Bezos References Infamous Washington Post Lore in Memo

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While the jury is still out on what Jeff Bezos will do with The Washington Post (yes, there are people who don't entirely trust him), he's won us over by referencing the most violent threat made against one of Katharine Graham's (or anyone's) breasts that history has ever seen. The line that struck us most from Bezos's letter to staffers wasn't about the values of the Washington Post changing or shortening news cycles, but rather this one referencing a body part and a wringer:

While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready. 

If you are under the age of 40 or not too familiar with The Washington Post that line might lack a little punch. Bezos's sentence is a wink and a nod to a threat placed on publisher Katharine Graham's breast from one John Mitchell, Attorney General, Nixon campaign manager, and a man known for having his hands all over the Watergate scandal. And it came as The Post was breaking the Watergate scoop. Graham herself explained this in her 1997 book, Personal History: 

In an effort to check it out, Bernstein called Mitchell directly, reaching him at a hotel in New York, where Mitchell answered the phone himself. When Carl told him about the story, Mitchell exploded with an exclamation of "JEEEEEEESUS," so violent that Carl felt it was "some sort of primal scream" and thought Mitchell might die on the telephone. After he'd read him the first two paragraphs, Mitchell interrupted, still screaming, "All that crap, you're putting it in the paper? It's all been denied. Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published. Good Christ! That's the most sickening thing I ever heard."

Mitchell was probably not listening to himself, but an argument can be made that stuffing one lonely breast into a machine made to scrimp and squish is pretty gross. But, yes, that's the threat and obviously the highest journalistic point in Washington Post history that Bezos wanted to make sure we never forget. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.