Fate of ‘Washington Merry-Go-Round’ in Dispute

By: Dave Astor

United Feature Syndicate and Jack Anderson’s son Kevin say “Washington Merry-Go-Round” has ended. Douglas Cohn says Jack Anderson gave him the right to continue the column under the “Washington Merry-Go-Round” name. Kevin says he doesn’t think this authorization is valid.

Anderson himself? The renowned 81-year-old journalist is seriously ill with Parkinson’s disease, and did not return an E&P phone message left yesterday.

Things started going public Friday. That morning, United announced the end of “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” the investigative column started by Drew Pearson in 1932 and joined by Anderson in 1947. Cohn — who worked with Anderson for 18 years and became his column partner in 1999 — subsequently announced Friday afternoon that he and Eleanor Clift were continuing “Washington Merry-Go-Round” for U.S. News Syndicate in McLean, Va. That didn’t sit well with United and Kevin Anderson, an attorney based in Salt Lake City.

“Jack Anderson and ‘Washington Merry-Go-Round’ were retired on Friday,” United Senior Vice President/General Manager Lisa Klem Wilson said yesterday. “It was Jack’s wish to do so. We support his decision fully.”

Kevin Anderson added yesterday, “We don’t think Doug continuing the column would be best for dad’s legacy,” while declining to elaborate on that statement. During a different part of the interview, Kevin alluded to some problems in the relationship between Anderson family members and Cohn.

Cohn said he had a good relationship with Jack. He added that Jack gave him partial ownership of “Washington Merry-Go-Round” in 1999, and then was willing to sign over complete ownership about 10 days ago. “I don’t want a column that has been around since 1932 to disappear,” Cohn said.

Kevin Anderson said: “We do not consider dad’s signature to be valid. The circumstances under which it was obtained make it suspect.”

Cohn’s attorney, James Connors, said if Jack Anderson is now considered incapable of making informed decisions, Kevin Anderson needs to show documentation of that as well as documentation of whether he has power of attorney for his father. Connors said he has received neither. “Jack Anderson is competent and fully coherent,” added the Columbus, Ohio-based attorney.

It was Connors’ client — Cohn — who suggested E&P call Jack Anderson to see whether or not he wanted “Washington Merry-Go-Round” to continue with Cohn.

The column, which ran in about 1,000 newspapers at its peak, reportedly had 150 or so clients as of last week. Cohn said he has been writing “Washington Merry-Go-Round” for several years with Clift, a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine and a regular on TV’s “The McLaughlin Group.”

Will Kevin Anderson sue Cohn? “I don’t know,” he replied. “Litigation is a tremendous waste of money.” Anderson said he hoped the matter can be resolved without a lawsuit.

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