Universal Press Syndicate columnist Maggie Gallagher says The Washington Post retracted a claim about her in a Saturday column by Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt.
But the Washington Post says it wasn't a retraction:
"I would not call it a retraction," responded Hiatt, 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."
The reason I'm bringing this up again is twofold:
1) I think that ultimately Maggie Gallagher is shooting herself in the foot by continuing to talk about this story, and I want to help her, because the more there's a story out there about the administration paying columnists, the worse it is for them.
2) This appears to be a new tactic in the right-wing media arsenal. The right-wing claims many things that aren't true. About WMD, about the political affiliation of the media, about the number 1 librul in the US Senate, etc., you've heard 'em all before. But I've never seen the right-wing start claiming that the mainstream media apologized for something it didn't apologize for. Usually, it's the other way around. They'll demand apologies for things that don't require apologies, and then moan about how their feelings are hurt.
Just so there's no debate about this, Maggie's problem was this:
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.'"
For the record, here's what the original Post piece had said about her:
Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative. That report, published last year, was funded by a Justice Department grant, said NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro. Gallagher said she was "aware vaguely" that her work was federally funded.
In columns, television appearances and interviews with such newspapers as The Washington Post, Gallagher last year defended Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
Wade Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families, said his division hired Gallagher as "a well-known national expert," along with other specialists in the field, to help devise the president's healthy marriage initiative. "It's not unusual in the federal government to do that," he said. The essay Gallagher drafted appeared under Horn's byline -- with the headline "Closing the Marriage Gap" -- and ran in Crisis magazine, which promotes humanism rooted in Catholic Church teachings.
Now, of course, drafting an essay which will appear in a media outlet for a government official about a government program is promoting it. There's no question about that. Maggie is just wrong in being so offended. But the WaPo, in the same article, actually let the reader draw their own conclusions. They quote the government official in question:
"I don't see any comparison between what has been alleged with Armstrong Williams and what we did with Maggie Gallagher," said Horn, who founded the National Fatherhood Initiative before entering government. "We didn't pay her to write columns. We didn't pay her to promote the president's healthy marriage initiative at all. What we wanted to do was use her expertise." The Education Department is now investigating the Williams contract.
There's nothing to retract! The piece was fair. Maggie is a loser. She should get over herself.