The new movie “The Post” celebrates one of the country’s landmark battles for freedom of the press and features two of the journalist heroes of the Pentagon Papers case well-known to Washington audiences: Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee, the newspaper’s executive editor. But the film passes over another hometown hero: Gerhard Gesell, the federal judge who rebuffed the Nixon administration’s effort to stop the Post from publishing stories on the papers after it had matched The New York Times in obtaining a copy of the secret study of Vietnam War policymaking.
Bradlee is well portrayed by the A-list actor Tom Hanks as the hyperkinetic editor pulls out all the stops in mid-June 1971 to match the Times‘ coup in getting the classified study. Graham is convincingly portrayed by the great actress Meryl Streep as the legacy-conscious publisher struggles with her eventual decision to allow Bradlee’s newsroom to run its stories despite the financial and legal risks to the newspaper.
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