A Washington Post staff writer on Wednesday swore that it wasn’t the "goal" of the newspaper to elect Virginia’s Democratic candidate for governor, despite the paper’s wave of attack coverage against the Republican nominee. Participating in a chat on WashingtonPost.com, Amy Gardner did admit that there’s an "argument to be made" over whether the paper did some "‘prolonged’ reporting" on Republican Bob McDonnell’s 1989 college thesis about marriage and the family.
Gardner, who wrote many of the articles on the 20-year-old thesis about feminism and working women, avowed that the subject was a "legitimate news story that then took on a life of its own and that we continued to cover." Took on a life of its own? In the first 12 days after the story broke, the paper published 11 articles on the subject. Wouldn’t something with a "life of its own" have developed naturally without the aggressive help of the Post?
Gardner was responding to a reader question over whether the news outlet’s extensive coverage actually harmed Democrat Creigh Deeds. She retorted, "Well, certainly there's an argument to be made that we did some ‘prolonged’ reporting on the thesis, but it wasn't with the goal of helping Deeds."
The Washington Post, which has been running stories friendly to Deeds since breaking the thesis story on August 30, endorsed the Democrat on October 25. (The newspaper also supported Deeds in the primaries, giving him a big boost.)
Another person participating in the chat wondered if the Democrat has mentioned that Daniel Snyder donated to McDonnell’s campaign. (Snyder is the unpopular and, thus far, unsuccessful owner of the perpetually struggling Washington Redskin, a football team that has a strong following in Northern Virginia.)
Staff writer Rosalind Helderman, who has also written articles about McDonnell and his thesis, enthused, "I believe we've mentioned it a few times in print. I haven't heard yet from Deeds on the donation, but maybe it'd be a smart strategy for him to start talking about it!"
The entire chat can be found here.
The thesis and Redskin questions are below:
Richmond, Va.: Did your prolonged reporting on McDonnell's thesis actually harm Deeds as today's PPP results -- even though you don't like their methodology -- say people have been turned off by the constant harping on it?
Amy Gardner: Well, certainly there's an argument to be made that we did some "prolonged" reporting on the thesis, but it wasn't with the goal of helping Deeds. It was a legitimate news story that then took on a life of its own and that we continued to cover. Also, as much as I'd like to think otherwise, most of those polled are not reading The Washington Post. They're seeing Deeds's ads, which focused heavily on the thesis for many weeks. Voter turn-off in that instance is directed at Deeds, I think.
New York: Has Deeds mentioned that McDonnell has received a $50,000 contribution from Dan Snyder, possibly the most detested person in the Washington area? I would think McDonnell would want to keep that quiet.
Rosalind Helderman: The donation popped up in the McDonnell's most recent fundraiser report. I believe we've mentioned it a few times in print. I haven't heard yet from Deeds on the donation, but maybe it'd be a smart strategy for him to start talking about it!