Richard Cohen will no longer write columns for the Washington Post, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt tells staffers in an unusually short email sent via editorial board executive assistant Nana Efua Mumford. Seriously, this is the whole thing:
After 43 years of writing a column for The Washington Post, Richard Cohen has decided to move on to other challenges. Whether he is writing about politics, movies, history or his glory days in the U.S. Army, Richard is a master of the form. Readers of The Post and the many other publications that carry his column will miss his insight, humor and occasional outrage. As Richard takes on new ventures, we wish him all the best and remain hopeful that he will come back to write for the oped page from time to time.
Cohen joined the Post in 1968 and became an opinion writer in 1984. He helped get the redesigned Post magazine off to an extremely rocky start only two years later with a piece that sympathized with jewelry store owners who didn’t want to let young black men into their shops; Ben Bradlee, then the paper’s executive editor, apologized after protesters returned thousands of copies of the magazine to the newspaper.
In the years since he displayed a remarkable ability to survive at the paper despite being accused of sexual harassment (he somehow got a better office out of the deal) and frequently stepping in it with regard to race, like the time he wrote that “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children” or the time that he wrote sympathetically about the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Cohen’s work could appear just as clueless when he tackled other sensitive subjects, as when he wrote, “The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse.”
(Strange pop-culture aside: Sally Quinn has claimed Cohen was the model for Billy Crystal‘s character in When Harry Met Sally, which Cohen denies.)
Through it all, Hiatt defended Cohen as one of the paper’s best-read columnists: “Richard doesn’t reliably follow any political line,” he told Paul Farhi in 2013. “He also isn’t afraid to take on subjects where culture and politics and emotion overlap. Those traits make him a compelling, and one of our best-read, columnists. They also, not surprisingly, at times lead to controversy.”