Anger at press coverage is as much a part of political campaigning as speeches. Candidates, their staffs and supporters are advocates. Newsmen and women report what they perceive is going on. During any heated campaign, those two viewpoints will clash. A case in point is a story carried in The Post last Friday. Aides of Majority Leader Jim Wright of Texas and Majority Whip John Brademas of Indiana have vigorously protested.
The story was about the tough competition faced this fall by six House Democratic leaders, including Wright and Brademas. Angry aides found two sentences in the nearly 700-word piece objectionable. There has been no argument with the central thrust of the article. It maintained that the six incumbents are being hotly challenged partly because of their prominence.
One protested sentence read: "Most of the leaders facing tough reelection fights won't talk about their situation . . . ."
In order to use that word "most," the writer and his editors have an obligation to get in touch with all candidates mentioned. That was not done. A number of the offices and candidates in the story were reached, but not all, and not Wright and Brademas.
So the first protested sentence was overstatement.
The second charge against the story is more complicated. About Wright and Brademas, the story said, "Both have to live with a suggestion of as yet unproven scandal." That sentence has problems with definitions. What does it mean and what is "as yet unproven scandal"? If its meaning is elusive, ther is some background.
The reference to Brademas relates to "Koreagate" in 1978. Brademas received three contributions from the notorious Tongsun Park, but he reported them properly, according to the House's ethics committee.
The committee never charged Brademas with misconduct and found no evidence that Brademas knew that Park was an agent of the Korean government.
Does this amount to a "suggestion of as yet unproven scandal"? It does not. The committee's investigation is history.
So the Brademas staff is right. The Post should not have used that unhappy sentence on the congressman.
The Wright matter involves oil and gas-well investments and the story has been pursued primarily by the Dallas Times Herald. In July and August, the paper reported that Wright had interceded with the Interior Department on behalf of Texas Oil and Gas Corporation, and with both the State Department and Egypt on behalf of Neptune Oil. Wright had invested in both at about the time he was writing letters to assist them.
The Times Herald's stories raise questions about the propriety of Wright's use of his influence. Wright denies any relationship between his investments and his intercession. The Times Herald stands by its stories, although it concedes that the issue has raised more controversy than cash for the veteran politician.
Does all this justify The Post's labeling the questions about Wright as a "suggestion of unproven scandal"? Not on the facts The Post provided. The Post's story supported its contention by saying only that Wright is "pestered by news stories about questionable oil deals."
So the second protested sentence in The Post's story was awkward at least, and best left unsaid.
But in reference to Brademas and Wright, the story also said that both are favored by most political professionals to win reelection this fall. There have been no protests on that.