The New York Times had Vice President Cheney using "an obscenity" against Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) yesterday. The Los Angeles Times had Cheney saying "Go . . . yourself." CNN said Cheney used "the F word."

But The Washington Post actually printed the word today for the first time since publishing the Starr report in 1998. And that set the town buzzing.

"When the vice president of the United States says it to a senator in the way in which he said it on the Senate floor," says Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "readers need to judge for themselves what the word is because we don't play games at The Washington Post and use dashes."

Oddly, the same article recalled that in 2000 President Bush made an off-mike comment about Adam Clymer, then a New York Times reporter, calling him a "major-league [expletive]." Cheney responded, "big time." Downie said the paper used the derogatory term for backside at the time and that he saw no reason to repeat it in today's newspaper.

The Post did not report when John Kerry used the F-word in a Rolling Stone interview, saying he did not "expect George Bush to [blank] it up as badly as he did." Downie said there was no need to report that language, given that the music magazine is a very different publication from The Post.

The only other time the word appeared in The Post was in a 1992 story about a death row inmate, according to a database search.

A few dozen readers have called to complain, some saying the word was inappropriate in a family newspaper read by children. "How utterly sad for your fine paper," a Springfield man said in an e-mail.