Fred Hiatt's gentle leadership at The Post will be missed. Plus, Alec Baldwin gun claim scrutinized
By Gary Abernathy
Fred Hiatt’s gentle leadership at The Post will be missed
Fred Hiatt, longtime Opinion Page editor of The Washington Post, died Monday after being felled by a sudden heart attack several days earlier while visiting his family in New York in preparation for Thanksgiving.
I first met Fred — and he insisted that everyone drop formalities when addressing him — in 2017 on my first visit to the Post offices in Washington. His friendliness, warmth and sincere interest in the lives of others were apparent even in that first visit. The word “gentle” is being used frequently to describe Fred, and I understand that. I was fortunate that Fred was always in the office during my subsequent visits, and he always took a few moments to chat. He was, simply put, one of those people you immediately like, someone who effortlessly made you feel comfortable in his presence.
Every time I saw Fred, he mentioned that he appreciated the fact that my columns did not come across as being written by an “angry conservative.” “You don’t seem like you’re angry at anyone,” he would say with a smile. His voice always rings in my ears, especially when I find myself getting fired up when writing a Post piece. “Don’t be the angry conservative,” I say to myself, echoing Fred’s words.
Fred occasionally dropped me emails commenting on a column I had written. Positive comments didn’t necessarily indicate agreement with my position, just that he thought it was well written or presented. The notes always meant a lot. Seeing Fred’s name pop up in my email folder was always exciting. I’ll miss that.
The remembrances being shared from those who knew him better and longer have been moving. They also just reinforce the things about Fred that came across even in brief meetings. You knew this was a good, decent, soft-spoken man. I really liked what Donald Graham, former longtime publisher of The Post, wrote about Fred:
Most readers knew little of Fred. But he thought often about you. One simple example: I never saw him on television. He thought television was a difficult place to express a nuanced view, and most of his views were nuanced. He also thought that giving you the best opinion pages he could was a full-time job. Old-fashioned in some ways, Fred did not build his personal brand.
The Post’s news story about his passing noted that in the era of Donald Trump, Fred expanded the roster to add pro-Trump voices. I was one of them. As a conservative writer for The Washington Post, I can relate to the piece Marc Thiessen wrote in honor of Fred, especially this part:
He soon asked me to write twice a week and brought other conservative columnists on board who were “open” to Trump. That did not sit well with some of The Post’s left-leaning readership — and boy, did they let him know it. I know my columns kept his inbox full, and it broke my heart that he had to sift through all that bile. But he never flinched — not once… It was his unwavering commitment to diversity of opinion that has made The Post’s opinion pages what they are today — an island of reasoned discussion and debate in a sea of ideological conformity… And by publishing a wide range of views, he brought right-leaning readers to The Post’s pages, where they would be exposed to liberal opinions they might not otherwise see.
Likewise, I know how much grief Fred took for publishing me — because readers often copied me on the emails they sent to him demanding I be fired. But Fred was devoted to presenting ideas and opinions that spanned the political spectrum.
To be frank, after the 2020 election when I started writing columns saying that I could no longer support Trump as a future presidential candidate after he refused to accept the election results and contributed to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, I thought that I might be risking my future with the paper, no longer filling the “pro-Trump” niche (although I remain supportive of “Trumpism”). But Fred and other editors fully supported me. They wanted honest writing, however it fell.
Fred was himself a great writer. He wrote countless unsigned editorials and signed columns for The Post. The newspaper has put together a collection of some of his best, to be found here.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Fred’s family and to his Post family — those who worked with him every day and who will miss his special presence, his guidance and his wisdom.
Fred’s longtime friend and coworker Ruth Marcus appeared on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC to discuss Fred’s life and legacy. Check it out in the video clip above.
WaPo factchecker casts doubt on Baldwin gun claim
Washington Post factchecker Glenn Kessler has put together a nice package featuring gun experts casting doubt on actor Alec Baldwin’s claim that he never pulled the trigger on the gun involved in the fatal shooting on a movie set in New Mexico.
“But several gun experts increasingly say this scenario does not make sense unless there was a serious mechanical defect with the gun — which should have been obvious before it was used,” writes Kessler.
The story is worth checking out here.
New Beatles documentary is how they pull you back in
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m an Elvis fan, but I’m also a big Beatles fan, and I’m really intrigued by director Peter Jackson’s new documentary about the Fab Four, “Get Back.”
The presentation is “compiled from over 60 hours of unseen footage shot in January 1969 (by Michael Lindsay-Hogg) and more than 150 hours of unheard audio, all of which has been brilliantly restored,” according to Disney Plus’s description.
I’m not currently a Disney Plus subscriber, but that may have to change. This is how they get you, right?
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