Sometime in the dead of night, the District of Columbia City Council passed an ordinance making it illegal ever to mention in print that Fred Malek, lead investor in the Washington Baseball Club—the group most likely to end up owning the Nationals—was once Richard Nixon's Jew-counter. That's the only explanation I can think of for why Malek's Jew-counting has gone unmentioned in the Washington Post since June 30, when Sally Jenkins brought it up in her sports column.
A final decision by Major League Baseball (which owns the team) could easily occur in the next couple of weeks, according to a lengthy Nov. 2 profile of Malek and his Washington Baseball Club by the Washington Post's Tom Heath. Heath notes in his article that Malek has a liability, but in Heath's mind that liability is not that Malek, as White House personnel chief under Richard Nixon, carried out Nixon's deranged order that he, Malek, count the number of Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics—an action that appears to have led at least in part to the demotion of two BLS employees whom Malek had identified as Jews. At least I assume Heath thinks Malek's Jew-counting past isn't a liability, because Heath doesn't mention it. Instead, Heath notes suspicions that Malek's group has been
sowing doubt about the reliability of Indianapolis media mogul Jeff Smulyan, a past owner of the Seattle Mariners, and Washington entrepreneur Jon Ledecky, whose partnership with billionaire George Soros drew criticism from leading Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The Washington Baseball Club denies that it is conducting any such smear campaign. But Malek does not deny that he compiled a list of Jews—or rather, people he suspected of being Jews, based on their surnames—back when he was young and ambitious and willing to do whatever it took, no matter how distasteful, to get ahead. (He vas only vollowing orders!) Malek's Jew-counting is not a matter of suspicion; it's an established fact. Yet Heath doesn't think that's a liability.
Or perhaps there's another explanation for the Jew-counting episode's exclusion from Heath's piece. Maybe the Post fears that if it angers Malek by mentioning his ethnic arithmetic from long ago, then its reporters might lose access to the Nationals if, as expected, the Washington Baseball Club acquires the team. But I don't really see how that could happen. The Post is, for all practical purposes, a monopoly newspaper; its only citywide competitors, the Washington Times and the new Washington Examiner, have only a fraction of the Post's circulation. Is Fred Malek really going to deny his own team coverage in the city's dominant daily? Not if he wants anybody to show up to the games.
The story of Malek's Jew-counting was originally broken by the Post's own Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in 1976 (in their book The Final Days), and the Post's Woodward and Walter Pincus added important details to the story in 1988, after Bush père made a very unwise attempt to rehabilitate Malek. During the past decade, however, the topic of Malek's Jew-counting has gone entirely unmentioned in the Post's news stories, and if it weren't for Jenkins' column and a separate column by Post metro columnist Marc Fisher in January 2002, Malek's Jew-counting would have gone entirely unmentioned in the entire newspaper. It's almost as if the Post were ashamed of its own scoop. I'm starting to feel like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. Is the Jew-counting episode merely a figment of my imagination? I've got a terrific headache. Perhaps a little rest might help …