First, let's take a moment to examine how it could be from the outset that someone like Hearst could develop a reputation like this in the first place. Is there any merit for the confusion? Ultimately, there is some. True to the nature of progressives, they like to use the language of the other side in order to cloak their true beliefs. They even did this sometimes in the progressive era, depending on who they were speaking to. Chameleon's gonna chameleon. Hearst, was no different. In the Literary Digest, 1904, Hearst described himself this way:
I am conservative in the sense that I believe in the spirit and in the letter of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and in the characters and purposes of such men as Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln.
Too often unfortunately those that call themselves the conservative element are endeavoring to introduce radical departures from these old conservative principles. I do not think my views are in conflict with those of any citizen, however conservative, if his conservatism takes the form of an earnest desire to preserve and perpetuate the original American form of government and the liberty, equality, independence, and opportunity guaranteed under it.
"Old"? This is a common refrain amongst progressives, believing that something newer exists than what we inherited at the time of the American founding. Reagan never talked this way that I know of - he generally spoke the opposite. Liberty is the newest idea. I don't know or know of any conservative who looks at this as old, compared with the ancientness of tyranny. Liberty is still the newest idea. However, we can at first glance give Hearst the benefit of the doubt with this. Compartmentalized, ideas that were not born today can be said to be 'old', assuming he has this as his pure intent. Hearst continued:
But I am in conflict with those so-called conservatives that are reverting to the ideas of former centuries and of other nations, seeking to exploit the mass of the people for their own profit. Such men are reactionary, they are not conservative. I do not consider the steel trust conservative, for instance.
"Reactionary"? There's no excuse for that. Conservatives do not prattle on about the "bourgeois", "reactionaries", "social justice", or other such dog whistles. I suspect that the audience of the Literary Digest at that time was not as progressive as other audiences, which is why he has to put on his sheep clothing.
Before we move on from 1904, lets take a peek from the other side. Arthur Brisbane, one of Hearst's close allies(and who was at the time himself a socialist) wrote this:
The yellow newspaper of today becomes the conservative newspaper of to-morrow, and the DEAD newspaper of a little later, because money changes the editor's character, and with his character his newspaper changes. William Randolph Hearst's appearance as an energetic, and consequently yellow editor, is interesting, because he began his work as a rich man. He did not enter journalism to make money. If he ever changes into a conservative "respectable" editor, with a newspaper slowly dying, it will be for some new reason.
"If he ever changes into", meaning, not now. Not yet. The most interesting thing, what I published most recently, is this: Hearst leaves the socialists. In 1907, Hearst caused quite a sensation amongst the reds who believed that Hearst was among them. Clearly, Brisbane was not alone in his thinking. Prior to 1907, Hearst was considered a socialist by socialists. Why wouldn't they believe this? Other than a small few chance times he spoke about the greatness of the Declaration and Constitution, Hearst generally embodied and acted what they believed in. In 1905, Hearst ran for mayor of NYC. His running mate was an ardent socialist - James Graham Phelps Stokes.
Again, in the same time frame, prior to 1907, Harper's Weekly ran with this cover, depicting Hearst dragging the donkey to socialism.
In case you hadn't already guessed it or figured it out, I'm building a time line here. Time lines are very important, especially when you are dealing with a self-trans-formative chameleon such as this. After Hearst's falling out with the socialists, then does he become a conservative?
No, he never did. I wrote about this quite some time ago, so I will be brief. But I will cover the highlights here.
In 1908, Hearst and his Independence League were out there calling for what would become the 17th Amendment.
Finally, as is well known(leaving me free to keep the tail end of the blog post brief) Hearst ultimately became a support of the fascists and the nazis in the 30's. At all points in his life, Hearst moved as a believer of one form of big government to the next form of big government, never once renouncing big government itself, just simply exchanging one set of potential rulers for another set of potential rulers.
Given that I've never seen Hearst prattle on about the bourgeois or call for violent revolutions out in the streets, I doubt he was ever a socialist. Likewise, other than the use of wolf-in-sheep's-clothing-words in one or two instances, Hearst clearly never sided with conservatives. It is just as I stated way back in 2012 - Hearst was a progressive, and once a time line is constructed, you can see quite clearly that he "made progress" through his entire lifetime.
The progressives spent a century building the narrative of history that we have today,(I don't mean this limited to WR Hearst) but like all other aspects of progressivism it falls to pieces when challenged.