This past April, Dave Weigel, who had been reporting on the tea-party movement and the right in general for the Washington Independent, was hired by the Washington Post to do the same on a new blog hosted by their website called Right Now, which we’ve linked to frequently. Today Weigel, a sort of liberal-leaning libertarian who has also written for Reason, resigned from the Post after coming under fire for some off-the-record e-mails he sent to members of the JournoList listserv basically a discussion board for 400 prominent liberal writers, which its founder, Ezra Klein, has now decided to disband and delete entirely which were leaked to FishBowlDC and the Daily Caller. What was so heinous about the e-mails that they precluded Weigel from continuing to run his blog? He wished that “amoral shut-in” Matt Drudge would “set himself on fire”; accused the GOP of using the media to “violently, angrily divide America” out of racism; and disparaged Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh. Weigel has previously gotten some heat for referring to gay-marriage opponents as “bigots.”
In other words, Weigel like every reporter, blogger, journalist, news anchor, human has an opinion, one that he expressed with the expectation that it would remain private. It would be naïve and somewhat delusional to think that the bloggers at the Corner don’t have the same level of personal animosity for Markos Moulisas, Keith Olbermann, Nancy Pelosi, or Barack Obama that Weigel does for Drudge, Palin, et al. If somebody were to dredge up their personal e-mails, we imagine they would contain a bit of name-calling and accusatory language about Democrats and liberal media personalities. Would they then be declared incapable of writing about Democrats? Of course not. One would hope that their personal biases didn’t taint their ability to report and opine fairly, if not neutrally, which Weigel has, to our eyes, always done.
Pure neutrality was never intended for Weigel as it would be for a traditional news reporter or even many bloggers at other sites. He was hired to blog for the Post shortly after they brought in unabashed liberal Ezra Klein. At the time Klein was hired, the Post’s executive editor, Marchus Brauchli, said, “As a blogger, he has more latitude than reporters to reach conclusions. It’s inevitable we will employ more people who have that ability.” It was a “new paradigm” that the paper “would very much like to replicate,” he said. It does seem that the Post may not have understood that Weigel wasn’t himself a conservative when they hired him. If that’s a problem for them, then they “set Weigel up for a fall, and themselves for embarrassment,” as Politico’s Ben Smith writes today.
There’s the argument that Weigel is entitled to his beliefs, but he shouldn’t be tasked with specifically covering the conservative movement if he despises so much of it (Weigel also voted for Ron Paul, and reportedly “revealed a fondness for Ronald Reagan, a willingness to vote for Bobby Jindal as president, and agreed that Van Jones should have been fired for his 9/11 trutherism”). It’s not a totally unreasonable position. But our political discourse would benefit a lot more from people like Weigel covering the GOP, and people like, say, sane conservatives David Frum or Ross Douthat covering the progressive movement, than only allowing writers to cover ideologies and political figures with which they’re already in lock-step agreement.