'Wash Post' Disputes Gallagher Claim of Retraction

By: Dave Astor Universal Press Syndicate columnist Maggie Gallagher says a Saturday column in The Washington Post retracted a claim about her.

"I would not call it a retraction," responded Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who wrote the column, when reached by E&P.

Added Howard Kurtz, the Post writer who broke the story about Gallagher receiving $21,500 from the Department of Health and Human Services to write marriage-themed material, "The only retraction is in Maggie Gallagher's imagination."

Hiatt's column discussed various columnists, including Gallagher, involved in controversies this month. He wrote that Gallagher "should have disclosed her government payments in columns on the subject," and that writing an opinion column and doing consulting work for the government are roles that "coexist uneasily." Hiatt also wrote: "We have not written editorials about Gallagher; she was not paid to covertly espouse administration views in her column."

Gallagher apparently interpreted this last line as a retraction. In a Saturday e-mail to E&P, the columnist said she had sent a Friday letter to the Post "asking the paper [to] retract the specific claim the Bush administration paid me 'to help promote the president's proposal.' For, as I wrote, 'whether Howard Kurtz and The Washington Post acknowledge it or not, it is this specific charge and not the question of disclosure that is feeding the media coverage.'"

To which Gallagher added: "This morning, the editorial leadership of The Washington Post has done an honorable thing by retracting the charge." Then she quoted Hiatt's line about how Gallagher "was not paid to covertly espouse administration views in her columns."

While people are free to interpret an opinion piece any way they want, said Hiatt, he's "not in a position to retract" content generated by the news side of the Post.

Kurtz told E&P there's "nothing to retract" in his article about Gallagher. "My original story made it crystal clear that Maggie Gallagher was paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to directly work on the president's marriage initiative through such efforts as writing brochures and ghostwriting a magazine article for a top department official," he said. "The article never suggested nor do I believe she was paid to somehow influence her [other] writing."

He added: "Ms. Gallagher, after apologizing for her mistake, is playing some kind of semantic game by proclaiming her innocence of something that The Washington Post never accused her of. My story was carefully done and accurate, and no correction is necessary."

Gallagher could not be reached for comment today.


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