Opinion Editor Defends George Will’s ‘Survivor Privilege’ Column As Twitter Backlash Continues." International Business Times. (Retrieved 6-24-2014.)
  42. Will, George (June 6, 2014) "Colleges become the victims of progressivism." Washington Post. (Retrieved 6-10-2014.)
  43. Warren, Rosalyn (June 9, 2014) #SurvivorPrivilege Trends On Twitter After Columnist Says Rape Survivors Lie To Get "Privileges." Buzzfeed. (Retrieved 6-10-2014.)
  44. Valenti, Jessica (June 10, 2014) "The only 'privilege' afforded to campus rape victims is actually surviving." The Guardian. (Retrieved 6-10-2014.)
  45. Grasgreen, Allie (June 12, 2014) "Senators scold Washington Post’s George Will for sexual assault column." Politico. (Retrieved 6-13-2014.)
  46. Messenger, Tony (June 19, 2014) "Editor's note: Michael Gerson replaces George Will." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (Retrieved 6-19-2014.)
  47. "George Will responds to senators on his sexual assault column". Washington Post. 
  50. Will, George (November 10, 2015). "Bill O’Reilly makes a mess of history". Washington Post. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  51. Kludt, Tom (November 6, 2015). "Bill O'Reilly vs. George Will: Fox News stars clash over Reagan". Money.CNN. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  52. Kludt, Tom (November 7, 2015). "Bill O'Reilly blows up on George Will: 'You're a hack!'". Money.CNN. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  53. Think College, executive committee: Madeleine Will, M.A. (Access date October 30, 2011)
  54. Will, George F. (April 14, 2005). "Eugenics By Abortion: Is Perfection an Entitlement?". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 7, 2008. 
  55. Will, George F. (January 29, 2007). "Will: The Attack on Kids With Down Syndrome". Newsweek. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. 
  56. Will, George F. (May 2, 2012). "Jon Will’s gift". The Washington Post. 
  57. Jack Friedman, "Turning from Politics, George Will Writes a Love Story About Men and Baseball," People Magazine, Vol. 34 No. 1, July 09, 1990
  58. Maseng sought work on Romney campaign, Ben Smith, Politico, November 12, 2011
  59. This Week 11/13, George Will, This Week, November 13, 2011
  60. "George Will: ‘I’m an amiable, low voltage atheist’". The Daily Caller. May 5, 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  61. Isaac Chotiner. "George Will Finds His Wild Side - The New Republic". The New Republic. 
  62. "George Will tells Washington University graduates: 'Don't let your babies grow up to be Cub fans'". For Expert Comment. Washington University. May 15, 1998. Retrieved August 31, 2008. 
  63. Will, George F. (April 7, 2008). "The Last Word: 'Your Brain on Cubs'". Newsweek. Retrieved August 31, 2008. 
  64. "SNL Transcripts: Corbin Bernsen: 04/14/90: George F. Will's Sports Machine". 
  65. "Seinfeld - Season 6, Episode 19: The Jimmy". Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  66. Archived June 27, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  67. "Can We Make Iraq Democratic? by George F. Will, City Journal Winter 2004". 


External links