A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Days after Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards decided against firing two liberal bloggers with a history of inflammatory writing, one resigned last night with a blast at "right wing shills" for driving her out of the campaign.

Amanda Marcotte, whose writings were assailed as anti-Catholic, wrote yesterday on her blog that the Edwards camp had accepted her resignation. She blamed her most vocal critic, Bill Donohoe, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, writing that he "and his calvacade of right wing shills don't respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics," which Marcotte described as being "anti-theocracy."

Marcotte charged that Donohoe had been running a "scorched earth campaign" against her and that he "made no bones about the fact that his intent is to 'silence' me. . . . It was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. . . . Bill Donohue doesn't speak for Catholics, he speaks for the right wing noise machine."

After days of indecision, Edwards said in a statement last week that he was "personally offended" by the writing of Marcotte and a second blogger, Melissa McEwan, but that he was keeping them on in the interest of giving everyone "a fair shake." The statement was coupled with carefully worded apologies from the two women toward anyone who may have been offended.

The former North Carolina senator was caught between conflicting pressures. On one hand, Marcotte and McEwan, like many writers in the freewheeling blogosphere, had written profane and offensive attacks on their detractors, using language that no presidential candidate would be comfortable defending. On the other, liberal bloggers were embracing their cause, depicting them as victims of an orchestrated conservative campaign to discredit them.

Every major presidential candidate has hired one or more bloggers as a way to tap into the network of online activists who can generate considerable buzz, and donations, in a campaign. But many of these bloggers have a long cybertrail that leaves them vulnerable to criticism in the more buttoned-down environment of national politics.

Among other things, Marcotte had written: "The Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics." She also questioned, in explicit language, what would have happened if the Virgin Mary had taken the emergency contraceptive called Plan B.

Last month, Marcotte wrote of the Duke University rape case: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair."

McEwan, whose status with the Edwards campaign is apparently unchanged, has referred to President Bush's conservative Christian supporters as his "wingnut Christofascist base."

In a statement last week, Donohoe said: "John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots."

On her blog, Pandagon, Marcotte posted a letter from a group called Catholics for Free Choice, assailing Donohoe as, among other things, anti-woman and anti-gay.

Word of Marcotte's resignation came as Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly was leading his program with a full-throated attack on the two bloggers.

A conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, wrote recently: "Seems that everyone but the Edwards campaign has tracked Marcotte's foul-mouthed nutroots diatribes. Or perhaps the Edwards team is well aware of her lunatic blogging and can't wait for her to unleash her unbridled anger on their spiffy website to give him a gritty, 'progressive' edge."

But a liberal blogger, Chris Bowers of MyDD.com, wrote that "Republican attempts to make Democrats look bad though guilt by association with us crazy bloggers were a miserable failure."

Donohoe and the Edwards campaign did not return calls seeking comment last night.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company