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Ralph de Toledano, at 90; editor, prolific author championed conservatism cause

WASHINGTON -- Ralph de Toledano, a prolific author and journalist and a passionate partisan for the cause of conservatism, died Feb. 3 of cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 90 .

Mr. de Toledano was a former editor for Newsweek and National Review. His political views migrated steadily rightward through the decades, a political path trodden by a number of leftist intellectuals from the 1930s and 1940s. Ardent anti communism was the impetus, Mr. de Toledano said in books, articles, and interviews.

He once described himself as "a non conformist conservative with general [though often critical] Republican sympathies." Toward the end of his life, he labeled himself a libertarian, his son Paul said.

Mr. de Toledano's disillusionment with the left became irrevocable when Newsweek assigned him to cover the 1950 trial of Alger Hiss, a State Department official accused of perjury in a case involving charges that he was a Soviet spy. Mr. de Toledano came to believe in the veracity of Whittaker Chambers, a former managing editor at Time and Hiss's chief accuser.

"Whittaker Chambers became like a surrogate grandfather," his son said.

"Communism was a serious threat in many ways," Mr. de Toledano said in a 1998 interview with the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Those who raised alarms about its dangers, he said, "had a hard time, because we were considered wild men, we were considered Red baiters, we were considered fascist and so on."

Mr. de Toledano was close to President Nixon , having written a number of columns in support of his 1950 Senate campaign.

Interviewed on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" in 2005, Mr. de Toledano said that during the Watergate crisis, he advised Nixon to burn the tapes on the White House lawn.

"They haven't been subpoenaed, so they can't do anything to you, because, otherwise, you're going to be dead," he said he told Nixon. "And he said, 'Oh, no, they're history, and they'll never be able to get them.' And that's what killed him."

He wrote 26 books, several on jazz, two volumes of poetry, and two novels.

Mr. de Toledano, who was of Sephardic Jewish heritage , was born in Morocco, to American parents. When he was 5, the family moved to New York City . A violin prodigy, he studied at the Juilliard School.

Mr. de Toledano served in the Army during World War II, became publicity director for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union before joining Newsweek in 1948. For National Review, he wrote "National Review Bulletin," a twice-monthly column from Washington. He also wrote a column syndicated nationally by King Features.

In 1975, consumer activist Ralph Nader filed a lawsuit against Mr. de Toledano in connection with a de Toledano suggestion -- denied by Nader -- that Nader had "falsified and distorted" evidence about the Chevrolet Corvair. The case lingered in court for years and cost Mr. de Toledano his life savings. Mr. de Toledano's son said it was settled out of court.

In 1979, Mr. de Toledano was the ghost writer for a memoir by Mark Felt, the former FBI official who disclosed in 2005 that he was "Deep Throat," the anonymous Watergate source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Mr. de Toledano said that when he helped write the memoir, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," he had no idea that Felt was Deep Throat. Otherwise, Mr. de Toledano said, he would not have agreed to sign away his rights to the book for $10,000.

In 2006, he sued, saying that Felt's son Mark Felt Jr. and his attorney duped him.