The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Readers critique The Post: A skewed picture on abortion

Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Although almost three-quarters of Americans support Roe v. Wade, the group of women highlighted on the May 6 front-page teaser “Across the country, female voices reflect on a world without Roe” included nearly equal numbers of abortion opponents and those favoring abortion rights. An uninformed reader would think that public opinion on abortion was evenly divided, but only about one-quarter of Americans oppose abortion rights.

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court intends to strip all women of their right to control their own bodies, a right that has been well established for the past 50 years. What other well-established rights are now on the chopping block? What about the right to contraception, the right to same-sex marriage, or the right to free and fair elections?

This horrible decision portends an ominous future filled with attacks on personal liberty. The Post needs to live up to its slogan of “Democracy Dies in Darkness” and fight for freedom rather than provide misinformation that spreads the darkness now threatening democracy.

Raymond Smith, Fairfax

It’s true, abortion has many stories. And we’ve read many heartbreaking ones over the years. However, the May 6 news article “Women reflect on the potential end of Roe” shared stories that were weighted on one side and made it appear that 4 out of 10 women oppose abortion. That proportion is way out of line with national polling showing more than 70 percent of Americans in support of abortion in some cases.

This was not a fair and balanced piece. At this crucial time, it is imperative that stories reflect the numbers.

Marijane Monck, Columbia

McFarlane was not a conspirator

The May 14 obituary for Robert “Bud” McFarlane, “Reagan national security adviser took legal blame for the Iran-contra affair,” stated that McFarlane was “at the center” of a conspiracy to divert tens of millions of dollars of profits from arms sales to Iran to help the Nicaraguan “contras.”

McFarlane, as a private citizen, did agree to assist President Ronald Reagan in a covert opening to Iran, and that effort, McFarlane learned after accepting the assignment, did involve arms shipments. But none of the governmental bodies that investigated the Iran-contra matter — not the Tower Commission, not the joint congressional committee, not the independent counsel — disputed McFarlane’s assertion that he had zero knowledge that money received in the arms shipments would be diverted to the contras.

McFarlane distinguished himself in the Iran-contra matter by acknowledging shortcomings in his responses to congressional inquiries. Those responses involved mistakes of judgment in trying to balance the president’s strong foreign policy objectives and Congress’s opposition.

McFarlane was motivated throughout, however, by a desire to serve the foreign policy interests of the country that he loved and had served with distinction in wartime. He was never part of a conspiracy involving the so-called diversion, and The Post, which covered the Iran-contra scandal in great depth and often with considerable skill, knows better.

Peter W. Morgan, Reston

The writer was co-counsel for Robert McFarlane during the Iran-contra investigations.

Gjwe don’t know, either

What kind of a word is “gjetost”? That word was published in the May 7 Style section for the May 6 Scrabblegram. I have never seen it or heard it. It is not in English/American dictionaries.

Kathy Bonanno, Millville, Del.

Puzzled by this solitary take

I appreciated “A.J. Jacobs on the power of puzzles to stimulate, confound and empower us,” Mark Athitakis’s May 8 Book World review of A.J. Jacobs’s “The Puzzler,” but I must take issue with, or at least supplement, one of the statements: “Our biggest challenges demand consensus-building; puzzling, generally done alone, seems like the opposite of what’s required.” Recent years have seen tremendous growth in team puzzle-solving. Escape rooms, where teams of four to eight adventurers work cooperatively looking for clues and solving puzzles to escape from a theme room, have mushroomed in the past 10 years. My son owns one in Austin. As of 2019, there were more than 50,000 escape rooms worldwide.

Puzzle hunts, often done online, can involve hundreds of teams, each consisting of dozens (or more) of puzzlers brainstorming together. One of the oldest is the MIT Mystery Hunt, begun in 1981, which attracts hundreds of teams.

I’m not an expert puzzler, but I’ve enjoyed escape rooms in multiple states and countries and have participated in several puzzle hunts as well.

Fred Geldon, Rockville

A hero’s jukebox

I was delighted to read the May 10 Style article “A place for Dylan’s back pages,” about the opening of the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa. I was fortunate to be at the opening, and the article captured the wonderful dynamics of this terrific museum.

The article referenced the jukebox in the Bob Dylan Center and mentioned that it is filled “with Dylan’s greatest hits.” That jukebox is, in fact, filled with songs selected by Elvis Costello, who performed at Cain’s Ballroom in honor of the Bob Dylan Center’s opening.

Costello was invited to create the playlist for the jukebox, and it includes songs by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Woody Guthrie, among others who influenced Dylan.

The jukebox also includes songs performed by Nancy Sinatra (“It Ain’t Me Babe”), the Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man”) and the Animals (“House of the Rising Sun”), and songs recorded by Dylan, such as “Girl From the North Country.”

Chris Murray, Washington

Watch your language

The May 4 editorial “2022 isn’t ‘1984’ ” unfortunately used a sexist slur to make a point in its secondary headline, “Ignore the hysteria over the Disinformation Governance Board.” The word “hysterical” comes from the Greek word “hystera,” meaning “womb.” Reflective people no longer use the word “lunatic” to imply that women cannot think clearly because of the cycle of the moon. Likewise, The Post should not accuse people concerned about government infringement on free speech of doing so because they have or act as if they have a uterus.

Nicholas Tampio, Ridgefield, Conn.

A lot, but not a record

The May 11 front-page headline “Price of gas reaches record” was misleading. The text of the article itself reported that “this is not the most expensive gas on record, when adjusted for inflation.” When you fail to adjust for inflation, the price of almost every product and service — housing, health care, higher education, you name it — is constantly reaching new records. Inflation tends to run in one direction: up.

Harping about the “record” price of gas fuels the narrative that Americans have a birthright to cheap gasoline, notwithstanding how burning fossil fuels contributes to the climate crisis. The Post knows better and should act like it.

Bill Mosley, Washington

This has gotten very old

There are several adjectives that jump to mind to describe the woman sitting on her bed holding her dog in her war-damaged apartment, as depicted in the photograph accompanying the May 6 news article “Russia tightens its grip on Mariupol as Kyiv seeks more Western aid.” She looks sad, resigned and determined. And though she (and her fellow Ukrainians) have likely aged greatly in the nearly three months since Russia invaded, “elderly” is not a word I would use to describe her.

Please quit using “elderly” to describe folks older than 50. It is disrespectful and contributes to ageism.

Kirsten B. Mitchell, Washington

Who’s on second (from right)?

The May 6 Metro article “A family saved them from Nazis. Now, a chance to give back.” was a nice story about the Velelli and Michalos families. But I must say I was confused by the caption for a photo of four women and one boy. It said Josephine Velelli was third from left and her sister, Regina, was fourth from left. Then Angela Kanaras was noted as being second from right. In a five-person picture, it would seem that the person fourth from left is the same person who is second from right. So who is really second from right? Regina? Angela? If you discount the boy, who is not named, we still do not know who is second from right. And who is the little girl obscured at far left? Where are Abbott and Costello when you need them?

Philip Doerr, Derwood

Raise a toast

He can’t save a questionable industry, but Chuck Culpepper’s fabulous Derby Day feature articles “For bugler, it’s all work and all playing” and “Final furlongs” [Sports, May 7] put Churchill Downs back in the running.

A farm that saves abandoned or forgotten champions and a musician who hits high notes on life’s score brought joy to this reader. Mint julep, please!

Monty Foley, Potomac

Primitive justice

The May 7 Metro article “Son of N.Y. judge given jail time in Capitol riot” began: “A son of a Brooklyn judge who dressed as a cave man and helped lead the charge against police lines . . . ”

As a practicing lawyer, I always hate it when my judges dress up like that. It makes me feel self-conscious when I’m standing at the lectern dressed in a business suit, like the only guy who didn’t notice that the invitation said it was a costume party.

(Sigh.) The article violated the rule of the last antecedent: “Qualifying words or phrases refer only to the last antecedent word or phrase unless the context or entire act clearly requires otherwise.” In the article, the qualifying phrase “who dressed as a cave man” seemed to refer to the last antecedent noun, which was “judge.” Perhaps “A Brooklyn judge’s son who dressed up” would have avoided this miscue.

Steve Emmert, Virginia Beach

Churchillian wisdom

The two April 30 Free for All letters “In defense of cats and ‘Pickles’ ” brought to mind a famous remark by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

He was in the piggery at his home at Chartwell, England, with his grandson, scratching the back of an old sow with his walking stick. He turned to his grandson and said, “Always remember this, boy. A cat looks down on man. A dog looks up to man. But a pig will look you straight in the eye as an equal.”

Ridley Nelson, Great Falls

Keep the other guy out of the headlines

Yet again I face a newspaper with former president Donald Trump’s name prominently strewn across several pages.

The April 30 edition had five headlines with Trump’s name. Not once was President Biden’s name in a headline. I know The Post is in the business of publishing news, but I had hoped that we were done with that man.

Please find a way to write a headline without giving him the oxygen.

Olvia C. Demetriou, Washington

Dive deeper into the numbers

The April 30 front-page article “Covid’s toll falls anew on elderly and already ill” created the impression that the coronavirus has gotten more dangerous for older people. But this is not necessarily true. An accompanying graphic showed the proportion of elderly among the deaths. It should have shown the proportion of deaths among the elderly.

To see this more clearly, imagine two mythical counties, both with 100,000 residents. In County A, two older people and one younger person die of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In County B, 1,000 old people and 2,000 young people die of covid. Ask yourself: “If I am old, which county would I rather live in?” The answer is clearly County A, even though 66 percent of A’s deaths were older people, compared with only 33 percent of B’s deaths.

Neal Oden, Gaithersburg

How smallpox got there

The May 11 KidsPost article “How to be daring on Eat What You Want Day” contained an amazing elision. It said in part, “The Aztecs feasted on this [Mexican treat] until disease wiped out their empire in the 1500s.” The disease that wiped out the Aztecs was the Spanish conquistadors, who brought smallpox as well as the sword and slavery. Omitting the importation of European diseases sanitizes the sorry historical record.

Jim Dulicai, Fairfax Station

Lithuania’s painful history

The May 7 front-page article “Oppression spurred Lithuania’s desire to break free of Russian fuel” stated that Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1944. It was actually 1940. This detail is significant for several reasons.

During the first occupation of 1940-1941, the Soviets unleashed a wave of terror, arresting and murdering Lithuanian citizens. They deported thousands of civilians to Siberia, where many died of exposure and starvation. Given this searing experience, some Lithuanians collaborated with the Nazis when they pushed the Soviets out of Lithuania in 1941, perceiving the U.S.S.R. to be the greater existential threat.

Upon the Soviets’ return in 1944, thousands of men and women took to the forests to resist the Red Army, correctly anticipating that the second wave of terror would be worse than the first. Tens of thousands of other Lithuanians, my parents among them, fled to refugee camps and eventually made their way to the United States, where for decades they and their children lobbied Congress, the State Department and the White House to support the restoration of Lithuanian independence.

Victor Nakas, Falls Church