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A Hard Right Punch
"She's a very tough lady," says Bryan Preston, her business partner in the daily video blog Hot Air. "You've never met a happier person than Michelle when she's in the thick of a fight. She enjoys the combat of ideas."
That persona is a far cry from the self-described "geek" of her youth. Michelle Maglalang grew up outside Atlantic City in a Reaganite, conservative Catholic family, was not politically active, and failed a fifth-grade public speaking class. As a college student, she was so naive that when a married Republican congressman invited her to live in his home during her internship with then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), she thought it was a generous offer until her parents straightened her out.
It was at Oberlin College that she began working on an alternative newspaper founded by Jesse Malkin, her future husband. When they co-authored an article questioning the value of affirmative action -- and outraged students dumped bundles of papers in the trash -- "it was an awakening" for Michelle, says Jesse. She soon converted him from a Michael Dukakis supporter to the conservative side.
"She's always been hard-hitting," says Jesse, now a stay-at-home dad and health-care consultant. "She doesn't have a lot of tolerance for mealy-mouthed platitudes."
After seven years as an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Seattle Times, Michelle Malkin moved to Washington in 1999 to work for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. She launched her blog, http://Michellemalkin.com, in 2004. Last month it drew 388,000 visitors, and it's complemented by a syndicated column that appears in 150 papers.
Her newspaper experience was crucial because "you see what a lot of crackpots and cranks are out there," says Mark Cunningham, the New York Post opinion editor, who has known Malkin for years. "She learned a long time ago to deal with sticks and stones. People read her, even if they're infuriated by her."
Malkin's detractors -- whom she derides as "moonbats" -- were further riled by her book "In Defense of Internment," in which she said the confining of Japanese Americans during World War II was justified, and backed racial profiling as a vital tool against terrorism.
She was also denounced for posting the phone numbers of three antiwar protesters at the University of California at Santa Cruz who chased military recruiters off the campus. Malkin says the contact numbers were listed on a press release put out by the students' group.
Not surprisingly, it gets pretty hot in her kitchen. The liberal blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) called Malkin a racist over her views on immigration and said anyone who promotes her site "may as well be promoting the Klan." A Web site called Malkin Watch runs a cartoon of her in a Nazi uniform. In comments on her own blog -- a feedback loop she has since restricted -- one person called her "lyin' pond scum" and another asked why she believed "she will be treated as white when God chose to make her yellow?"
When Malkin posted a video about Islamic violence -- set to religious chanting -- on YouTube last year, the Web site promptly removed it as inappropriate. She fought back with an online video criticizing YouTube, which the site also deleted, posting a one-line explanation that Malkin herself had withdrawn it. That, she said on her blog, was a lie.
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After a few liberal sites posted her home address and phone numbers last year, Malkin received a wave of harassing calls. She responded with a defiant post, headlined "I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU." Malkin and her family have moved elsewhere in Maryland.
"No one likes to receive the kind of attacks she gets," Preston says. "She has had to take some security precautions to make sure it doesn't rise to the level of threatening her family."
Sometimes, though, Malkin seems to use the same howitzer against every provocation. After she started crusading against the "Girls Gone Wild" culture as a "liberal assault on decency," the satirical site Wonkette received -- and posted -- a picture of Malkin's head on the scantily-clad body of a college student, whose image had been plucked from the Web. Malkin denounced what she called the "hate-filled cowards" at Wonkette's parent company for "repeatedly smearing and attempting to humiliate me."
After being contacted by Malkin's lawyer, Wonkette ran a snarkily worded semi-retraction. The site's West Coast bureau chief, Ken Layne, says he doesn't know or care whether the picture is real and calls Malkin "incapable of getting a joke."
"People send us dumb stuff all the time, and if it makes us laugh, we post it," he adds. "Malkin responds in such a predictably psychotic way whenever we mention her."
What some might have dismissed as a prank became another salvo in the culture wars. It is as though eternal vigilance is the price of being Michelle Malkin: No slight can go unanswered, no insult allowed to stand. Blogging is an addiction, she says, but not one she is looking to kick.
"You have to accept that you'll never have many friends," Malkin says. "It's a lonely existence."