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In Defense Of The Grahams

April 11, 1993

Re the recent review of "Power, Privilege and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story" (March 28):

I was astonished that Patt Morrison should have failed to realize what Philip Graham's daughter Lally notes in her March 5th article in the Washington Post: "the book consists of a hideous caricature of my father and a slanderous depiction of my entire family."

Many of those whose biographies are written today are exposed to shameful and brutal treatment by the authors. Too many writers are willing to cater to what has become an overwhelming greed for sensational and scandalous presentations of what would normally be seen as dignified and useful lives. For money, of course. "Power, Privilege and the Post" is one of these books. Ms. Carol Felsenthal is able to fill 500 pages of what she calls "The Katharine Graham Story" with an amazing display of bad taste, attacking many people with countless second-hand quotations. Philip Graham and the entire Meyer family have been portrayed with relentless malice.

Since I am an old and close friend of the Meyers, I can spot inaccuracies right from the beginning. Example: "Bis, who had spent most of her days at Vassar riding horses" (p.65) is wrong. She did not ride at all at Vassar. She was on the Tennis Team as a freshman. I am tempted to believe this is the first of many other inaccuracies occurring later on.

Far worse than the inaccuracies in the book are the images. "Kay Graham was like the shoemaker's ill-shod child" (p. 135). The language is often gross. When Mrs. Meyer ("Agnes" to Ms. Felsenthal) was vacationing in the Barbados (p. 265), "the butler had to help his fat and disheveled employer down to the beach."

In her review of Ms. Felsenthal's book, Ms. Morrison describes the accounts of Mrs. Graham's life before her 40s as "a Grimm's fairy tale." However, she omits the obvious comment that these descriptions could be nothing else but a fairy tale and should not be dignified as history. Unfortunately Ms. Morrison appears to accept these highly colored accounts. To us who know the true story they must be condemned as largely fictional.



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