In Cardin Camp, Online Slurs Get Junior Staffer Fired

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By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Howard Dean helped convince politicians that ready access to the Internet could drastically improve the way political candidates mount campaigns. Now it's a junior staffer of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin , the Democrat running for senate in Maryland, who has provided the inevitable reminder that with every great leap forward, there are bound to be stumbles back.

The junior staffer was fired Friday for maintaining an online diary about her experiences in the trenches of a U.S. Senate race, a campaign official said. The campaign has refused to release the name of the staffer.

Alone, that may seem an ill-advised blunder. But matters were made considerably worse by her postings, which contained racial and ethnic slurs.

In a story that first appeared Friday on the political blog Wizbang Politics, the staffer, who went by the online handle " Persuasionatrix ," vented her frustration with a working environment that she described as being hypersensitive about any issue that related to race, and described her discomfort in being a "sex object" for Cardin's Jewish friends, describing them using ethnic stereotypes.

At the time of the entries, Cardin was facing former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume in the primary, and waiting on deck for the general was Republican Michael S. Steele who, as lieutenant governor, was the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland.

In one posting, Persuasionatrix alleged that the attempted discipline of a black campaign staffer failed because "he plays the racism card, the magic passport to a different chain of command."

Cardin responded to the blogging revelation by firing her, saying in a statement yesterday: "I am deeply offended and disgusted by the blog's racial and anti-Semitic overtones. The staff person responsible was promptly dismissed and will have nothing to do with this campaign."

Cardin's campaign spokesman, Oren Shur , characterized Persuasionatrix as "a junior staffer," but would not identify her by name. She was fired Friday "as soon as we learned of this."

Steele campaign spokeswoman Melissa Sellers called the blog a "deeply disturbing" chronicle of "racial prejudices toward Lt. Gov. Steele and others."

Steele allies said yesterday that they see a pattern. Earlier in the campaign, Republicans slammed a liberal blogger from New York, Steve Gilliard , for posting a doctored photo of Steele as a minstrel.

With that incident, Republicans began showing signs of a subtle strategy that appeared to be aimed at building an allegiance with black voters by publicly identifying instances where Steele has been the victim of racial insults at the hands of Democrats.

Sellers, though, was more direct.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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