Only days after President Obama presented him the Medal of Freedom, former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee was taken apart in a devastating exposé.
The exposé was written by one of Bradlee’s former fellow Post editors, Harry Rosenfeld, in a new book, “From Kristallnacht to Watergate.”
Moreover, the Sunday, Nov. 24, Post, now under the new ownership of Jeff Bezos, has a review of this Rosenfeld book by Mark Feldstein, Richard Eaton professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland.
Feldstein’s review includes the following about Ben Bradlee:
- “Rosenfeld depicts Bradlee as a superficial social climber who second-guessed the selection of a competent new reporter by asking, ‘How could I hire someone that homely?’ Bradlee wasn’t joking; looks matter to him.”
- “Bradlee’s romantic involvement with Post writer Sally Quinn, whom he later married, led to the immediate doubling of sacred cows in the newsroom,’ Rosenfeld complains, ‘as well as to the couple’s meddling in news coverage about themselves.’”
- “‘Bradlee’s open bias toward newsroom favorites undermined staff morale,’ Rosenfeld adds.”
- “Even Woodward and Bernstein ‘felt they were being robbed of their Pulitzers by Bradlee’s alleged maneuvering to remove their names from the prestigious awards and to substitute the name of the newspaper instead.”
- “‘Rosenfeld, you spend your time sticking your thumb in my eye,’ Bradlee growled.”
- “It all came to a head when the pugnacious editor (Rosenfeld) insisted on publishing a story about Kennedy’s extramarital affair with Bradlee’s sister-in-law, Mary Pinchot Meyer. ‘Ben is not going to settle for getting mad,’ a Post executive predicted. ‘He’s going to get even.’”
- “Sure enough, Rosenfeld says, he learned he was being demoted by reading about it in the rival Washington Star. Bradlee erroneously viewed the Meyer story as ‘a plot to dethrone him,’ Rosenfeld writes, ‘because of a compulsion to look at the world in personal terms and to not leave unsettled outstanding scores.’”
Then, after all that, the following:
“Still, the author credits his former boss with being a transformative leader who made the Post a great newspaper.”
Think about that.
“Transformational leader” Ben, who was also a “superficial social climber.” He led to “the immediate doubling of sacred cows in the newsroom,” “as well as to the couple’s meddling in news coverage about themselves” and “open bias toward newsroom favorites,” and he tried to “rob Woodward and Bernstein.”
I was, in the last century, a columnist syndicated to more than 200 newspapers. Not one of these editors had anything comparable to the horrendous behavior of Ben Bradlee.
This included what may be the most shameful of all Bradlee behaviors: his conduct in the Janet Cooke scandal, which this Post article does not mention.
This was a young woman whose falsified credentials when applying to the Post for employment as a reporter were never checked by Bradlee when he hired her – and Ms. Cooke was able to get published a series of stories about a small boy who never existed.