WASHINGTON – The Washington Post is withdrawing its offer of free advertising for an organized event by the Defense Department to memorialize the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the newspaper announced.
The Post backed out of the agreement after critics said the event, scheduled to take place four years after the attacks that hit New York and Washington and resulted in the crash of a commercial airliner over western Pennsylvania, would have a pro-war slant and that support of the event by the newspaper would compromise the Post's journalistic integrity.
"The Post has a code of conduct that says employees should avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest," said Rick Ehrmann, a Local representative for the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. "In this case The Post was sponsoring the Pentagon's Freedom Walk, which ties the attack on Sept.... 11 to the Iraq war, and of course, The Post's reporters have proven ... that there is no connection between the two, that that link is false."
Ehrmann said, "The Post has made a very good decision in withdrawing from this event."
The paper said that it instead will make a donation directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which is raising money to build a two-acre contemplation park in honor of the 184 people who died when a plane crashed into the Pentagon in 2001. The decision was reported by the Post in Tuesday's Style section.
"It is unfortunate that The Washington Post has made this decision not to support the Freedom Walk, but we welcome their donation to the Pentagon Memorial Fund," said a Defense Department statement. "Everyone in American will pay tribute and commemorate this important day in different ways."
Critics of media support for the event also pointed to the free concert by Clint Black that is to take place at the end of the march route. Black's Web site features lyrics to his song entitled "I Raq and I Roll," including "Our troops take out the garbage/ for the good old U.S.A."
"If this is the person they're going to have representing American freedom, I'd say it's a political event," said Eric Hilton of the pop duo Thievery Corporation, who is part of a coalition that's organizing an anti-war protest concert on the Mall for later in September. Hilton said his concert will be political and he does not expect media sponsorship.
Other organizations scheduled to sponsor the Sept. 11 event included Stars and Stripes newspaper, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Subway, Lockheed Martin, WTOP Radio Network, ABC/WJLA-TV Channel 7 and News Channel 8 and the Washington Convention & Tourism Corporation, according to the Freedom Walk Web site.
"As things stand right now we are committed to honoring our agreement to promote the event," said Stan Melton, director of creative services at WJLA-TV and News Channel 8 in Washington. "If we were to find out that it was meant to be a political event, we couldn't support it."
Calls to The Washington Post and to the Defense Department were not immediately returned.