- Left syndicated columnist and media personality
- Founder, editor and namesake of The Huffington Post
- 2003 California gubernatorial candidate
- Divorced wife of California Congressman and oil millionaire Michael Huffington
- Member and ordained minister of John-Roger “cult” the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness
- Former disciple of group-sex and germ-warfare guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Arianna Huffington is a “progressive independent” syndicated columnist, author, media personality, and co-host of the nationally distributed public radio program Left, Right & Center, for which she originally represented the “right.” In May 2005 she became founder, editor and namesake of the Huffington Post, a webzine and Internet “blog” featuring mostly left-liberal participants whose writings there are also distributed to newspapers by the Chicago Tribune’s Tribune Media Services.
Huffington was born Arianna Stassinopoulos on May 15, 1950 in Athens, Greece. Her mother Elli was active in the Communist-led Greek resistance movement during World War II. Her journalist father Constantine edited the resistance newspaper Paron, survived internment in a Nazi concentration camp, and after the war became a publisher. When Arianna was 16 her parents divorced, and she and her younger sister moved with their mother to England.
In England Arianna attended Cambridge University, where she studied Keynesian economics at Girton College and one of her tutors was the Maoist economist Joan Robinson. At Cambridge she became the first foreign-born female president of the famed debating society the Cambridge Union and an outspoken Tory. She graduated in 1972 with a master’s degree in economics.
After dating John Selwyn, a young Conservative Member of Parliament, Arianna met and settled into a close eight-year relationship with Times of London columnist Bernard Levin, 22 years her senior, who she did not marry but described, after his 2004 death, as “the big love of my life.” While with him she published her first book in 1973, The Female Woman, a response to Germaine Greer’s best-seller The Female Eunuch that accused orthodox feminists of denigrating a woman’s freedom to choose marriage and motherhood.
In search of spirituality, Arianna read the collected works of psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung. She introduced Levin to an organization called Insight whose rituals encouraged followers to act out their fantasies.
The future Arianna Huffington also became a disciple of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose cult practiced open sexual intercourse among its members, and with its leader, as a central sacrament of their faith. This cult later moved to America’s West Coast and attempted to take over an Oregon town. Bhagwan devotees were directed to purchase what eventually became 139 white Rolls Royces for their leader. As Judith Miller and two other New York Times investigative reporters recounted in their 2001 book Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, the Rajneesh cult spread potentially lethal Salmonella bacteria in this town. Rajneesh cult members did this as a way of infecting and incapacitating town residents on election day so that cult voters could win control of the local government. The Bhagwan died in 1990.
“It was like knowing there was another dimension to life and that I wanted to experience it, knowing that nothing else mattered as much,” Huffington later told Stephanie Mansfield of the Washington Post about this time of her life. “It took me over completely.”
Out of this spiritual experience, Arianna in 1979 published her second book, After Reason (published in England with the title The Other Revolution). In it she criticized both the right and left for doing too little for society’s poor.
In 1980 Arianna moved to New York City and soon began to tour the United States to promote her new book about a Greek operatic diva, Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend. In 1988 she wrote a biography of Pablo Picasso, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer, which was the subject of a lawsuit from one of Picasso’s mistresses who Arianna had interviewed.
While visiting California she met the man who remains her spiritual guide to this day, John-Roger (Hinkins), founder of a New Age church apparently spun off from the ECKANKAR cult teachings of Paul Twitchell. John-Roger’s Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) is a faith based on “the Mystical Traveler, a spiritual consciousness that exists throughout all levels of God’s creation.”
One disciple of John-Roger’s was the New York Times best-selling author Peter McWilliams. As a de-programmed ex-member, McWilliams wrote the expose Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You (1994). In this book McWilliams alleged that the charismatic John-Roger had told McWilliams the he (McWilliams) could be cured of AIDS if he wrote books giving John-Roger co-authorship and at least half of the books’ profits, which the “brainwashed” McWilliams agreed to do. To this day, John-Roger insists that he was the chief writer of such co-authored best-sellers as Life 101, and implied that McWilliams was more his scribe than a co-equal author.
In Life 102 McWilliams described how Arianna Huffington, too, had been duped by John-Roger and had become a major contributor to, and an ordained minister of, MSIA. McWilliams released to the press a video of Huffington in a white robe being baptized by John-Roger. “I’ve gotten a lot of value from John-Roger’s work,” said Arianna Huffington. “He’s a good friend.”
In the United States, Arianna dated a variety of men. Among them were real estate tycoon and U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief Mort Zuckerman and former California Governor Jerry Brown. Dole Pineapple CEO David Murdoch and his wife then introduced her to Texas oil millionaire Michael Huffington, who she married in April 1986 in a wedding ceremony financed as a gift by Ann Getty. But Arianna's friendship with Getty ended when the latter found that Huffington had frivolously spent $30,000 on her wedding dress and $100,000 in all.
Heir to approximately $80 millon from the sale of his family’s oil company, Michael Huffington spent $5.4 million in 1992 to win a seat in Congress from Santa Barbara, California. In 1994 he ran for U.S. Senate against longtime veteran Democratic politician and incumbent Dianne Feinstein and narrowly lost. One issue contributing to his defeat was public concern over Arianna Huffington’s links to the John-Roger cult. “He has more influence on her than anyone else in the world,” Michael Huffington years later told the New York Times of Arianna’s relationship with John-Roger.
In 1995 the new Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich helped make Arianna Huffington a senior fellow at his conservative think tank the Progress and Freedom Foundation, creating its “Center for Effective Compassion” (her name and idea) to advocate volunteerism as an alternative to the welfare state. She hosted the talk show Critical Mass on Republican Party-attuned National Empowerment Television. Her column in the conservative Washington Times newspaper was soon syndicated nationwide.
Huffington’s relationship with Gingrich soured abruptly for reasons unexplained. (In her 2000 book How To Overthrow the Government, Huffington claims that Gingrich did not care about the poor.) Returning to California after her husband Michael was forced to give up his congressional seat when he ran for the Senate, Arianna quickly organized a quite different social scene around herself -- consisting of media leftists like Harry Shearer, Bill Maher, Al Franken, and Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer.
Soon she became a frequent guest on television, embraced by Maher and Franken who understood the 180-degree turn she was about to make better than most. In 1996 the cable channel Comedy Central made Franken and Huffington a team covering that year’s political conventions, and she was nominated for an Emmy for her role in this coverage. She was able to keep her credibility as a conservative, however, by hammering President Clinton with some wit during the Monica Lewinsky affair and impeachment process.
Huffington continued to write books. Her coffee table volume The Gods of Greece (1983) described the deities of Greek mythology as representing “powerful psychological realities.” Under her married name she wrote about her continuing spiritual exploration in Fourth Instinct: The Call of the Soul (1994). And, while ostensibly still a conservative, she wrote about President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal in a novel, Greetings from the Lincoln Bedroom (1998).
In 1997 the Huffingtons divorced, with Arianna receiving an undisclosed but large financial settlement in the seven-figure range. This event became a watershed in her orientation and choice of political bedfellows.
“She’s a chameleon,” Michael Huffington told the New York Times to describe his former wife. Since their divorce, Arianna Huffington’s political positions have shifted dramatically towards the left. She now describes herself as a “progessive independent” who is “coming from the fourth dimension of political time and space.”
In 2000 Arianna Huffington was deeply involved in staging the “Shadow Conventions” designed as media propaganda shows to undermine Republicans and nudge Democrats farther to the political left. These mock “conventions” were organized by the “Shadow Party” organizations funded by George Soros and other wealthy leftists.
Huffington’s books in recent years reflect her new left-leaning slant. They include How to Overthrow the Government (2000); Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America (2003); and Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America (2004).
In 2003 Arianna Huffington ran as an “independent” candidate in the California election that recalled incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis. She directed almost all her fire on consensus Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ultimately won. One of Huffington’s chief campaign advisors during this race was her close personal friend Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink. Huffingtom received only one percent of the primary votes cast. One issue that cut against her was that despite living in a $7 million mansion, holding and making huge amounts of money, and demanding higher taxes on corporations, she herself had paid only $771 in federal taxes over the previous two years.
On May 9, 2005, Huffington launched HuffingtonPost.com, a website openly intended to do for the political left what Matt Drudge’s DrudgeReport.com has done to coalesce the right. As the New York Times reported, Huffington hired for her new website, Drudge’s “right-hand web whiz, Andrew Breitbart.”
In a May 2008 interview with John Stossel, Huffington boasted that she drove a Prius hybrid vehicle in an effort to help reduce global warming. When Stossel pointed out that Huffington “also has a $7-million house that burns more carbon than a hundred people in the Third World,” Huffington replied: “There is no question that the fact that I'm living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes -- all those things are contradictions. I'm not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle.”
In the same interview, Huffington stated that welfare reform (which was enacted in 1996) was "not a success" because it had left "a lot of people ... without job training and therefore without the ability to really lead productive lives." Stossel then pointed out that since welfare reform, eight million people had left the welfare rolls, and that many of them had gone on to find gainful employment. Huffington’s retort: “…But you know we have over 30 million Americans living below the poverty line.” When Stossel informed her that the percentage of families living below the poverty line had fallen considerably since 1996, Huffington said: “The fact that we used to live in caves is not a justification for the state of affairs right now.”
Republican strategist Ed Rollins (who managed Michael Huffington's 1994 campaign for the California Senate) once called Arianna Huffington "a domineering Greek Rasputin" who was "the most ruthless, unscrupulous, and ambitious person I'd met in thirty years in national politics."
On December 4, 2012, Huffington and several other "influential progressive" advisors (as described by White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest) met with President Barack Obama to strategize on how to best sell the American public on the need to raise taxes on people earning $250,000 or more, while extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all other U.S. residents. Also in attendance at the meeting were Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, and MSNBC host Ed Schultz.
Huffington is a program advisory board member of the Brennan Center for Justice.