Jim DeMint
Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, gestures during a May 6 news conference on immigration reform. (Evan Vucci / AP Photo)

Jason Richwine, the co-author of a controversial Heritage study that has invited an avalanche of blistering criticism, has resigned from Heritage, the first step in what will be an effort to contain the damage arising from the report.

Richwine’s dissertation and public comments have postulated that Hispanic people have lower IQs than white people.

His work product, however, has not been withdrawn. Still, it is noteworthy that the American Action Network (which backs the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration-reform plan and roundly criticized the immigration study) has bought search ads on Google surrounding the Heritage study link. They are driving to a page of quotes from conservatives panning the immigration study.

Aside from effectively sidelining Heritage in the immigration fight, the incident raises questions about Heritage’s president.

Heritage Foundation’s decision to release the controversial immigration study was the first major decision under former U.S. senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who officially began on April 1. Although the study was developed under former president Edwin “Ed” Feulner’s watch, some Heritage scholars expressed their concern about the scholarship. No one from Heritage with whom I spoke was aware that Richwine had written a thesis and had spoken openly on his contention that Hispanics have lower IQs, in part because of genetics.

In part, the incident reflects on DeMint and a cadre of hard-hitting GOP activists and former Hill staffers he brought with him: Ed Corrigan, Wesley Denton and Bret Bernhardt (DeMint’s former Senate chief of staff), who have no think tank experience. Skilled in political opposition and partisan fighting, they are not academics. Corrigan in particular, who was given the elevated title of group vice president, is seen by some Heritage scholars as invading the turf of experienced scholars who cling to the idea that Heritage is a think tank, not simply an adjunct of right-wing PACs. On the Hill, Corrigan worked closely with the conservative steering committee under two chairmen — DeMint and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), both vehement opponents of immigration reform.

In some sense, the immigration fiasco is precisely what some conservative scholars feared would happened when a politician committed to winning elections and advancing right-wing candidates took over a think tank. One Heritage scholar told me, “This is much worse than I feared … and it happened much faster than I ever imagined.”

When does it end?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.