A Hat Trick of Columnists

It’s a hat trick! Salon’s Eric Boehlert has word late last night that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, “Ethics & Religion,” appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.

Salon is reporting(free day pass required) that McManus-whom Boehlert could not reach for comment-got about $10,000 for his work, which included training during a two-day conference in Chattanooga, Tenn., and presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.

What it is about the administration hiring reporters of whom no one has ever heard? Really, had anyone heard of Michael McManus, Maggie Gallagher, or Armstrong Williams prior to 2005? You’d have thought that the administration would have at least gone after some famous names.

A related update to the two-day-old story about Maggie Gallagher too: She’s been hitting back against Kurtz, and appeared on the Lehrer NewsHour saying that Kurtz was misleading in his coverage and had not been fair about the angle of his story. Hmm. Slimy, underhanded information gathering tactics that led to a dubious and supposedly false conclusion. Given that framework, who on earth could be paying Kurtz’s salary?