"She was asked to perform certain tasks," Lee Salem, Universal's executive vice president and editor, told E&P. "It was never a question of her promoting a particular bill or proposal in her column." He said Gallagher's actions were "substantially different" from those of Armstrong Williams, who accepted $240,000 from the Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind act -- and had his column contract terminated by Tribune Media Services.
Gallagher, in a piece posted on Universal's Web site and elsewhere, said HHS approached her in 2001 to do "a presentation of the social-science evidence on the benefits of marriage for HHS regional managers, to draft an essay for Wade Horn, assistant secretary of HHS, on how government can strengthen marriage, and to prepare drafts of community brochures: 'The Top Ten Reasons Marriage Matters,' stuff like that."
In breaking the story, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported that Gallagher had mentioned the Bush administration's marriage initiatives in her column. She also defended Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in columns, television appearances, and interviews, Kurtz reported.
Salem added that the 2002 payment to Gallagher was a "one-time thing." And he said it happened three years ago, long before op-ed columnists were looked at through the "prism" of this month's revelations about Armstrong Williams.
Gallagher -- who has focused extensively on marriage issues, including writing three books on the subject -- does her column for about 75 newspapers. Salem and Universal Director of Communications Kathie Kerr said no clients had contacted the syndicate, as of early this afternoon, with complaints or other comments about what Gallagher did in 2002.
By: Dave Astor Universal Press Syndicate today explained why it doesn't plan to drop columnist Maggie Gallagher, who received $21,500 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote President Bush's efforts to encourage marriage.