Edwards Keeps Bloggers on Staff Amid Controversy

By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2007

Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) condemned comments made by two bloggers on his presidential campaign staff but chose not to fire the women, an incident that exposed the fault lines between the largely unfiltered world of new media and the highly regulated universe of national politics.

At the center of the brouhaha are Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen, both of whom were hired last month by Edwards to oversee his "Net roots" outreach. A loose conglomeration of liberal-minded bloggers have grown increasingly influential in Democratic politics.

Before joining the Edwards campaign, Marcotte and McEwen each maintained personal Web logs on which they posted highly critical and profane thoughts about topics including the Roman Catholic Church. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, called on Edwards to fire the duo, whom he described as "vulgar, trash-talking bigots."

Donohue was subsequently attacked by a number of left-leaning groups -- led by Media Matters for America -- who cast his comments as purely partisan.

While the controversy bubbled on the Internet, Edwards remained silent. Yesterday afternoon, after more than a day of deliberation, he issued a statement simultaneously scolding Marcotte and McEwen and offering them a second chance.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else," Edwards said. "But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake."

The two women put out statements in which they offered apologies if they had offended anyone but defended their right to speak their minds.

"Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact," Marcotte wrote.

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