David Weigel, a blogger for The Washington Post, has resigned from his position at the newspaper, after messages he wrote on a private email list among journalists were leaked to a news website.
Weigel - whose role was to cover the conservative movement in a blog on the The Post's website - was revealed by Media Bistro and The Daily Caller earlier this week to have written disparaging remarks about conservatives on Journolist, a private mailing list for journalists and bloggers.
The Post accepted his offer of resignation on Friday. The paper's executive editor Marcus Brauchli said that although Weigel was a talented reporter, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work".
In a series of wide-ranging attacks, Weigel used the mailing list to criticise some conservatives as having been motivated by "racism" and "white privilege", and dismissed Tea Party activists as associates of "discredit right-wingers". Weigel also went after high-profile conservative figures, writing in one email that:
"Newt Gingrich is an amoral blowhard who resigned in disgrace, and Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite who was drummed out of the movement by William F. Buckley.
"Both are now polluting my inbox and TV with their bellowing and minority-bashing. They’re never going to go away or be deprived of their soapboxes."
Among other attacks, he described Matt Drudge, a conservative who runs the popular news aggregation website The Drudge Report, as an "amoral shut-in" who continuously relied on "gay-baiting, lying, and flubbing facts". He also joked that "this would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire".
'Its archives have become a weapon'
The leaking of Weigel's comments from Journolist - intended as a private discussion point for civil debate between reporters and bloggers - sparked a strong response among political commentators, as well as those involved with the list.
Weigel's fellow Post blogger Ezra Klein founded the list in 2007, but said yesterday that he would now be deleting it in the wake of the leak.
"It was a wonderful, chaotic, educational discussion. I'm proud of having started it, grateful to have participated in it, and I have no doubt that someone else will re-form it, with many of the same members, and keep it going. Hopefully, it will lose some of its mystique in the process, and be understood more for what it is: One of many e-mail lists where people talk about things they're interested in.
"But insofar as the current version of Journolist has seen its archives become a weapon, and insofar as people's careers are now at stake, it has to die."
Klein, who writes from an openly liberal standpoint on economic and domestic policy at The Post, said that he was "heartbroken" at Weigel's departure, describing him as "an extraordinary reporter".
He added that Journalist had been interpreted by outsiders "viewed as a secretive conspiracy" instead of a place where journalists could interact with each other while being "less defensive, less interested in scoring points" as would be the case in the public space.
Klein received backing from Marc Ambinder, the politics editor of The Atlantic, who said that the pressure on Weigel to resign reflected an "old media" imperative to adhere to "a 'non-ideological' standard that just doesn't exist".
"Weigel was a GOOD journalist who wrote provocative, value-added pieces that allowed a lot of people to really understand the way the conservative movement worked.
"Sure, he had a point of view, and sure, he often angered his subjects, but they respected him because they knew were he was coming from and because he took them seriously enough to care."
'A subject he did not respect'
On the other hand, Ambinder's Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg said that the emails brought The Post's hiring practices into question.
"The sad truth is that The Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training," said Goldberg.
The Daily Caller's publisher Neil Patel said that "Weigel was hired to cover a subject he did not respect", dismissing him as a "fraud" with the mentality of "a profane eighth grader".
Jim Geraghty, a political activist and a contributor to the influential conservative publication National Review, said that the problem related largely to the way Weigel's role had been perceived.
"[The Post] erred by giving him the conservative beat not too long after launching Ezra Klein with a liberal blog," he told The Post's Howard Kurtz.
"I think conservatives expected Dave would be writing the right-of-centre equivalent."
Media Spy discussion: Political blogging