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Frank Rich (born June 2, 1949) is a liberal New York Times columnist who focuses on American politics and popular culture. His column ran on the front page of the Sunday Arts & Leisure section from 2003 to 2005; it now appears in the expanded Sunday Week in Review section.

Early career

Rich graduated from Harvardmarker in 1971, where he was editorial chairman of the Harvard Crimson, studied American History and Literature, and lived in Lowell Housemarker. Before joining the New York Times in 1980, he was a film critic for Time.

Theater criticism

Rich first garnered attention from the theatre community with a lengthy essay about the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies he wrote for the Harvard Crimson during its pre-Broadway run in Boston. In his unusually astute study of the work, he predicted the legendary status the show eventually would achieve, and the article "fascinated" director Harold Prince and "absolutely intrigued" Sondheim, who invited the undergraduate to lunch to discuss further his feelings about the production.

Rich's theater reviews were collected in the book Hot Seat, published in 1998. One of the running themes in the book is his attempt to disprove the popular perception of the power of the chief drama critic of the New York Times. In an addendum, he lists a dozen or more shows which racked up long runs despite his negative reviews, as well as many shows that got raves from him but didn't last more than a few weeks.

Media and political criticism

Rich writes regularly for the New York Times (and thus the International Herald Tribune) on the mass media and public relations, particularly on their coverage of US national politics. He makes regular references to a broad range of popular culture — including television, movies, theater, and literature — and draws connections to politics and current events. In a January 2006 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, commenting on the James Frey memoir scandal, he expanded on his usage in his column of the term "truthiness" to summarize a variety of parallel ills in culture and politics.In 2005, Rich received the George Polk Award given annually by Long Island Universitymarker to honor contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting.

Rich wrote the book The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, which criticized the American media for its support of the George W. Bush administration's policies following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As a political commentator, Rich is often criticized by Bill O'Reilly, host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel. Rich is openly critical of Fox News, accusing it of having a conservative bias. O'Reilly cites Rich's 2007 award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) as proof of his bias. On his radio broadcast of April 16, 2007, O'Reilly called Rich a hypocrite for having accused Mel Gibson of anti-semitism.

In 2004, Rich dismissed Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, as "nothing so much as a porn movie, replete with slo-mo climaxes and pounding music for the money shots", and praised Christopher Hitchens' description of it as "a homoerotic 'exercise in lurid sadomasochism' for those who 'like seeing handsome young men stripped and flayed alive over a long period of time.'"

The October 14, 2007 Times featured Stephen Colbert guest-writing most of Maureen Dowd's column. In that article, Colbert satirically wrote: "Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay. There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too."

Personal life

Rich is married to Alexandra Witchel, who also writes for the New York Times, and has two sons (including humorist Simon Rich) from his previous marriage to Gail Winston. He lives in Manhattanmarker. In 2000 he published the memoir Ghost Light where he chronicled his childhood through to his college years in 1950s Marylandmarker with a focus on his lifelong adoration of the theatre and the impact it had on his life.

In the late 1990s, he met Alan Conway, a con artist pretending to be Stanley Kubrick, and arranged to interview him, believing Conway to be the famous film director. Upon contacting Warner Brothers, however, Rich discovered that the man he met was an impostor. The incident is dramatised in the 2006 film Colour Me Kubrick, in which Rich is portrayed by William Hootkins.


  • The Theatre Art of Boris Aronson. ISBN 0394529138.
  • Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980-1993. 1998. ISBN 0-679-45300-8.
  • Ghost Light: A Memoir. 2000. ISBN 0-375-75824-0.
  • The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina. ISBN 1-59420-098-X.


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