When Bill Clinton considered Ben Bradlee for the Medal of Freedom

August 8, 2013

As David Nakamura reports, The Post's Ben Bradlee is set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award in the United States.

But it's actually not the first time Bradlee has been considered for the award.


Ben Bradlee (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

As John Harris explained in his 2005 book "The Survivor" — and as Mark Leibovich re-reported in the just-released book "This Town" — Bill Clinton once considered Bradlee for the honor as well.

Punctuating Clinton's deliberations was a very — ahem — colorful quote from the then-president, whose administration had been on the receiving end of some very tough words from Bradlee's wife, The Post's Sally Quinn.

"Anyone who sleeps with that b**** deserves a medal!” Clinton said, according to Harris and Leibovich.

Nakamura asked Quinn about the episode in an interview today. Quinn said she was quite amused by it all.

"John [Harris] got the manuscript and came to me ashen-faced and said, ‘I have to talk to you,’ " Quinn said. "He was nervous and said, ‘I have a thing in the book I have to tell you, and I have no idea how you will react.’ He told it to me. I just started screaming with laughter.”

Update 3:34 p.m.: Harris, now Politico's editor in chief, recalls his chat with Quinn: "I was vastly reassured, because when I told Ben he grimaced and asked nervously, 'Have you told Sally?'"

"I'm very pleased for Ben for this honor."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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