Joe Williams has spoken.
After staying mostly silent in the day after his suspension from Politico for certain remarks and tweets, Williams has issued a lively statement on his status and the circumstances that have landed him in his current bind. Here’s the statement:
I regret that this happened. I understand and respect John Harris’ point of view — that I’ve compromised Politico’s objectivity, and my own. At this point my suspension without pay is still indefinite, and I don’t know what management has in mind as an appropriate sanction, so I can’t object or appeal. Politico still employs me, but the review process hasn’t started in earnest so my future remains unclear.
Having covered the Shirley Sherrod firing and seen the fallout from James O’Keefe’s brand of journalism, I’m not surprised a small group with internet access and an ambitious agenda can affect reporting and distort analysis of political news. It’s quite unfortunate and incredibly frustrating, however, that I landed in the crosshairs this time, calling Politico’s integrity into question and jeopardizing a job and a career that I love.
Two paragraphs, two distinct thoughts. Let’s take them one by one:
Paragraph One: The suspension of Williams draws on a variety of material. In one retweet, Williams jumps in on a penis joke about Mitt Romney; in another, he waxes snarky about the GOP position on voter fraud; in remarks yesterday on MSNBC, he suggested that Romney feels comfortable only among white people. Grist for discussion, every bit. I spent a good part of the day trying to decide just where Williams may have gone over the line and where he may have provided fair-game analysis. One incontrovertible takeaway is that the penis-joke participation tramples any standard of journalistic conduct. Williams says he doesn’t remember issuing that particular retweet, but until he supplies evidence for that contention, that riff alone requires an apology deeper and more extreme than the “regret” expressed in Paragraph One.
Paragraph Two: Don’t blame Breitbart.com for this episode. That’s what Williams appears to be doing in saying that a “small group” has distorted things here. Breitbart.com called the world’s attention to Williams’s remarks and his tweets, and it performed a public service in doing so. The consensus among the many folks I consulted on this case today expressed outrage not at what Breitbart.com was doing but at what Williams was doing.
Like a lot of material that issues from Politico, this piece could use a little editing.