On the set at Fox News, Cal Thomas dances and snaps his fingers after firing another torpedo at secularists and liberals on "After Hours with Cal Thomas." Thomas, 61, hums, "There's no business like show business," as he contemplates his next show. His conservative Christian musings have grown into the most widely syndicated political column in America, carried by more than 550 newspapers. Twice a week for 20 years, Thomas has taken aim at those he calls "my liberal friends." Indeed, many of them, such as Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and The New York Times columnist Frank Rich, count Thomas as a friend.

While the public Thomas is a commentator on "Fox News Watch" and is syndicated on more than 300 radio stations, the private Thomas entertains friend and foe by singing Broadway tunes, scheming practical jokes, and puncturing foolish pretensions with engaging wit. Former "Meet the Press" moderator Paul Duke recalls that Thomas "would let you know what he was thinking in a jolly way."

After an up-and-down beginning to his career, in 1980 Thomas ended up as media director for Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. He sent an op-ed piece on book burning to The New York Times—not really expecting the "Pravda on the Hudson to pick me up." It did. Then he proposed writing a column through the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Bedlam broke out in the newsroom. "You are inviting Jerry Falwell in," one vice president argued.

But Willard Colston, the head of the Times Mirror division for syndicated columns, knew his paper was missing many readers. After a contentious meeting, Colston banged his hand on a desk and said, "We are going to try this thing." Thomas's column skyrocketed. Eventually, Thomas left the Moral Majority and created a ...

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