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Washington Post blogger David Weigel resigns after messages leak

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 26, 2010; C01

David Weigel, who was hired by The Washington Post to blog about conservatives, resigned Friday after leaked online messages showed him disparaging some Republicans and commentators in highly personal terms.

Weigel, whose tenure lasted three months, apologized Thursday for writing on a private e-mail exchange that Matt Drudge should "handle his emotional problems more responsibly and set himself on fire." He also mocked Ron Paul, the Texas congressman, by referring to the "Paultard Tea Party."

(Washington Post's ombudsman comments)

The Daily Caller reported more inflammatory comments on Friday, with Weigel writing that conservatives were using the media to "violently, angrily divide America" and lamenting news organizations' "need to give equal/extra time to 'real American' views, no matter how [expletive] moronic." When Rush Limbaugh, who has called for President Obama to fail, was hospitalized with chest pains, Weigel wrote: "I hope he fails."

These and other remarks were drawn from Journolist, an off-the-record listserv for several hundred independent to left-leaning commentators and journalists that was founded in 2007 by Ezra Klein, now a liberal blogger for The Post's Web site.

Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti said Weigel had called and offered to resign Thursday evening and he accepted on Friday.

"Dave did excellent work for us," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. But, he said, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work. . . . There's abundant room on our Web site for a wide range of viewpoints, and we should be transparent about everybody's viewpoint."

Weigel declined to comment except to say that none of the e-mails was sent after he joined The Post. Earlier, he told the Caller: "I've always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway. . . . People aren't usually asked to stand or fall on everything they've said in private."

Tucker Carlson, the conservative pundit who edits the Caller, said: "I've always liked Dave Weigel and I think he's talented," but that the messages "struck me as the kind of thing you might like to know if you're reading his stories."

The Post has hired such left-leaning bloggers as Klein -- also a contributor to MSNBC and Newsweek -- who came from American Prospect. Greg Sargent was hired from Talking Points Memo by The Post Co.'s WhoRunsGov site, and now also writes for the newspaper's opinion pages. This new breed is expected to report for their online columns while also offering a point of view, and Weigel's "Right Now" blog was meant to be in that mold.

Carlson questioned the rules for Post bloggers, saying, "The people who write there, are they reporters? Are they op-ed writers? I don't get it, and I don't think readers get it."

Jim Geraghty, a columnist for National Review Online and a friendly acquaintance of Weigel, said The Post "erred by giving him the conservative beat not too long after launching Ezra Klein with a liberal blog. I think conservatives expected Dave would be the writing the right-of-center equivalent" of Klein's column. "There was definitely a perception that his blog was designed to make conservatives look bad."

Brauchli said he doesn't "believe it's necessary for somebody to be of a certain ideology to write about people who are of that ideology. We do think it's imperative we bring independence to that coverage."

Asked about Weigel's strong views about some conservatives, Brauchli said: "We don't have the resources or ability to do Supreme Court justice-type investigations into people's backgrounds. We will have to be more careful in the future."

Klein wrote Friday that he is abolishing Journolist immediately because its archives have "become a weapon." He said he is "heartbroken" over the resignation of Weigel, calling him "an extraordinary reporter and a dear friend."

Weigel, who was hired from the Washington Independent, had stirred controversy in May when he referred to "anti-gay marriage bigots" on his Twitter page.

This is not the first time that washingtonpost.com has had problems covering the right. In 2006, conservative blogger Ben Domenech resigned three days after his debut, following a flurry of plagiarism allegations involving his previous work.

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