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Maggie Gallagher

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Maggie Gallagher is the president of the Washington DC-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, editor of MarriageDebate.com, a syndicated columnist, author, and frequent television commentator. She also serves as president of the National Organization for Marriage. [1] Her articles on marriage policy have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard. [1] She's a former editor at the National Review, former columnist at New York Newsday and a founding senior editor at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. [2]

Ad campaign against same-sex marriage

In April 2009, Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, targeted New Jersey "in a $1.5 million advertising campaign." The group also ran ads in Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont -- states deemed to be "the hottest battlegrounds on the issue right now." The television spots warned that supporters of same-sex marriage "want to change the way I live. ... That means wedding photographers and marriage counselors could be labeled bigots and sued if they oppose working with same-sex couples," they claimed. "It's obviously going to happen if gay marriage is the law of the land," Gallagher told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. [2]

Federal contract controversy

On January 26, 2005, the Washington Post reported that Maggie Gallagher, a prominent advocate for the amendment to ban gay marriage as well as funding for marriage based health and social programs, had accepted a $21,500 contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote President Bush's marriage promotion initiatives. The contract included ghostwriting articles for department officials, writing brochures and briefing department officials.

While she was receiving federal funds to promote the Bush marriage initiative, Gallagher wrote in praise of it on National Review Online and dismissed criticisms of the initiative in her syndicated column as "nonsense." She wrote, "Bush plans to use a tiny fraction of surplus welfare dollars to fund marriage education services for at-risk couples." She also wrote about the marriage initiative for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard, in addition to speaking about it during interviews, including one with the Washington Post. [3]

Gallagher also receieved a $20,000 Justice Department grant for a writing a report titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?" that was published by the private, non-profit National Fatherhood Intiative. Wade Horn, the Health and Human Services Department's assistant secretary for children and families who defended Gallagher's contracts as "not unusual," founded the National Fatherhood Initiative before entering government. [4]

In response to the controversy, Gallagher wrote a column saying she "had no special obligation to disclose this information" but would have done so anyway, "if I had remembered." She wrote, "Of course, the reason Howard Kurtz of the Post is interested is the now-notorious case of conservative columnist Armstrong Williams, who signed a very different sort of government contract: to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act on his television show." She maintained that her case was different, because "I get paid to write, edit, research and educate on marriage. If a scholar or expert gets paid to do some work for the government, should he or she disclose that if he writes a paper, essay or op-ed on the same or similar subject?" [5]

These comments seem to contrast with statements that Gallager herself made in 1997, when she spoke at a conference organized by the Committee of Concerned Journalists at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. "The more a journalist views himself as a participant in the events and has a loyalty to sources, the less able he or she is to really consider himself a journalist," she told the conference. "... [And as an opinion journalist, which is to say you are emotionally invested in the outcome of the events] it becomes [even more] important ... to be open with the reader, to make it clear to the audience what your views are and what your biases are." [6]

Universal Press Syndicate - which distributes her column to approximately 75 newspapers - said that it had no plans to drop her column. "She was asked to perform certain tasks ... It was never a question of her promoting a particular bill or proposal in her column," Lee Salem, Universal's executive vice president and editor," told Editor & Publisher. [7]

Contacted by Editor and Publisher, Kurtz dismissed her response. "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." [8]

On January 28, the Middletown Journal in Ohio announced that it was dropping Gallagher's column. "When she accepted money to produce government literature -- propaganda, some would say -- as disgraced syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams did on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and the 'No Child Left Behind' program, she gave her detractors reason to question whether her beliefs are genuine or are for profit," the paper editorialized. "Our readers should never have to wonder whether the columnists we publish are expressing their honest opinions or are being paid to deliver someone else's." [9]

Background

According to a brief biographical profile supplied to the National Journalism Center, Gallagher attended a course in summer 1980 and has subsequently been a "syndicated columnist, Universal Press Syndicate, columnist, Newsday, columnist, USA Today, columnist, Uexpress.com, columnist , Townhall.com, senior editor, City Journal, articles editor, National Review, affiliate scholar, Institute for American Values, senior fellow, Center for Social Thought, ... published in New York Times, New Republic, Cosmopolitan, NY magazine, Business Month, First Things, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, National Review Online, Washington Times, Human Events, Policy Review, appears on Politically Incorrect (ABC)". [10]

Gallagher's bio on UExpress.com says she "follows closely the release of studies of social trends from a large number of think tanks and institutions devoted to such research and includes the information in her columns." Her writings address not only "marriage and marriage-related issues," it states, but also "such social issues as these: an American society failing children and teenagers, stem-cell research, the desperate need for good teachers, controversy surrounding shielding rape victims from identification in the news media, and the difficulties faced by dual-armed services couples." [11]

Asked at a press conference about whether the practice of paying commentators was appropriate, President George W. Bush said "no". " I expect my Cabinet Secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn't go forward. There needs to be independence. And Mr. Armstrong Williams admitted he made a mistake. And we didn't know about this in the White House, and there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press. So, no, we shouldn't be going for it," he said.[12]

"... All our Cabinet Secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet," Bush said.

Books

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. "About NOM," National Organization for Marriage website, accessed April 2009.
  2. John Reitmeyer, "Same-sex marriage opponents target N.J. in $1.5M ad campaign," The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), April 8, 2009

External resources

External articles