Former WaPo Ombud Urges Bezos to Fire Paper’s Lone Conservative Blogger

Now that the takeover of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos is beginning, the Amazon.com billionaire is being deluged with unsolicited advice. One such uninvited adviser is Patrick Pexton, the paper's former ombudsman who wrote up an "open letter" urging Bezos to do a number of things.

Not all of it is bad advice but what stands out is his personal animus against the Post's sole conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin whom he urges Bezos to fire. "Not because she’s conservative," he insists, "but because she’s just plain bad."

Pexton, who made several ridiculous defenses of liberal stories put out by his employer over the years (including the ridiculous investigation the Post mounted into an incident of former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney allegedly cutting someone's hair while in high school as well as the paper's obsession about a roadside rock on a property owned by Romney's former rival Rick Perry) went after Rubin with a particular animus at length. She was the only person he attacked by name:

Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor—who I like, admire, and respect—fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin. Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.

And she is often wrong, and rarely acknowledges it. She was oh-so-wrong about Mitt Romney, week after week writing embarrassing flattery about his 2012 campaign, calling almost every move he made brilliant, and guaranteeing that he would trounce Barack Obama. When he lost, the next day she savaged him and his campaign with treachery, saying he was the worst candidate with the worst staff, ever. She was wrong about the Norway shootings being acts of al-Qaida. She was wrong about Chuck Hagel being an anti-Semite. And does she apologize? Nope.

Rubin was the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer while I was ombudsman, and I’m leaving out the organized email campaigns against her by leftie groups like Media Matters. Thinking conservatives didn’t like her, thinking moderates didn’t like her, government workers who knew her arguments to be unfair didn’t like her. Dump her like a dull tome on the Amazon Bargain Books page.

There are several laugh-lines in the above paragraphs, one of which is Pexton's claim that Rubin "parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike." If Pexton had any actual working knowledge of the conservative blogosphere, he would know that many conservatives dislike Rubin because they believe she is not enough of a team player and does not endorse arguments they see as valid. But that doesn't matter. Liberals accuse her of being a parrot for far-right beliefs so it must be true.

That last paragraph is also particularly absurd. Given that the Post's readership base tilts overwhelmingly leftward, it really ought not to surprise that Rubin's work produced the most complaints in Pexton's inbox. A simple look through the comments of any George Will or Charles Krauthammer column will reveal all kinds of seething anger that these conservative writers are allowed to pollute the Post's website and pages with their continued employment.

I don't keep score on individual writers but his claim that Rubin is "often wrong" could easily be said about any number of Post writers and columnists on the left side of the aisle. Since Pexton did not name any conservative writers who he wanted to replace Rubin with, one cannot help but get the impression that her real crime is daring not to be a conventional Beltway liberal Democrat.

In truth, if any Post blogger deserves to be fired, it is Ezra Klein for his creation of the infamous Journo-list where politicians and liberal news reporters and opinioneers collaborated on how to shape the news to become more liberal. Nothing that Rubin has actually or allegedly done was ever as outrageous and abusive of reader trust than Journo-list. Klein created it before he worked for the Post but was never fired after it was exposed while he was in the paper's employ.

Of course, the idea that any one writer or even a handful of writers is somehow to blame for what ails the Washington Post is even more ridiculous. The current and former executives are where all the blame resides, not any of their writers.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013