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'Washington Post' Publisher Katharine Graham Dies

Aired July 17, 2001 - 13:29   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A popular former newspaper editor has died. Katharine Graham died today after a fall in Idaho over the weekend. She was 84 years old, and she assumed control of the "Washington Post" company in 1963 after the death of her husband Philip Graham and did quite a lot for the "Washington Post" and had a popular tenure there.

Joining us on the phone is Howard Kurtz, a critic with the "Washington Post" and also with "RELIABLE SOURCES" here at CNN.

Howard Kurtz, tell us more about Katharine Graham and why has she retained such star power after her run at the "Washington Post" -- Howard.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Are you able to hear me?

ALLEN: OK, Howard, we can hear you now, so we are going to start over.


ALLEN: ... and let you tell us more about Katharine Graham and what caused her to be such a popular leader at the "Washington Post"?

KURTZ: Kay Graham is just a remarkable person, and obviously there is a great pause over the newsroom right now since the news of her death has just reached us.

You know, history will remember her probably for two great events, one was her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers after "The New York Times" was stopped from publishing them, that was in 1971. She basically bet the company at that point, because the company was about to go public and the company was also seeking television licenses that the Nixon administration could have blocked. So, that was a gutsy call.

And then, her role in not only hiring Ben Bradlee as executive editor of the paper, but backing him up during Watergate, a time when basically "The Post" was at war with the Nixon administration. Not a lot of other media organizations, at least initially, joining in that very difficult period.

But to those who worked here and got to know her, she was a gutsy woman who came to work every day, even at the age of 84, even though she didn't have any direct corporate responsibilities, and set an example, both as a journalist, as a woman, as a Washington hostess, and just a whole variety of fields. She was able to play on the largely male turf of CEOs and corporate leaders around the world.

ALLEN: Yes, and she thrived in that role. As you say, she was a gutsy woman. I'm wondering, when she first took over for her husband, what were the thoughts then of a wife stepping into such a powerful role?

KURTZ: That may have been Katharine Graham's greater accomplishment, even beyond Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, the way in which she -- who described herself in her book that won the Pulitzer, as a doormat wife to her powerful, charismatic husband, Phil Graham, the former publisher of "The Post." The way she was unexpectedly thrust into the head of a major Fortune 500 company upon her husband's suicide in 1963, had to learn the business, gain the confidence to run this newspaper -- a lot of people, including her, were not quite sure that she could do it.

And yet remarkably, in a couple of short years, she was on her way not only to building "The Post" up from what had been, frankly, a second-rate paper into the national newspaper that it is today -- but also someone who could hold her own, who was tough against the unions, who could go to meeting, who could deal with all of the many financial and other issues that one has to deal with if you run a newspaper company -- also includes "Newsweek."

And so, that transformation from somebody who has been a kind of a somewhat shy host and wife to somebody who was a fabulously successful chief executive officer, I think in a way was the inspiration that Kay Graham had for many woman and many people of all kinds throughout her long career.

ALLEN: And here she was at 84, out in Idaho attending a business conference for media executives, so she was still going right until her untimely and unfortunate death.

KURTZ: She had slowed down somewhat in recent years. She had a hip injury and she walked a little haltingly, but I got to tell you, whenever I talked to her: very, very sharp. Her mind was -- she was just always on top of things, had this great journalistic curiosity.

And the fact that she would go out to Idaho to this meeting shows that even though she had handed the reins of both the CEO job and the publisher job to her son Donald Graham, she was very engaged and very much still traveling in those circles that, frankly, a place that she had earned by transforming herself, as I said, from somebody who was just a widow, grieving widow, to a very powerful and influential journalist and publisher.

ALLEN: And finally, Howard, how much is her legacy appreciated on a day-to-day basis? With those of you who had been at the paper, while -- and even the newcomers there at the "Washington Post"?

KURTZ: Well, for better or worse, I think Kay Graham was somebody who was willing to roll the dice and take risks, even when things did not look good, even when the paper was up against powerful enemies, and I like to think -- although the paper has grown and changed and evolved in various ways -- that we still have some of that risk-taking spirit from the Kay Graham/Ben Bradlee era even in today's "Washington Post."

And she, you know, above all, was just an example of a remarkably gutsy woman who was able to build something over a long period of time and hung in there even at her elderly stage.

ALLEN: Well, we thank you for talking with us. Howard Kurtz of the "Washington Post" and CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," and Thanks for passing along more information to folks that might not be familiar with Katharine Graham and her story, her tenure during those rocky times at "The Washington Post," the Watergate era. And we thank you.

Katharine Graham died today at a hospital in Idaho. She was 84 years old.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Katharine Graham, the woman who just won a Pulitzer a couple of years ago for telling her own story in form of a book passing away.

Joining us now on line is Walter Cronkite, I understand. Walter Cronkite, can you hear us? I'm not hearing Walter Cronkite, so I'm thinking that Walter Cronkite is not with us.

Again, picking up here in our continuing coverage on the death of Katharine Graham, publisher of "The Washington Post." Joining us now from our Washington bureau is Bruce Morton.

Bruce, you didn't work for Kay Graham herself, but certainly as a long-time Washington insider, you know about her influence and her power in that city where power brokers are indeed what it is all about. Can you talk to us about her influence, not only within the environment of "The Post," but throughout the Washington community?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, I never knew her well. We used to bump into each other at the tennis courts, just because her group was coming and my group was going.

But she is an extraordinary feminist story, for one thing, because here's this woman who was not raised to do this. She worked at "The Post," but when she got married -- the paper was in the family, her father gave it to her husband because he said, "no man should ever have to work for his wife."

Well, that's the old days. That was then. And then, when Phil Graham died in 1963, it was all unexpected. He was mentally ill. He killed himself, so that was an enormous shock to her. Here is this woman, untrained -- she said herself afterward, "I knew I didn't know how to run the thing," but you know, there she was and she had a responsibility, and she thought to the stockholders to try, and she did it really by hiring good people and then backing them up.

She hired Ben Bradlee, who was the editor during the Pentagon Papers period, during the Watergate period. And Bradlee himself said she learned the same way as the rest of us did, by making mistakes and by not being afraid to say so.

"The Post" was a small paper then. It was nothing like the dominant force it is now. She had great success on the business side, expanded into radio and television and joint news service for the "Los Angeles Times." She had great success on the news side, because when the lawyers didn't want to publish the Pentagon Papers, she said, "go ahead, publish." They did.

When Ben Bradlee wanted to break ground on the Watergate story, and "The Post" had a lot of the scoops in the early days of that story, she would be in the newsroom, she would say: "We've got this. We're not making fools out of ourselves." They would say, "We've got it, we've got two sources," and she would say, "go ahead."

And "The Post" won prizes, "The Post" won circulation. It became one of the three or four or five great American newspapers anytime anybody made a list. And that for a woman who, as I said, started out really with no training, it's just an extraordinary accomplishment.

CHEN: Bruce Morton with our Washington bureau. Bruce, we'll ask you to stand by. We want to go back now and try to get Walter Cronkite on the telephone line now. Certainly, Walter Cronkite, one of the great figures in journalism in this country, talking today, Walter with us, about the death of Kay Graham. Can you give us your reflection on her, her life and her influence?

WALTER CRONKITE, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR: Oh, are you talking to me?

CHEN: Yes, sir.

CRONKITE: I can barely hear you. Well, this is a blow to all of us to not only us journalists, but to all people who are interested in free press and the democracy that depends upon it. Kay was an extraordinary person, of course, a bereaved widow who surprised everyone with her strength. She took over the "Washington Post" to make it one of the world's great newspapers.

She is greatly admired, of course, everywhere in the very competitive worlds of politics and publishing. She certainly stood out as a very gracious individual and a very important leader.

CHEN: Can you talk to us a little bit about your personal reflections and contact with her? Any stories, any personal memories that you will have of Katharine Graham?

CRONKITE: Oh, there's so many. I find it difficult to come up with one or two right now. We are all very saddened, of course, by her passing. I don't claim that I was one of her closest friends, but we were certainly friendly and spent some time together in Washington, at various meetings around the world, and here in Martha's Vineyard, where she had a home. She will be very, very much missed.

CHEN: You know, she certainly came, as we have been talking with Bruce Morton and with Howard Kurtz, she certainly came to the job in the most unusual way, not necessarily prepared for a life in this sort of a role. I'm wondering if you ever had a chance to talk with her about her sense of the enormous job she stepped into, and then it becoming an even more significant job when we get to the point of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Certainly, she had no idea that she would be walking into all of that?

CRONKITE: Well, certainly not. Of course, by inheriting the newspaper upon the tragic death of her husband, she was in no way, in anybody's mind, prepared for that job. I think most of us expected her to turn it over to somebody else almost immediately. That she held on to it was a surprise in the first place. And of course that she performed with the brilliance she did, she -- part of that was her ability to pick the right people. Ben Bradlee, particularly, was a major influence in making the paper what she wanted it to be.

CHEN: People outside the industry might not understand how much influence a publisher may have on what happens inside of the newsroom. Can you talk to our viewers about that? I mean, it isn't just that you have extraordinary editor in Ben Bradlee. You also have to have a publisher who would stand up and say "Let's do it."

CRONKITE: Well, the publisher has to be the moral force of the newspaper. Those who are producing the newspaper must depend upon the publisher to exert his or her influence on making the paper what he or she wants it to be. If the publisher doesn't want it to be the newspaper of record and integrity, it's not going to be that. The publisher has a major role to play.

CHEN: I did not have the opportunity to know her, but I'm always struck in the presence of her that she seemed a very regal and powerful in this way. Was she also a woman with a sense of humor on another level?

CRONKITE: She very much -- I don't think she exhibited a sense of humor, but she was very appreciative of other people's senses of humor as long as it was intelligent. She wasn't an individual to go for the canned joke. But she was very much appreciative of wit and the kind of humor based upon true wit.

CHEN: And what will you remember about her personal style? Was she the kind of force that you would expect in the newsroom to be the tough figure, or the gentle goading figure? Give us a feel for what she was like.

CRONKITE: Well, she -- you used the word "regal" and I think that was a good one. She did, in her more formal appearances, her own parties and at other people's parties and in a political environment -- she carried herself as a queen as she was entitled to do. She certainly was a queen in her own field. She -- but she could relax as well in her -- in her own with her dear friends. She showed every one of the homey attributes of being able to settle down with friends as one of the gang.

CHEN: It's hard to imagine Katharine Graham as just one of the gang. I am looking at some of the pictures from "The Washington Post" online, and their Web site includes some profiles of Katharine Graham and her various achievements over the course of her career. And I am struck by a picture showing Woodward and Bernstein talking to her at the height of the Watergate coverage.

Would it have been a situation where she would have been very intimately involved in the kind of reporting that they were doing? Does the publisher come down and really address the reporters on the questions they're asking and the kind of sourcing they're getting on their story?

CRONKITE: I'm afraid I didn't understand most of that. What's the question again?

CHEN: I'm just wondering, again, as I look at the picture of Woodward and Bernstein with Katharine Graham, I guess at the height of the Watergate investigation, if you could talk to us about how much direct influence she would have had on the sort of questioning and sourcing.

CRONKITE: Well, the influence she had there was letting Ben Bradlee go and do the job with Woodward and Bernstein, under Bradlee's leadership, of course. The important thing there was the courage she showed in letting them continue their investigation. That made all the difference in exposing Watergate for what it was, of course, an attempt to steal our democracy. She -- it took a lot of courage to do that. She was under extreme pressure from the Nixon administration. They even threatened, of course, the television licenses of the television stations, which are important to "The Washington Post" profit margins, and even its ability to continue in operation.

I was very proud that our Watergate summary, the two broadcasts we did on the "Evening News," which were very important in bringing the story back to the attention of people as it was fading to the back pages of the newspapers, and at a time when she was under such pressure from the administration, she said we saved the day for her. That by bringing it back to the public's attention when it was fading, we -- we came to her rescue just at the time when the pressure was greatest from the administration. I was very proud of that.

CHEN: Walter Cronkite, we thank you for your insights. To our viewers, you have been listening to Walter Cronkite, one of the legendary figures in journalism, of course, in our age, talking about Katharine Graham on her passing, another legendary figure on the news on the news today, as well -- Natalie?

ALLEN: We just pulled more information, Joie, on Katharine Graham. Here are some quotes she has made in the past. "To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?" And she's always said in the past, "If one is rich and one's a woman, one can be quite misunderstood."

Well, she apparently was not misunderstood, as we've heard her described today by her friends, as regal, powerful, gutsy -- she even described herself as a plain old housewife. Well, that plain old housewife took over "The Washington Post," and did she ever. Here is more background on Katharine Graham, who died today at the age of 84.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN (voice-over): Katharine Graham took "The Washington Post" helm in 1963, following her husband's death. But it was her father who, 30 years earlier, posed in a bankruptcy sale. Under the Graham's leadership, the newspaper became a mega media conglomerate, adding to its portfolio magazine publishing and broadcasting, cable and educational services.

Graham made a huge journalistic mark in the 1970s when the "Post" published the Pentagon papers, a secret study of the Vietnam War. Then again with the Watergate expose, the scandal that brought down the Nixon White House.


KATHARINE GRAHAM, "WASHINGTON POST" EXECUTIVE: The Watergate is a particular incident that happened, that could -- you can't imagine anything like it again.


ALLEN: It was also the '70s when Graham became the first woman elected to the Associated Press board of directors, and she was a past chairman and president of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

Through the years, she kept company with presidents and vice presidents and their wives. Just three years ago, her autobiography, "Personal History," won a Pulitzer Prize. Among other topics, the memoirs discussed Graham's early years in the newspaper business.


GRAHAM: I did my best to learn, but I made many, many mistakes, and it was very hard. Hard on me, hard on people around me.


ALLEN: Today Graham's son Donald carries on the family's "Washington Post" legacy as "Washington Post" company board chairman. His mother served in that capacity from 1973 to 1993, before her final position as chairman of the executive committee.

Katharine Graham was 84.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Of course, we're following this late-breaking story, the death today in Idaho of Katharine Graham, the chairman of the executive committee of "The Washington Post." A sad moment for many of us in journalism in Washington who knew Mrs. Graham, not only as truly a giant in journalism in this city and throughout the country, but also as a personal friend.

I saw her just a month ago. She -- even at age of 84, very lively mind, someone who is still interested in the details of the news of the day, the headlines of the day, wanted to talk about the stories that were in the paper and on television news. Someone with just a wide-ranging mind with many friends and many, interests.

Joining me now, someone who knew Katharine Graham very well, longtime columnist for "The Washington Post," Art Buchwald. He's joining us on the telephone.

Art Buchwald, this was an extraordinary woman.

ART BUCHWALD, POLITICAL HUMORIST: Yes, she was an extraordinary woman. I knew her since 1963 when she took over the paper. And nobody expected much and she was really -- she learned on the job and, as you know from her book, she was quite a woman in terms of being more things. There aren't -- well, I guess she's the only one of her kind, in terms of being a do-getter in doing what she did.

WOODRUFF: Art, what was she like to the people who worked with her? What sort of boss was she?

BUCHWALD: There was a group of us that knew her in 1963 when she first took over and she really enjoyed our company and we enjoyed hers like Ben Bradlee, people like that. We had a different relationship than the ones that were just working for her. So we could kid her about things. And she did have a sense of humor, and Ben Bradlee was the one who kidded her the most.

She had a home up here in Martha's Vineyard. She came every summer in August. So we got to see her in another setting rather than an office setting in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Art, you know, she often talked about how she got into journalism and running a newspaper accidentally, of course, after the suicide of her husband, Philip Graham. How hard was it for her to learn the newspaper business, do you think?

BUCHWALD: Well, she was a woman. So first of all no one expected her to be that good, you know. Secondly, she was always the wife of Phil Graham, and all of a sudden she found herself in charge. And she had a couple of people that probably helped her on that thing. But she really took over and as you know, and you have probably mentioned, some of the best stories in Washington and in the world were produced by her paper.

And she was the one who said print or not print. I think what comes to mind is the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, all of these things, the final decision was up to her. And she said go with it! And you know, we were very blessed to have someone like Katharine Graham running our paper. And I don't think -- it became you know, with "The New York Times," the gutsiest papers in the country.

WOODRUFF: Art Buchwald, what do you think gave her the guts to give Ben Bradlee the green light to do what he was able to do with Watergate?

BUCHWALD: I don't know. You know, we were -- we were the first on the story. So that was exciting. Secondly, there was an atmosphere at "The Washington Post" when Watergate was on, you couldn't believe. I mean, it was -- they had it in the movie, "All The President's Men," and it was an unbelievable thing.

But this was -- to check that story and make sure you could come out OK was very tough. And Woodward and Bernstein did the work on it and Bradlee ran the thing and Mrs. Graham was there and I don't know if Ben had to ask permission for everything, but she was -- and she knew (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

One of the things about Katharine Graham is she was probably the biggest power woman in Washington. So she knew everybody. She knew Nixon, she knew the secretary of state. She had people to their home, all of them and here she was putting out a newspaper and the paper was slamming some of them. And she had to take that, because she could have them in her home, they could eat her food and at the same time, Ben Bradlee just kicked the hell out of them.

WOODRUFF: It seemed to me she handled that part of her life very well. She was the gracious hostess and if people wanted to talk about how the newspaper was doing she would listen, but the coverage didn't change.

BUCHWALD: If you were invited to her house it was pretty impressive. You met the great men of America there, and women. And it was a big honor to be invited and up here on the Vineyard it was even more so because it was very informal and you met people like Warren Buffet and people like that.

Donny is a terrific guy. And he's the one who took over and he's done a wonderful job and we're really grateful that there's a Donny Graham there.

WOODRUFF: Art Buchwald referring to Don Graham, who is the son of Katharine Graham, died today died at the age of 84 at a hospital in Boise, Idaho. Thank you, Art Buchwald.

Joining us now in the studio here in Washington, Allan Frank who is the president of the "Post-Newsweek Stations." Allan Frank, how closely did you work with Mrs. Graham.

ALLAN FRANK, "POST-NEWSWEEK STATIONS": I came over here to do another story on a hearing I was on today on the Senate hearing and heard the news as a walked into the building.

It's tragic news for all of us at "The Washington Post" company, "Post-Newsweek" -- television stations throughout the company, throughout the country. And since Mrs. Graham was injured there had been an outpouring of support from employees from all areas of the company because she meant so much to so many people throughout the company.

She was perhaps one of the great figures in journalism in this century and of course one of the great women in business in this century. And she was head of our company and so she meant a tremendous amount to people. She stood for integrity, and that was obvious throughout the company. WOODRUFF: To what extent is "The Post" Company what it is today because of her, do you think?

FRANK: Because of her and the Graham family she defined the company. And it was clear that journalism and strong journalism meant everything to the company and service to your local community meant a great deal. That's the way that the company operates. Don Graham clearly believes that philosophy, as did Mrs. Graham and everyone understands it, and you draw a certain type of person into the company because of that.

WOODRUFF: How hard do you think, I know that you have spent time with her, you, I am sure, read her book. How hard do you think it was for her to learn journalism after the sudden death of her husband, his suicide?

FRANK: I can imagine it was very difficult, not necessarily the journalism part, but the difficulty in the business part. And as you know, the board was clear that they thought that she would sell the company when her husband died. She became clear that she would not sell the company. It meant too much to her because of the family. And of course she turned into one of the great companies in the United States.

WOODRUFF: You are right about the journalism part because we all remember that she was, for a time, a reporter herself. She covered the labor beat out on the West Coast out in San Francisco soon after she graduated from college.

FRANK: She did and she had a strong journalistic background and a great love for the paper and for other parts of the company, for the television stations and for the magazine "Newsweek" and that was clear in everything that she did. She cared about the people in the company. She cared about the ability to do good. She cared about the truth. And that was conveyed to everybody in the company, it was clear. And so it made it easy to do the right thing every day.

WOODRUFF: Allan Frank who is president of the "Post-Newsweek" stations. We know from her book and I know from talking to her, how much -- how close she is to Warren Buffet, the entrepreneur, a very successful American businessman.

What was it that she would take someone like that? What sort of advice would she seek from a Warren Buffet?

FRANK: I think that she had the ability to be able to listen to smart people and Warren Buffet is clearly a smart person. A number of people, when he said that he was going to invest in the company, a number of people warned her not to let him do that, to run from him because of what he might do.

And her instincts were exactly the opposite: To meet with him, to talk to him and the more she talked to him, the more that she decided that he was someone who had something to say and might be good for the company. So he became on the board and became an important part of "The Post" family for many years and still is on the board and became a close friend of hers. WOODRUFF: We know that she has been a chairman of the executive committee of the newspaper, but for a number of years -- and she's had an office at "The Post." In fact I saw her there just last month at "The Post." She has maintained an office. How closely involved has she been though. Mr. Frank, on a day-to-day basis running the newspaper?

FRANK: Mr. Don Graham runs the company, but she was at the last board meeting. She was always at the board meetings, she was always attentive, she always asked great questions, she was very involved. And so this will be a great loss for everybody in the company and for America.

WOODRUFF: Well, Allan Frank who is president of the "Post- Newsweek" stations, we thank you very much for joining us.

FRANK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Again, we are talking this afternoon about the death of Katharine Graham at the age of 84. She suffered a fall in Sun, Valley, Idaho this past Saturday. Fell on a concrete walkway in front of the building where she was staying. She apparently went unconscious immediately, was taken to a hospital when it was discovered.

There had been hemorrhaging, and so forth. They moved her to another hospital in Boise, and that is where she died today at the age of 84.

Right now we want to show you a recent appearance Katharine Graham made. It's a program called "Pinnacle." So let's take a look at that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Katharine Graham is one of the most powerful players in Washington and among the most influential women in America. Citizen Kay.

Let me tell you that she is not just powerful. But she is inspirational and she is a damn fine woman.

The newspaper that she owns, The "Washington Post" usually gets credit or sometimes blame for bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon, through its Pulitzer Prize reporting of the Watergate scandal.


RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Although she did not appear as an on camera character in Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman's movie about Watergate, "All of the President's Men", Mrs. Graham's immense presence hovered behind the scenes, just as it did in real life.

She was in the film with one immortal line that was uttered by former attorney general John Mitchell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of that crap, are you putting it in the paper? It's often denied. You tell your publisher, tell him to get the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) caught in the big ringer if that's published.

GRAHAM: After Nixon resigned and the story was essentially over, Bob Woodward called me one day, and he said, we've got a present for you. And I said, oh, how exciting. Come on. And he came up and he had this old wooded laundry ringer.

QUESTION: Do you remember when Watergate first became a story in the "Washington Post"?

GRAHAM: Of course, it was June 17th, 1972, and I was in the country and I got a call from the managing editor who was on duty, saying that this extraordinary event happened, which is a break-in in the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate by five men with surgical gloves and they were caught in the act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it really developed in 24 hours, that when we first went to court. That this -- one of the burglars had a calendar or a phone book in his pocket and one of the phone numbers was Howard Hunt's in the White House. And so, Bob Woodward had gone to court for us and he picked this up. We were alone on the story most of the summer.

The intrepid newspaper publisher who backed up the reporting on the Watergate and the Pentagon Papers is the side of Katharine Graham that will go down in history.

Her other side will only go down in personal history. A shy and tentative woman who is always ready to defer to the men in her life. A woman who was haunted by family demons who endured public humiliation at the hand of her mentally-ill husband.

GRAHAM: He said that everything is the matter with me is you, and I want a divorce, and I am going to take the paper with me, because my father had given him more shares to buy of the controlling shares than me. But when he said he was going to take the paper and buy me out and that he would run the paper, with his new wife, then I was going to fight.


WOODRUFF: That interview done on the CNN program, "Pinnacle" and we also want to show you an interview that Mrs. Graham did in June. In fact in -- June 9 of this year.

She was interviewed along with Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of the "Washington Post" by CNN "CAPITAL GANG"'s Margaret Carlson. It was the 30th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers, the publishing of the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War. Margaret Carlson went to Katharine Graham's home and this was the interview.


GRAHAM: The Pentagon Papers, everybody's forgotten what they were. But it was history of the -- of the whole -- of the whole war. How we got into it, how it got developed, and it really wasn't -- didn't have any secrets, it was so old it was literally about nothing.

BEN BRADLEE, FORMER MANAGING EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST": It's a bigger deal than Katharine's suggesting, because the -- the -- the paper -- the "Post" was still looking for a big seat at the big table. We were not at the big table yet, and we very much wanted to go there and the time was just wrong for the "Post." They had just gone public.

GRAHAM: No, we were going...

BRADLEE: Going public.

GRAHAM: It got worse.

BRADLEE: And so, if you know, and that's a skittish time for everybody. And so a judge in a New York court had said that it did violate section blah, blah, blah, the U.S. code, saying that whoever is publishers classified information is guilty of treason in effect.

MARGARET CARLSON, "CAPITAL GANG": And a treason is a corporation isn't going on...


WOODRUFF: Again, that interview done on June the 9th. Margaret Carlson talking to the late Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. Katharine Graham passing away today at the age of 84.

This is the picture, from the Web site, but it's a photograph on the right of Mrs. Graham and Ben Bradlee, leaving a U.S. District courthouse, a federal courthouse at the very time that the papers publishing of those Pentagon Paper, the "Washington Post" publishing of the Pentagon Papers was being challenged in the courts.

CNN's Bruce Morton is with me. Bruce, this was an earth- shattering event at the time.

MORTON: Oh this was incredibly major, she talks in the book and she talked in interviews about them. There they are, the lawyers are saying don't publish, don't publish, the don't publish and the business people are saying, we just assumed you didn't publish, the editorial people are saying, go, go, go!

And she was the one standing there, this woman who was not brought up to be a boss, who's husband had run the paper and she is the one who finally looks them in the eye and says, go. WOODRUFF: Bruce, joining us on the telephone now, the widow of Bethine Church -- she is the widow of former Idaho Senator Frank Church. It is in Idaho that Mrs. Graham passed away today at the age of 84.

Mrs. Church?


WOODRUFF: You knew Katharine Graham?

CHURCH: Yes. We weren't close, but I knew her well and that Frank, when he was in the Senate, we were following everything that was happening so closely, and I -- I well remember the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. I well remember Watergate, I remember how -- how important that was.

But I also remember going to her home for dinner and for the evening. And she always had absolutely captivating guests. I think the reason that I am so sad she died in Idaho, is I always think of her as being a really important part -- a really important part of Washington.

She was a power there. And -- and then after I came home in '89 and she wrote her book, and I have been struggling to write a book, I -- I realize that being -- getting a Pulitzer is a really great thing.

WOODRUFF: Mrs. Church, when you say, she was an important -- she was a power in Washington, what do you mean by that? She didn't hold elective office. What gave her the power?

CHURCH: Well, I think her personality. She lived in a wonderful house in Georgetown. And she surrounded herself with really thinking people. In -- in all walks of life, whether it was in business, whether it was in the arts, whether it was in politics, whether it was someone from, you know, the diplomatic part of the world. But always, she -- she really did gather around herself the very best of brains.

WOODRUFF: What about, as a woman, how unusual -- I mean, you were in Washington because you were married to a senator, you saw a great deal. How unusual to see a woman exerting this sort of influence she did?

CHURCH: I think it was very unusual. You know, I was always at this front and center of my father, who was a governor, and my husband's wife, but never on the kind of stage that Katharine Graham was on. She was always on a center stage that was really truly remarkable. And she seemed to do it terribly modestly.

You know, she'd had a wonderful dinner party with people that would just take your breath away. And yet, she would be just such a -- a charming relaxed person, in terms of being a hostess. I think that it's no wonder that she had so many friends.

WOODRUFF: Well, Bethine Church, who was married to the late- Senator Frank Church of Idaho. Thank you very much for joining us. CHURCH: Thank you, Judy, it was a great pleasure, but I really am so sorry that she died in Idaho. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate you're talking with us.

We are remembering Katharine Graham. We have learned just within the hour, she died today in Idaho, as Mrs. Church said, at the age of 84. Let's go now to Joie Chen in Atlanta -- Joie.

CHEN: Judy, we just want to point out to our viewers, those who might not know very much about the history of Katharine Graham, you might want to learn more, and one of the best places to do that, of course, would be the "Washington Post." Their online service has special features today about the life and times of Katharine Graham, and they do have a whole profile, a chronology of her life, as well we are finding from them a photo gallery of Katharine Graham's life.

You are seeing there one of the pictures from the photo gallery, a picture of her wedding day in 1940 to Philip Graham. Of course, that was supposed to be a match that would make her a happy housewife, a husband who would ultimately become the publisher of the "Washington Post," and then she succeeded him, as we have been hearing from our guests today upon his death.

There are a number -- there are 15 pictures in the photo gallery, and let me see if I can find a couple of them I found them particularly interesting, as we were looking at this a little bit earlier. This is from 1975 -- the influence of Katharine Graham as a woman in journalism -- this is a 1975 meeting of the Associated Press and its board of directors. She is the only woman sitting at this huge table of news executives. I thought that was particularly compelling.

Also, this picture, if we can get this one up, picture after of course -- we, of course, have heard about her influence in the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal itself. This years after Watergate, Katharine Graham enjoying a laugh, of all things, with Richard Nixon. It's quite an interesting timeline and photo gallery of her life, many interesting pictures from her personal history.

Of course, there is also the story of her life that she wrote, the personal history that we made mentioned earlier, for which she won a Pulitzer prize, certainly an achievement. There is a lot to learn about Katharine Graham, worth the read, worth the look at the today and the special coverage of the death of Katharine Graham. Judy, we hope that our viewers will take a look at that as well.

WOODRUFF: All right. Joie, thanks for a look at those pictures, which are in the book, the autobiography of Mrs. Graham, "Personal History." We've been showing you pictures of it over the last few minutes.

We are talking about Katharine Graham, who died today at the age of 84 at a hospital in Boise, Idaho, just three days after she suffered a fall. She'd been attending a conference in Sun Valley, fell down, it is not known whether the fall was a result of a stroke, or some other -- something else happened to her, but after the fall she was unconscious and she evidently never regained consciousness. She was taken to the hospital there in Sun Valley, then moved to Boise, and today it was announced -- just within the hour -- that she -- that she has now passed away.

This is a little bit more of an interview that Mrs. Graham did on June the 9th -- she was sitting with Ben Bradlee -- with Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine, who of course is a regular on CNN's "CAPITAL GANG." We are going to leave you with this look and listen to Katharine Graham.


CARLSON: Do you feel that, OK, for instance, friendships between a president, a vice president, and anyone in the press can really take place the way they did in JFK's time?

GRAHAM: I think it could happen, yes.

CARLSON: Does it happen? Has it happened to you?

GRAHAM: I was friends with Nancy Reagan.

BRADLEE: But you weren't interviewing her all day. You weren't getting a lot of scoops, or at least you didn't tell them to me.

CARLSON: She kept a few things for the book, Ben. You have to read it.

BRADLEE: She gave us a lot, too.

CARLSON: Today, if you were doing Watergate in the 24-seven cable coverage...

BRADLEE: I wonder.

CARLSON: ... how would it unfold? Would it unfold differently?

BRADLEE: Well, not only the 24-seven, but the number of journalists and the number of media is so much larger now. I mean, there were really only a handful of papers involved in the beginning of Watergate, the first six months, anyway, until it got into the federal courts. I think you'd have a tough time doing it.

GRAHAM: I think too, Ben, that Watergate is a particular incident that happened that could -- you can't imagine a thing like it again.

CARLSON: Didn't it feel as if Washington was the center of the universe then, the capital of the world?

BRADLEE: It sure did. It sure did.

CARLSON: How does it feel now?

BRADLEE: Well, I mean, you know, when news stories get this town by the throat, that's a wonderful feeling, if you're in our business.

GRAHAM: People used to line up in the alley where "The Post" came off the press to get them.

BRADLEE: The first editions. And the guys -- your buddies would call you up before they left for work at 7:30. They could not wait for that first edition.

CARLSON: Do you see that kind of painstaking work that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward did, going on today in other than, say, your paper and "The New York Times?"

GRAHAM: I think they do a lot of investigative journalism, and I think that there is a certain snobbism of us on the East Coast that everything is here, "The New York Times" or "The Post," and there's a lot of work going on in smaller community, or Western communities.

CARLSON: Kay, do you have another book in you after a "Personal History?" Is there another volume?

GRAHAM: Well, I'm trying to write another book, but it's more or less about Washington over the years. And I don't know -- I never said this in public, because I don't think I'll -- you know, in case it never comes.



ALLEN: We've been bringing you coverage from Washington over the death of Katharine Graham, much-beloved journalist from Washington. We are going to continue now from Atlanta, a little more on that story and other news of this day -- Joie.

CHEN: Right, Natalie. To our viewers who are just joining us here on CNN as CNN LIVE TODAY's coverage continues. We just want to update you now and bring you some reminders about the life and times of Katharine Graham. As Natalie noted, she died earlier today at the age of 40 (sic).

She was -- she has been described as a truly steely woman who steered the "Washington Post," her newspaper, through the tumultuous times of Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal. The "Washington Post" announced today that Katharine Graham died in a Boise, Idaho hospital. She had suffered a fall over the weekend. She had been attending an executive meeting of media executives out there in Sun Valley, Idaho; fell on a concrete walkway, suffered a head injury there.

She was at a condominium complex, apparently where she had been staying, and that -- had been in a coma pretty much since that time. I understand that her son also had been attending the same conference and had been with her from the time when she fell on Saturday.

Mrs. Graham chaired the "Washington Post" company for two decades. Her father had bought the newspaper at a bankruptcy action in the 1930s. She took over the newspaper and the company in 1963, when her husband Philip Graham committed suicide.

Mrs. Graham is credited with building "The Post" into a media empire that ranked 271 on the Fortune 500 list by the time she turned it over to her son in 1991. She is being described today as one of the giants of journalism.

Katharine Graham died today at the age of 84. CNN has been interviewing a number of people about her life and times -- Walter Cronkite, of course, Howard Kurtz, who has written -- writes for "The Washington Post" as a media critic -- also does some work for CNN as well -- Bruce Morton and Judy Woodruff, who both belong to CNN and have known Mrs. Graham over the years.

On the telephone line with us now, Robert Strauss, talking to us today about the passing of Katharine Graham. Can you give us first your reflections about her life and her times?


CHEN: Yes, Mr. Strauss, are you with us?

STRAUSS: I surely am.

CHEN: Can you talk to us a little bit, your reflections about Katharine Graham and the force she has been in media and politics.

STRAUSS: I heard of death on CNN early this morning. That's been all I've been reflecting about. My wife Helen and I were blessed to know Katharine Graham the entire time we were in Washington, over 30 years. And I saw Katharine Graham in all kinds of settings: Presidents in her residence and public places.

And she was always the same. She was always Katharine Graham, a woman who possessed a tremendous grit, courage. In her early years I think she didn't really know who she was. She didn't know how good she was. Later years in life she had the assurance that comes with having done it and knowing she had done it right. She surrounded herself with first-rate people. She ran a marvelous newspaper.

No question, she was a publisher, and she was wise enough to have talent like Ben Bradlee but she was also wise enough to pick much deeper than that, strong people and gave them a head. She was a first-rate woman. She was a marvelous friend. I think of her more as a friend than I do as an executive because she was just a simply marvelous friend, a friend to people like me, a friend also to presidents, leading business executives of the world, and in all those roles she was Katharine Graham. She never changed to try to impress anyone.

CHEN: Robert Strauss, a former Democratic National Committee chairman with us on the telephone line reflecting about the passing of Katharine Graham, "The Washington Post," one time "Washington Post" publisher, the woman who lead that company for so many years, through so many tumultuous years.

Joining us now on the telephone line is Robert McNamara. You remember him as former defense secretary. If you would talk with us about Katharine Graham and the influence that she was on U.S. politics in those very difficult years.

ROBERT MCNAMARA, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: She was one of the greatest citizens of our country in the past half century. Let me mention two events to illustrate that. Many of your listeners will recall that the Pentagon Papers were published -- they were leaked to "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." The Nixon Administration was very, very much opposed to be them put out in the midst of the Vietnam War and threatened to take legal action to prevent it.

And the then attorney general, Mitchell, said -- and these are his exact words -- he said to Kay Graham, "We've got your tit in a ringer and we are going to squeeze it and we are going to cancel the licenses of your television stations," which were a foundation of the financing of the "Post" if you print those Pentagon Papers. She felt it was a public obligation to do so and she did.

She ran the risk of, in a sense, destroying "The Post" financially to do it -- she did. She did the same thing in connection with Watergate, the disclosures of what the Nixon Administration was doing was illegal at the time. That lead eventually to the resignation of the president. She was extraordinary public-minded figure. She acted responsibly over a period of 40 years as publisher of "The Post."

CHEN: I want to talk to you a little bit about her influence in politics and her respect in politics, in particular, looking earlier at a picture -- of course years after the whole Watergate scandal, in which she's actually enjoying a laugh with Richard Nixon, which you'd think is rather an unlikely paring, and certainly an unlikely sort of sense of respect there and social -- whatever -- interaction.

I'm wondering if you think that Katharine Graham can be remembered by both sides of the aisle?

MCNAMARA: Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. In a sense, that was the difference between Washington today and the antagonisms that you see in Washington today and the period that we're talking about -- the 60, '70s,'80s and the '90s. There was a much greater respect of say Democrats for Republican leaders or Republican leaders for Democratic leaders at the time, and a much greater interest of the publishers and the press in those people, and a much greater flow -- free flow of ideas between them than there is today. And she was a major part of that, and a major leader of it.

CHEN: Keeping the integrity on board for that. Robert McNamara the former defense secretary of this country talking about the death of Katharine Graham as well as we heard from Bob Strauss the former leader of the Democratic National Committee on the telephone line with us earlier on CNN.

We have spoken with Walter Cronkite, with Howard Kurtz, who worked with Katharine Graham at "The Washington Post," as well as Bruce Morton and Judy Woodruff, two inside figures in Washington who have known Mrs. Graham over the years. CNN will continue our coverage and talk with those who have known Katharine Graham and remarking on passing at the age of 84 after an accident out in Sun Valley, Idaho over the weekend, slipped into a coma, died of her injuries earlier today.

CNN is continuing its coverage. We will watch for further developments on the story. We continue with more news after this.



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