Columnist McManus Apologizes for Not Disclosing Federal Funding

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By: Dave Astor

“Ethics & Religion” columnist Michael McManus, after not acknowledging wrongdoing in a statement last weekend, is now asking readers for “forgiveness” for failing to disclose that his Marriage Savers organization received federal money.

In his Feb. 5 column posted today at MarriageSavers.com, McManus wrote that the Marriage Savers organization, of which he’s president and co-founder, “received $10,200 from the Department of Health and Human Services to meet with local leaders organizing ‘Healthy Marriage Initiatives.’ … Second, I wrote columns praising the [Bush] administration for its ‘Healthy Marriage Initiative,’ without disclosing that Marriage Savers had received a consulting fee. In retrospect, that was a conflict of interest.?I am truly sorry.?I ask the forgiveness of newspapers publishing my column and of you, as readers.”

He also wrote: “What’s particularly painful, I write a column called ‘Ethics & Religion’ and am guilty of an ethical lapse.”

McManus self-syndicates “Ethics & Religion” to about 35 newspapers. One of them, the Reading (Pa.) Eagle, ran an editorial today explaining why it’s dropping the column. The editorial — which a Feb. 1 E&P story had reported was coming — stated that McManus “clearly violated journalistic ethics” by “promot[ing] the Bush agenda without disclosing [he] had been paid to do so.”

The editorial also discussed why the Eagle is keeping Universal Press Syndicate columnist Maggie Gallagher, who received $21,500 from Health and Human Services. It said that while McManus was “hired to promote the Bush agenda, Gallagher was contracted to provide the administration with research, materials, and a speech. … McManus crossed the line. … Gallagher got about as close to that line as anyone could without crossing it.”

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