At tried to pin the story down

At the age of thirty-one, Packwood successfully ran for the Oregon legislature, becoming the state’s youngest legislator in 1963. In 1968, Packwood defeated four-time U.S. Senator Wayne Morse, becoming the youngest member of the U.S. Senate at age 36. Packwood was a strong supporter of abortion rights and the equal rights amendment, gaining widespread support from feminist groups during the 1970’s. In 1970, he presented the Senate’s first pro-abortion legislation. Packwood spent most of his career in Congress working to stop the passage of numerous anti-abortion bills introduced throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. The magazine became known for detailed investigations of subjects the mainstream press wasn’t covering, publishing investigations on such topics like U.S. policies in Central America and the FDA approval process. Gilbert said that during her investigation, most of the 25 to 30 former Packwood employees she spoke with praised the senator. A few hinted at a darker side but would not elaborate. Citing a lack of sources, Caldwell “let the story drop” after Gilbert left the paper in July to accept an academic fellowship.Shortly before Gilbert began her research, Florence Graves, a Boston-based freelance writer and founding editor of Common Cause magazine, began work on a Vanity Fair article about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.In April, she phoned Mark Zusman, editor of the Portland alternative weekly, Willamette Week, to ask if he had any tips. ¬†The incident was “not a big secret,” Zusman says. Williamson told her story frequently but “made it clear this was not a story she would go public with.” Zusman says he tried to pin the story down but didn’t have the resources with just three full-time staffers.Zusman says that so many women went on record in the Post story is a testament to Graves’ reporting skills. As an example, he cites one source, Mary Heffernan, whom he knows. “Not only did Mary never tell me this story, but Mary’s husband, who freelanced here, was never told the story until it appeared in the Post,” he says. Graves said the women each agreed that speaking out would serve a greater good.After a dispute with Vanity Fair over her contract, Graves spent the summer researching the story independently. She says she was somewhat surprised the Oregonian didn’t beat her to it. “Something seems amiss when a person living in Needham, Massachusetts, working on her own, financing it herself, could develop a story to the point where she had identified enough women to make it credible.”In September, Graves contacted the Post. After checking her references and sources, Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. assigned reporter Charles Shepard to assist Graves with the story..Downie had heard rumors about Packwood’s indiscretions, but none alluded to charges of sexual harassment.Indeed, many Washington reporters say the whispers that drifted their way were similar. “I only heard that he was a skirt chaser, a cheater,” says National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg. Evan Thomas, bureau chief for Newsweek, says he “heard from one person a while ago that he had some tendencies” towards inappropriate behavior. And Al Hunt, bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, says he “didn’t have any doubt that Bob Packwood was lecherous but I didn’t also know that he was a sexual harasser. That’s different.” Thomas concurs. “God knows there are a lot of senators over the years who have drunk too much and groped.”

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