Airbrushing out inconvenient facts

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The Washington Post ran a sympathetic profile of fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy on Sunday. . Astonishingly, the article didn't mention that McCarthy donated some $7,500 to Democrats in 2004, including $2,000 to Sen. John Kerry and $5,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party. Also a Michael McCarthy of the same Bethesda ZIP code, perhaps Mary McCarthy's husband or other relative, contributed $2,000 to Kerry and $500 to Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland in 2004. .

Leave Michael McCarthy aside—perhaps there's no relation. Assume Mary McCarthy made something on the order of $120,000 at the CIA. After taxes that comes to something like $70,000. If that's right, she contributed 10 percent of her take-home salary to political campaigns! Astonishing. How many other Americans tithe to politicians?

One of the advantages of being a journalist is that when people ask me to make political contributions, I can just say no. I save a lot of money that way. I should think one of the advantages of working for the CIA or whatever cover agency the CIA employee says he or she works for is that you can decline to make political contributions. But Mary McCarthy was evidently so strongly motivated to give money to Democrats that she gave them one tenth of her take-home pay.

By airbrushing these political contributions out of their story—which carries two bylines and lists four reporters and two researchers as contributors—the Washington Post has denied its readers information they should have to make intelligent judgments about this story.

Here's another example of Post airbrushing. After nearly three months of negotiations, the Iraqi parliament on Saturday finally selected a prime minister and other leading officials. On page A12! On the same page with "Police Attack Protesters in Nepal's Capital" and "Shaking Spain out of Its Siesta." No need to give good news any prominence. True, the Post on Saturday did front-page the agreement on who should be prime minister. But after all the bad news from Iraq, readers might have been far from certain that this would be ratified by the parliament. That it was ratified was, I think, front-page news. The Post's editorial page did better today, with a thoughtful lead editorial on "Iraq's Step Forward."