Gallagher Criticizes 'WP' Article; Kurtz Rebuts

By: Dave Astor Maggie Gallagher released a statement this afternoon taking issue with aspects of the Washington Post article by Howard Kurtz that today broke the news that she received $21,500 from the Department of Health and Human Services for marriage-themed writing projects. She called one of the Kurtz passages "completely false."

Kurtz, after being contacted by E&P, read a rebuttal statement over the phone, in which he said she was attempting to "blame the messenger."

Here are Gallagher's comments, followed by Kurtz':

"On January 26, 2005, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post wrote that I 'had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the President's proposal.'

"To me, this is an extremely serious charge. It is also completely false. I was not paid to promote the President's marriage proposal. In 2001 I was approached by HHS to do research and writing, not on the President's $300 million marriage initiative, but on marriage: specifically four brochures on the social-science evidence on the benefits of marriage for populations serviced by HHS (such as unwed parents), a draft of an essay for Wade Horn, and a training presentation on the social-science evidence on the benefits of marriage for regional HHS managers.

"I've been a marriage expert, researcher, and advocate for nearly 20 years. I've written two books on marriage, numerous articles in scholarly journals, as well as many newspaper columns and magazine articles. My research and expertise is why HHS hired me, and why I accepted the work assignment. I have written a syndicated column for almost 10 years, but my main work has been research and public education on marriage as a social institution.

"I did not and would not accept any payment to promote anyone else's policies of any kind in my newspaper column or anywhere else. Moreover on Jan. 25, I offered Howard Kurtz copies of my contract and invoice as documentation of my work product. He had also received a copy of my Jan. 25 column, explaining the exact nature of the work I performed, before he filed his story.

"It is not uncommon for researchers, scholars, or experts to get paid by the government to do work relating to their field of expertise. Nor is it considered unethical or shady: if anything, government funded work is considered a mark of an expert's respectability. Until today, researchers and scholars have not generally been expected to disclose a government-funded research project in the past, when they later wrote about their field of expertise in the popular press or in scholarly journals.

"For these reasons, it simply never occurred to me there was a need to disclose this information. I certainly had no intention or motive to hide my work from anyone. As a journalist, however, when the question is raised 'Should you have disclosed?' the answer is always, yes. It was a mistake on my part not to have disclosed any government contract. It will not happen again."

In response, Kurtz told E&P: "It's too bad that Maggie Gallagher, in the process of apologizing for her mistake, has seen fit to blame the messenger. My story made quite clear that her work at HHS included writing brochures for the President's marriage initiative, ghostwriting a magazine article for a top official, and briefing other department officials on the issue. That sure sounds like promotion to me, but none of this would be a media controversy had Ms. Gallagher disclosed the contract in her writing trumpeting the Bush marriage plan."

The Universal Press Syndicate-distributed Gallagher, when reached by E&P, declined to comment beyond her e-mailed statement.


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