Fred Malek Gets a Harsh Washington Post Obit Followed By Some Welcome Humanness

After Fred Malek, a Washington businessman and civic leader, died on March 24, a look at the obits in the Washington Post and New York Times: 

Lede of the Malek obit in the Washington Post:

“Fred Malek, a Washington-area business executive who led Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines, raised millions for the Republican Party and advised four presidents during a career that was shadowed by his role in President Richard M. Nixon’s crusade against a “Jewish cabal” in the government, died March 24. He was 82.”

Lede of the Malek obit in the New York Times:

“Fred Malek, a major Republican fund-raiser and adviser to several presidents who also had a business career that included a stint as president of Marriott Hotels, died on Sunday in Virginia. He was 82.”

The Times brought up the Jewish cabal in the obit’s 8th graf, suggesting that it saw Malek’s Nixon connection in 1971 as less central to Malek’s life than the Post, which since Watergate has been Nixon-fixated.

Then on March 28, Post columnist Petula Dvorak departed from the Post’s take-no-prisoners attitude toward Nixon when she wrote about “Madeleine Albright and Fred Malek: An unlikely, inspiring bipartisan friendship.” The Dvorak column adds some humanness—something increasingly hard to find in Washington journalism—to the Malek story:

How, I asked Albright, did she reckon with Malek’s history?

“I decided that was something I didn’t want to hold [against him],” she told me. “I think we’ve all said and done things we wish we hadn’t.

“I think we both respected each other, and we would kid about the fact that we had nothing in common,” she said.

She said he apologized for the counting incident for years. She saw him try to convince folks he wasn’t anti-Semitic his whole life and at one point, after getting to know him, Albright accepted that.

Their friendship is a lesson for a divided nation.

“I do believe in bipartisanship,” Albright said. “I also think there’s no solution to problems if we don’t work together.”

“In terms of the Fred relationship,” she said, “it shows you can disagree, then you can find a lot of things where you agree, and it can come out where it’s good for everybody.”


  1. Paige Gold says

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that the Post’s coverage of any given topic is always more partisan and political than that of the NY Times.

  2. Barnard Collier says

    Who can find and explain the temerity and the fearlessness of the woman who blew the security clearance whistle on the President and next day went back to work? By now, less than a day after her story broke, she is so busy protecting herself from constantly prying ears and eyeballs, praise and threats, that she may never again get truthfully to the humanness of what she has done.

    Can Washington story tellers break through professional political pretense and enter real life?

    Perhaps only in obituaries can the quintessence of humanness appear, and then only if the writer is fit to create a very small novel, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    The Times is often brilliant at it, and they know it. The Post is still minor league.

  3. Ervin S. Duggan says

    Well, the Times just a few weeks ago ran a savagel obituary marking the death of Lee Bouvier Radziwill, Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister. One might argue that this was even more gratuitously cruel than the Post’s treatment of Fred Malek— because Malek, after all, was in politics, and fair game. Poor Princess Radziwill was a beautiful, vacuous socialite who accomplished little, but harmed no one. Did she deserve the public flogging the the Times gave her?

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