AOL Blogger Tackles WaPo Blogger Weigel's Liberal Advocacy, Cites NewsBusters Criticism

Blogger Matt Lewis took Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel to task in a post at AOL's Politics Daily site today.

Lewis noted our early skepticism here at NewsBusters as well as reaction from NewsBusters contributor and Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor:

This is how the Post covers the conservative movement: Find someone who doesn't even understand the traditional values that made our nation great and then assign him to report on the right. Throw in the fact that Weigel loves to bash conservatives and he's the ideal Postie. At the same time, the paper hired a hard-core lefty in Ezra Klein to advocate for the left. It's a ridiculous double standard. The Post should be both embarrassed and ashamed.

For his part, Lewis, a conservative writer, lamented that Weigel, whom he considers generally "accurate and fair," has taken to his Twitter feed to bash average Americans as "bigots" for working to protect traditional marriage in state law:

Last September, the Post issued a self-imposed policy on Twitter. The guidelines stated, "Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything -- including photographs or video -- that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility."

Weigel seems to have violated both the spirit and the letter of this policy concerning bias, and to have gone even further by stating flatly that he cannot be "empathetic" when covering those who oppose gay marriage.

Were Weigel merely a blogger -- or an opinion writer (such as myself) -- this Tweet would be of little concern. But Weigel is now a credentialed Washington Post reporter with a press pass, specifically tasked with covering the conservative movement/Republican Party beat.

This is not to say Weigel's position on gay marriage is right or wrong, but I do question his ability to effectively, let alone fairly, report on social conservatives. As Penny Nance told me, "I, for one, will never talk to him."

How can he now go to the Family Research Council's "Value Voters Summit" and objectively report on it? How can his coverage of a Rick Santorum speech, for example, be trusted? Some have wondered why the Post would hire a non-conservative to cover the conservative movement. One obvious inference in light of this development is that conservatives are not welcome at that paper. Before joining The Washington Post, Weigel previously wrote for the libertarian "Reason" and the liberal Washington Independent. He frequently appears on such programs as NPR's "Fresh Air" and MSNBC offerings, like Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show.

In 2006, when conservative blogger Ben Domenech joined The Washington Post to cover this beat, his tenure was short-lived. Liberal bloggers quickly leveled plagiarism allegations, and Domenech resigned within days of his hiring. I wondered as I hit my deadline for this piece if Weigel would in any way be chastised for violating the Post's own self-imposed Twitter policy. A partial answer was revealed a little while later, when Weigel expressed remorse for his choice of words in a posting on the Washington Post Web site. Conceding he'd been "disrespectful," Weigel issued a mea culpa that included the following passage: "First, I apologize for calling same-sex marriage opponents 'bigots.' I was specifically referring to people who spend their working hours opposing gay marriage, not just people who vote to ban it. But those people aren't bigots, either."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters