On the Ben Domenech resignation

The blogosphere and the MSM were and are abuzz over the scandal involving RedState blog co-founder Ben Domenech, the conservative blogger the Washington Post chose to write for it’s conservative “Red America” blog.

As I noted in this post, the very presence of a conservative blog at the WaPo generated a firestorm of controversy from the left. Editor and Publisher wrote at that time:

During the recent controversy surrounding Dan Froomkin’s blog at The Washington Post, editors not only decided to clearly label his column “opinion” but also to make an effort to hire a conservative blogger to balance his alleged liberal slant.

Today, the Post launched the result: A new blog called “Red America,” created by Ben Domenech, co-founder of RedState, a popular community blog.

It immediately set off what Post political reporter Tom Edsall called a “firestorm” in his online chat today.


David Brock, director of the liberal Media Matters watchdog group, quickly declared that while Domenech is primarily a partisan, Froomkin has spent a decade at the Post, and also worked for the Winston-Salem Journal, the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register. Froomkin is also deputy editor of niemanwatchdog.org, the web site of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Later in the article:

The launch upstaged what the Post’s Edsall had hoped to talk about during his online chat today. Here is a selection of the exchanges there.

Rahway, N.J.: I see that you have hired Ben Domenench, one of the founders of RedState.org, a leading right-wing political weblog, to write the “Red America” blog for the Washington Post. In his current post, he immediately defames and slurs leading left-wing political blogs such as DailyKos.com. Can we assume that you will provide an equal opportunity to the left side of the blogosphere by granting a prominent left-wing blogger a column as well? Since the media fairness doctrine is long dead, thanks to Mr. Domenench’s hero Ronald Reagan, I suppose there is no longer a legal requirement to do so, but it would be nice if The Post could at least pretend to give some kind of equal voice to the left.

Tom Edsall: The hiring of Ben Domenench of RedState has provoked a firestorm, if the volume of questions this morning is any measure. One theory in the newsroom is that he was hired at the behest of Dana Milbank. More seriously, I am told that this is part of the Post’s web operation’s efforts to provide diverse views. These decisions are, unfortunately, above my paygrade, much as I would love to have the power to hire and fire.

Iowa: I’m assuming this RedState blogger is being paid. How does the Post management justify this when the newsroom staff is being cut by 10 percent according to several reports I have read? I would much rather have The Post continue to present quality, unbiased political coverage than provide bandwidth to an avowed partisan.

Tom Edsall: Another good question. Washingtonpost.com is technically separate from the Post newspaper. The dot com is widely viewed as the area of future growth, while the paper is struggling to keep making a profit in the face of declining circulation and growing competition for advertizers. The results are very different personnel policies. The consequences for the quality of the journalism are not yet determind, although budget constraints are already limiting the scope of our work.

Deary, Idaho: Can you ask those people above your paygrade to reconsider their decision to hire a rabid republican to “balance” Dana Millbank? There is no balance there. Granted, it is hard to find people on the left with the oblivious and offensive certainty of RedStaters. After all, the left has no Coulter or Limbaugh. But if you’re going to give the far right a forum you better look hard for an anarchist or extreme radical for the other side.

Tom Edsall: The idea of trying to balance Dana Milbank poses some very interesting questions that I would love to explore, but my suggestions (hire someone with vision, who does not thrive on ridicule) would take too much space. Many of us do believe Dana is rabid.


Washington, D.C.: The hiring of the Red State Blogger is yet another example of why I cancelled my subscription to The Post and do not intend to ever re-instate it. The Post’s view that it needs to “balance” viewpoints buys into the notion that The Washington Post adequately provides a forum for a liberal viewpoint. Do you really believe that The Post has an over abundance of liberal viewpoints?

Tom Edsall: In fairness to the many inquiries about the Red State blogger, the questions you raise go to some basic issues of journalism that deserve much more expansive treatment and should get answers defining the principles guiding the Post as it engages with web. I could shoot my mouth off on these questions, but they should be answered by those with the power to set policy.

From that E&P article alone, you can see that it was the very idea that the Post should have a conservative blogger which sent liberals blasting off into space in a rage.

Well, yesterday the lefty blogosphere celebrated (as Mark Coffey points out here with links) the resignation of Domenech from the Red America blog. Ben resigned over allegations (which are apparently true) that he has engaged in a very big no-no: plagiarism. I haven’t examined the incidents where it happened, but conservative bloggers I respect, like Michelle Malkin and Captain Ed, have both weighed in and have said in so many words that the allegations are true. I’ll take their words over a smug, gloating liberal any day of the week.

While Domenech did the right thing by resigning, and the conservative blogosphere has done their part in rightly condemning what Domenech has done and praising his resignation, one thing that should not be lost on this is that the people who viciously went after Domenech did not do so in order for the Washington Post to have an “honest conservative blogger” at the Red America blog. They went after Domenech for one reason and one reason only: he was the chosen one to blog at the Red America blog that E&P noted had generated so much of a “firestorm.” That was it. They attacked Domenech on many fronts, and finally found something that stuck. As Jeff Goldstein wrote yesterday:

[…] they went after him for a host of other things, from his schooling to his family to his supposed “racism” before they got around to the plagiarism charge […]

Yep. And it started from the getgo. The left smelled blood, and finally sank their teeth into something that provided part of the result they sought from the beginning. The ultimate goal in all this after in all this was not just Domenech’s resignation or firing, but the removal of the Red America blog from the Washington Post’s website altogether. You can bet money that they are hoping that the WaPo drops the very idea of having a conservative blog to balance the lefty opinions written and posted there. If that happens, the goal of the left – those who made it their life’s mission to denigrate the RA blog and those who created it and wrote for it – will have succeeded.

I’ve read posts and comments sections from many blogs this morning about this scandal and I’ve seen more than a few comments from people I presume to be lefties who say (paraphrasing): ‘the right has no right to complain about how we tried to keep Domenech honest. Afterall, look at how the right routinely targets the liberal media. ”

Yeah, you’re damn right conservatives go after the liberal media because there is a desire there for a media that is unbiased in nature, a media that reports the facts without a slant – a media that won’t try to shape our opinions for us. The idea of keeping the media honest is quite different from the idea of having a conservative blog taken down off of the Washington Post’s website. What conservatives want out of the media is for it to be honest – they don’t want to get rid of the media. Conservatives realize the value of a media that reports the facts and let’s US decide what side of the issue to fall on. OTOH – and I know I’m repeating myself, the targeting of Domenech by the left had nothing to do with keeping a conservative blogger honest. I mean, think about it: do you really think the people who attacked BD for his schooling, his alleged creationist views, and ultimately plagiarism really had the thought in mind that they were ok with the Post having a conservative blogging there, they just wanted one who was honest? If you believe that, I’ve got beachfront property in Tennessee I’ll be happy to sell you.

The best post I’ve seen up in the rightie blogosphere about this comes from the Unalienable Right. In a post appropriately titled ” “Red America”: Left’s attack was about conservatism itself, not plagiarism”, they wrote, in part (emphasis added):

We ignored the story for the first few days because it looked like a simple case of leftist intolerance for any dissent, par for the course. But unfortunately (unfortunate that the wrongdoing occurred, not unfortunate it was uncovered) sometimes a witchhunt finds a witch; some left-wing bloggers did uncover what at this point appears to be some actual, serious wrongdoing on the part of Domenech. It looks like the Washington Post simply hired the wrong guy. They did the right thing securing his resignation, there’s just no excuse for plagiarism. But we must not forget, that’s not what motivated the left. Domenech’s apparent wrongdoing does not offer any lessons about conservatism or conservatives. Hopefully, the Post will continue the experiment with a better representative of the right, (one, at a minumum, who writes his own stuff).

Amen. Domenech’s apparent plagiarism was wrong (as he finally admitted here). The left’s attack on the very concept of a Red America blog at the Washington Post was wrong, but you won’t see any of them admit that today or any other day. They’ll be too busy gloating over the fact that their vicious attacks on a conservative blogger paid off big. At least BD finally came around to admitting that what he did was wrong. You won’t see any such admissions from those who targeted both him and the Washington Post.

In closing, I’d like to say that I know not everyone on the left supported the attacks on BD and the Red America blog. But I do know there were many who did, and to those of you who went after it simply because the idea of a conservative blog to counter a liberal one on the WaPo upset your phony sense of balance, I have a few words to say to you: you literally make me sick. This is chilling, and shows to what length some of you will go to have a conservative voice (not BD’s, but the Red America blog itself) silenced. There is shame on Domenech for the reprehensible acts of plagiarism (which Patterico notes here), but there is also shame on you as well over your attempts to shut down a conservative blog at the WaPo – the apparent sin of which was to start a conservative blog to provide balance for a liberal one. I guess that it was just too much for some of you “free speech defenders” to stomach.

Here’s the NYTimes article on the resignation of Domenech. Here’s RedState’s official response to BD’s resignation.

More blogger commentary on this can be found at the following blogs: JunkYardBlog, Rick Moran, Doris Kerns Gudwin guest posting at WuzzaDem, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Gateway Pundit, Moderate Voice, Sensible Mom, Riehl World View

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