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January 27, 2005

The Maggie Gallagher Pseudo-Scandal

It's interesting how the Mainstream Media still retains its power to lie successfully even to conservative weblogs and politicians who should know better than to believe everything they read in the newspapers. Via Instapundit and Anklebitingpundits, I found a yahoo story on the Maggia Gallagher affair. She is falsely accused of accepting money to promote government programs in her journalism. What actually happened is that she is a journalist who has done contract work for the government to write particular reports-- all clearly labelled as coming from the government. In fact, it turns out that part of the money was from the *Clinton* Administration:...

... Gallagher got another $20,000 -- part of which was approved while President Clinton (news - web sites) was still in office --from a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative, using money from a Justice Department (news - web sites) grant. For that 2001 grant, she wrote a report on the institution of marriage, entitled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?"

More details: Gallagher says,

"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.

The same article has Kurtz's response:

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."

No-- Kurtz is trying to deceive his readers. Here is his Washington Post article's opening:

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

The implication is that while her work included drafting magazine articles, etc., it also included defending Bush's proposal in her columns. Kurtz's column. The column reveals the truth later, but in a sleazily clever way:

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. Horn said most of the brochures written by Gallagher -- such as "The Top Ten Reasons Marriage Matters" -- were not used as the program evolved.

"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.

Rather than state the undoubted truth-- that Gallagher was not paid a retainer to write pro-Bush columns-- Kurtz puts it as a quote from an Administration official. (Notice that earlier in his article he doesn't put quotes around "But Gallagher failed to mention..." or other statements that he wanted to sound accurate.) To add a final slap in the face, he includes in the same paragraph, " The Education Department is now investigating the Williams contract," so that we are left with the impression that Horn is a rascal who is practically in jail already.

Glennreynolds.com has more, much from Kaus at Slate, who notes frequent instances of Kurtz himself praising corporations without revealing that he is on their payroll--- as an employee of CNN as well as the Washington Post, where he is "media critic". (From Kaus: `Kaiser writes: "It is inconceivable that The Washington Post would allow this kind of conflict of interest for anyone covering any other beat. Can you imagine the Detroit correspondent becoming a consultant for General Motors?"').

I'm afraid I may have to start putting the Washington Post in the same category of unreliability as the New York Times.

What is most interesting, though is not that the Mainstream Media is biased and unreliable. We know that already, from numerous exposes. Rather, it is that conservatives fall for it. Drudge's first report accepted the Washington Post at face value, though he's pulled down that report by now and put up another. And as the yahoo story says,

President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries Wednesday not to hire columnists to promote administration agendas after disclosure that a second writer had been paid to assist an agency.

"All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda," Bush said at a news conference. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet." The president said he expects his agency heads will "make sure that that practice doesn't go forward."

Bush's remarks came a day after syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher apologized to readers for not disclosing a $21,500 contract with the Health and Human Services (news - web sites) Department to help create materials promoting the agency's $300 million initiative to encourage marriage.

and Professor Bainbridge writes
I've had it

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families. ... But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21, 500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. (Link)

This tears it. I'm tired of working for free here. As of now, I'm not saying anything nice about the President or his policies until I get paid. So there.

As Professor Reynolds notes, the only reason this has come up is because it follows the Armstrong Williams story, a legitimate scandal (or am I too believing of what I hear?). Apparently the Department of Education paid Williams to talk about its proposals favorably on his show. Viewers would not that his statements were paid for by the government, unlike readers of the materials that Gallagher wrote for government contracts.

It would be interesting, of course, to find out how many pundits have ever received money from the government for contracts, employment, grants, and so forth. I bet we'd find that 95% of the money went to liberal pundits (aside from previous government employment money, which is probably split evenly). Think about any pundit connected with public radio or TV, for example. Think about organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which, as I've mentioned before, gets a third of its revenue from government and another third from its abortion clinics.

Posted by erasmuse at January 27, 2005 10:00 AM

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