By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 25, 2006
A 24-year-old conservative blogger hired by The Washington Post Co.'s Web site resigned yesterday, three days after his debut, amid a flurry of allegations of plagiarism.
Ben Domenech, an editor with Regnery Publishing, relinquished the part-time position hours after a liberal Web site posted evidence that he had plagiarized part of a movie review he wrote for National Review Online. Previous allegations of plagiarism in Domenech's writing for the College of William & Mary student newspaper surfaced Wednesday, but the 2001 review was the first instance found since he attended the college.
While liberal bloggers objected to the fact of Domenech's hiring and his inflammatory language, such as calling Coretta Scott King a "communist," it was not until they gathered evidence showing he had repeatedly used material without attribution that some conservative bloggers joined in calls for his firing.
Jim Brady, executive editor of Washingtonpost.com, which operates independently from the newspaper, said he would have dismissed Domenech if the former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer had not offered to quit first. He said there was "enough smoke" in the allegations of plagiarism "that we needed to sever the relationship."
Brady said his staff did "a fair amount of checking" into Domenech's background before the hiring but that "we could have and should have done a better job."
On liberal blogs and Web sites -- Salon's lead story yesterday was "A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Plagiarist" -- many commentators said there was no equivalence between a Republican activist who co-founded the site RedState.com and Post.com journalists who are viewed as leaning to the left. Brady said that was a "fair criticism" and one he will keep in mind in looking for another conservative blogger. "We're certainly likely to look for someone with a more traditional journalism background," he said.
Domenech said yesterday he resigned because "if the firestorm gets past a certain level, there's nothing you can ever say that will be taken seriously. . . . It's reached the point where there's nothing I can really do to defend myself."
Despite the pattern of plagiarized articles, Domenech still maintains that he did not knowingly use other people's writing without attribution. He said most of the allegations, from his time at the William & Mary student paper, were from his freshman year, and that while he believes the unattributed material was inserted by his editor, he cannot prove it. "When I was 17, I was certainly sloppy," said Domenech, who did not graduate from college. "If I had paid more attention, none of these problems would have happened."
The liberal blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) found that one Domenech article at the student paper, the Flat Hat, lifted large portions of a 1999 Washington Post story on the federal investigation of the Waco siege.
Daily Kos, a Web site edited by liberal activist Markos Moulitsas, posted a comparison of Domenech's National Review piece on the film "Final Fantasy" and a review by Steve Murray of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Murray had written:
"Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, wriggling countless tentacles and snapping their jaws. They're known as the Phantoms, alien thingies that, for three decades, have been sucking the life out of the earthlings of 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.' "
"Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, splaying their tentacles and snapping their jaws, dripping a discomfiting acidic ooze. They're known as the Phantoms, otherworldly beings who, for three decades, have been literally sucking the life out of the earthlings of the human."
Domenech said he thought his piece appeared first, but a database review found that Murray's review was published three days earlier.
Michelle Malkin, a prominent conservative blogger, wrote before the resignation that Domenech had edited one of her books and she had been cheering for him. "But now the determined moonbat hordes have exposed multiple instances of what clearly appear to me to be blatant lifting of entire, unique passages by Ben from other writers." That, Malkin said, is "unacceptable. . . . And, painfully, Domenech's detractors are right. He should own up to it and step down. Then, the Left should cease its sick gloating and leave him and his family alone."
Rick Moran, who runs the site Right Wing Nuthouse, wrote on the American Thinker blog: "The plagiarism of Mr. Domenech cannot be chalked up to youthful indiscretion nor to some kind of unconscious parroting of something he read before putting words to paper. . . . Ben Domenech is not the kind of writer we want representing the conservative viewpoint at The Washington Post or anywhere else."