Inside Media: The Legacy of a Las Vegas Crusader

September 26, 2009

Guests: Sen. Harry Reid and Brian Greenspun

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

During a public rally in October 1952, Sen. Joseph McCarthy accused Las Vegas Sun publisher Hank Greenspun of being an ex-Communist. Not one to back down, Greenspun replied, "Show me your proof, senator!"

It was yet another colorful moment in the life of the maverick newspaperman, whose life is chronicled in the 98-minute documentary film, "Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the late Greenspun had a "life that legends are made of," and recalled some of the allies and enemies who crossed his old friend's path.

"Can you imagine going to work for Bugsy Siegel? It's what he did. That was terminated when Siegel was murdered. Then what he did with McCarthy. It's an incredible story," Reid said.

In the documentary, Greenspun helped Siegel, a notorious gangster, hype the reopening of his famed Flamingo Hotel. Years later, Greenspun took on McCarthy during the height of the Red Scare by writing a series of articles discrediting the senator's fear-mongering.

Greenspun also waged battles against political corruption, the mafia and racial discrimination, while powerful and eccentric figures, including Howard Hughes, Shimon Peres, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Hoffa swirled around him.

"The film started out to tell the story of Hank Greenspun, and what it grew into immediately was a story about the most incredible hero no one has ever heard of," said Brian Greenspun, Hank's son and the current editor of the Sun.

Brian added that his father was a crusader led by a deep sense of right and wrong, and despite his previous publicity work for Siegel, "never liked the mob." The relationship with Siegel demonstrated how great the elder Greenspun was at moving pieces around a chess board, especially if it helped Las Vegas — and its denizens — prosper.

Reid compared Greenspun — particularly his facial features — to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.

"And let me add something to that," said Brian. "He could punch harder than Dempsey."

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