Post 'Conservative' Staffer Apologizes for Calling Traditional Marriage Proponents 'Bigots'

Washington Post “Right Now” blogger David Weigel once again has shown that he’s a peculiar choice to report on conservatism, after he bashed both traditional marriage proponents and Matt Drudge. On May 1 he tweeted, “I can empathize with everyone I cover except for the anti-gay marriage bigots. In 20 years no one will admit they were part of that.” Weigel attempted to defend his tweet in a May 3 article, “Covering Same-Sex Marriage,” but by then other members of the media had pointed out Weigel’s obvious bias on Twitter.

Weigel seems to be slow to learn from his mistakes, as this is the second time in under a week that his Twitter activity landed him in hot water. The previous incident included a “joke” accusing Drudge of child rape.

In his column about same-sex marriage, Weigel explained that he originally tweeted in response to an e-mail from a group of Minnesotans who were happy about the same-sex marriage ban. Although he did apologize for calling opponents of same-sex marriage “bigots” in his column, Weigel proclaimed himself merely a “bystander in the same-sex marriage debate.”

It hardly seems possible that a blogger for a major newspaper doesn’t understand the public nature of Twitter, and that he can’t take a position there and disavow it on his blog.

Weigel also complained that, unlike other movements, he doesn’t “see the direct impact on [same-sex marriage opponents] lives.” He wrote that he understands other conservative moments – even birthers. He closed his column with, “That’s my bias, for now. I’ll happily entertain arguments for the contrary.”

Politics Daily’s Matt Lewis countered, “Perhaps Weigel will turn out two decades from now to have been prescient, but ‘bigot’ is awfully strong language for a person who is making the case for tolerance – and this comment simply reinforced a longstanding view among social conservatives that The Washington Post and most of the rest of the mainstream media are not only implacably opposed to their policy agenda, but personally hostile to them as well.”

Politico’s Ben Smith called Weigel one of the “openly left-leaning bloggers.” He responded to Weigel’s apology by writing that he, “apologized for the choice of words but didn't back down from the position that opposition to gay marriage is fundamental incoherent and incomprehensible.”

Smith pointed out Weigel’s column was, “more or less the right way to be transparent about your biases, if that's the approach you're taking.” That, however, is not the paper’s approach with liberal blogger Ezra Klein, whose material has run in the Post with no such transparency.

But perhaps that is the approach Weigel is taking, because this is the second tweet in less than a week that’s drawn public criticism. On May 1 Weigel tweeted about the Drudge Report’s founder Matt Drudge. He wrote, “I hear there’s video out there of Matt Drudge diddling an 8-year-old boy. Shocking.”  Weigel later claimed it “was a joke about Matt Drudge linking, for more than 24 hours, to a National Enquirer story about President Obama having an affair.”

Responding to a Media Research Center inquiry, The Washington Post’s Spokeswoman Kris Coratti said, “ … we expect our staff to exercise the same good judgment on social media as they do in their journalism on The Post. Dave understands that recognizes that he made a mistake.”

Using Twitter, Lewis asked Weigel about the ethics of tweeting on conservative issues. Weigel tweeted, “I like (and largely agree with) pro-lifers. But I do not understand or respect the motivation of anti-gay marriage campaigners.”

Perhaps Weigel simply isn’t familiar with the new Washington Post Twitter guidelines. In September of 2009 ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote a column about how a top editor, Raju Narisetti, stopped using Twitter after posting comments that exposed his opinions. At the same time of the incidence, new guidelines were released on the proper use of social networking sites.

A section of the guideline states: “When using these networks, nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.”