When conservatives attack

A Richard Mellon Scaife-run paper savages the late Katharine Graham in a disgraceful editorial.

Published July 19, 2001 9:38PM (EDT)

Anger management

As Washington mourned the death of the Washington Post's Katharine Graham this week, not all were impressed with the way Washington mourns. Andrew Sullivan takes umbrage at Barbara Walter's lead to her homage to the first lady of American journalism. Walters wrote:

Katharine Graham, her daughter, Lally, and a few close friends were at my home for lunch just two weekends ago. It had been a celebratory couple of days for Kay and Lally, whose birthdays were within days of each other. The night before, Lally had thrown a big party, and Kay had risen to toast her daughter with enormous pride. Then her son Steve Graham gave wonderfully insightful and amusing remarks. So I want to talk about Kay as a mother.

To this, Sullivan quips: "But before I do, can I remind you all of my fabulous recent lunch-party? Le tout Washington was there. Everyone was so, well, wonderfully insightful and amusing."

But some, like the folks at Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, were shedding no tears after Graham's death. In clearly the most tasteless obituary of the year, the PTR editorial board ruthlessly attacks Graham and her tenure at the Post:

As the owner of The Washington Post and Newsweek, to mention only the flagships of the Graham media empire, Kay Graham shaped the news, deciding what would be covered, how and when. She shaped the view of the American public and controlled the political and media elites' understanding of their role in her world. Curiously, for one who built her own fortune at the head of a media empire, she shunned media examination of her own life, politics and corporate decision-making.

The assault goes on:

She married Felix Frankfurter's brilliant law clerk, Philip Graham, who took over running The Post, which her father purchased at a bankruptcy sale. Graham built the paper but became estranged from Kay. She had him committed to a mental hospital, and he was clearly intending divorce when she signed him out and took him for a weekend outing during which he was found shot. His death was ruled a suicide. Within 48 hours, she declared herself the publisher.

Kay Graham saw The Washington Post as her inheritance from her father. She cultivated presidents, their wives and their senior advisers who, whether Democrats or Republicans, often heeded her subtle directives. She truly was one of a kind.

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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