Washington Post withdraws support for Pentagon event

WASHINGTON - The Washington Post has withdrawn its co-sponsorship of a Pentagon-supported event planned for September 11 over concerns that it could be interpreted as support for the war in Iraq.

The Freedom Walk is held in remembrance of the victims of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon and to honor American troops. The paper was to have donated public service advertising space to help promote it, but critics have argued that the walk is the equivalent of a pro-war rally.

"As it appears that this event could become politicized, The Post has decided to honor the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund," said Eric Grant, spokesman for the Washington Post, in an article the paper ran on Monday August 22. "It is The Post's practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post's news coverage."

The Post had received criticism for its planned sponsorship, most notably from The Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which passed a resolution last week stating that The Post's involvement in the event that "links the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the war in Iraq - a link that The Post, in its reporting, has shown to be false."

The Post's withdrawal hasn't yet had impacted other media co-sponsors of the event. Stan Melton, director of creative services at WJLA-TV, an ABC affiliate, said the station would continue its support. He added that the station got involved in the event to honor those killed in the 9/11 attacks and to build awareness for a memorial in DC.

He dismissed the notion that the station's co-sponsorship would give the appearance of support of the war.

"We take no stance whatsoever on the war," he said. "We feel strongly in supporting troops past and present."

The station has received some calls from disgruntled viewers, but Melton said that would not impact its decision to proceed as planned.

Mary Kay LeMay, director of marketing at WTOP Radio, said the station's continued support of the Freedom Walk does not compromise the journalistic integrity of the station.

"We really look at it as a community event, not a news event," she said. "This is beyond the newsroom."

LeMay acknowledged that the station has received a few complaints from listeners who believe the event draws a connection between 9/11 and the Iraq War.

"Personally I oppose the war, but we support the troops," she said. "That is what this is about."

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