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Getting the message on Journolist's controversial postings

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Post blogger David Weigel resigned last month after the Caller published some of his inflammatory Journolist messages.

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The Caller found one example of a news staffer spewing bile. Sarah Spitz, a producer for "Left, Right & Center" on public radio station KCRW, wrote that if Rush Limbaugh were having a heart attack, she would "laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out. . . . I never knew I had this much hate in me. But he deserves it."

Spitz apologized in a statement, saying she "made poorly considered remarks about Rush Limbaugh" and regrets her "irresponsible behavior."

One Caller headline -- "Liberal journalists suggest government shut down Fox News" -- was misleading. The story cited only a UCLA law professor, Jonathan Zasloff, as suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission could pull Fox's broadcasting license. Time reporter Michael Scherer disagreed, saying the government shouldn't be making such decisions.

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Ezra Klein, who recently abolished the group, says members were "loose with their language" because they were having what amounted to an off-the-record bull session. "The Daily Caller has been rankly dishonest. . . . It's an attempt to rip quotes out of context and make it look like a conspiracy." Klein says there is no evidence that members collectively carried out the strategies being debated: "What would be disturbing is if people came to a conclusion together, and you looked the next day and it appeared in everyone's blog or everyone's column."

Carlson, who says he has withheld many "catty" personal comments, calls the out-of-context charge "a red herring designed to draw attention away from the fact that they were coordinating on behalf of Barack Obama."

None of this quite adds up to a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, and there is no reason to believe that some conservative commentators don't have similar discussions. But there is no escaping the fact that some of the list's liberal literati come off sounding like cagey political operatives.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."

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