The Washington Post has rehired Dave Weigel. He is covering the presidential campaign for the paper.
In his last stint with the Post, Weigel covered the conservative movement. However, he lost his job due to vicious comments he posted on Journolist about major conservative figures and the conservative movement in general.
When Rush Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, Weigel quipped, “I hope he fails,” a reference to Limbaugh’s comment that he hoped the Obama presidency would fail. He described Newt Gingrich as “an amoral blowhard who resigned in disgrace” and who is “now polluting my inbox and TV with [his] bellowing and minority-bashing.”
Of Matt Drudge, Weigel wrote: “It’s really a disgrace that an amoral shut-in like Drudge maintains the influence he does on the news cycle while gay-baiting, lying, and flubbing facts.” He also wrote: “This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.” (Emphasis added) And he tweeted: “I hear there’s video out there of Matt Drudge diddling an 8-year-old boy. Shocking.” This was a joke, the charming Weigel later explained.
Weigel’s contempt extended beyond conservative personalities to broad precincts of the conservative movement. He moaned: “Honestly, it’s been tough to find fresh angles sometimes–how many times can I report that these [tea party] activists are joyfully signing up with the agenda of discredited right-winger X and discredited right-wing group Y?”
He also accused conservatives of using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” (Emphasis added) Their motives, he said, included “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power.
After these and other such remarks were made public, Weigel “resigned.” He has acknowledged that, in effect, the Post fired him.
The Post’s then-Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli cited his paper’s lack of tolerance for “the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work.” “Perception” was, I believe, the key word.
Anti-conservative bias might be okay, but the Post believed it would not do for a reporter whose contempt for, if not hatred of, conservatives had been publicly exposed to hold down the paper’s conservative beat. One hopes that it also questioned whether a reporter this intemperate should hold down any serious news beat.
But now the Post has brought Weigel back and given him a portion of the 2016 presidential beat. Perceived as too biased to cover conservatives in general, he will now cover conservative presidential candidates. What should we make of this?
The Post, without referring to Weigel’s 2010 resignation/dismissal, explained that Weigel brings a “one-of-a-kind perspective and voice to our campaign team.” That’s a way of putting it, albeit a question-begging one.
Weigel has always impressed me as a talented reporter. But there are plenty of talented reporters out there. The reports I’ve seen from him so far — such as this this one and this one — are solid, but nothing that scores of other political reporters couldn’t have produced.
Weigel’s added value to the Post resides, I believe, in precisely the qualities that got him fired by that organ in the first place. Lots of reporters (though presumably not former National Review man Robert Costa, who until now has been the main reporter covering the Republican race for the Post) dislike conservatives. Weigel seems truly to despise them. And having once traveled in conservative circles (I met him at a meeting of ostensibly conservative writers at the Washington Times), he may know where a few bodies are buried.
A guy like that could come in handy as the campaign progresses.
NOTE: The next to last sentence of this post did not appear in the version that I posted late last night.