Writes Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post:
The Washington Post Co.'s Web operation has touched off an online furor by hiring as a blogger a 24-year-old former Bush administration aide who co-founded a conservative site and recently referred to Coretta Scott King as a "communist."
Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing, said he regrets the King reference, which he insists was tongue-in-cheek, and that the reaction to his new "Red America" blog is "a little meaner" than he expected.
More than 1,000 people and a Democratic member of Congress have sent the newspaper letters of complaint. The decision to hire Domenech was made by Washingtonpost.com, an Arlington-based division that works with the newspaper but is editorially independent.
Jim Brady, executive editor of Washingtonpost.com, said Domenech was hired because "we were completely unrepresented by a social conservative voice." He said his goal "is to provide voices from as many perspectives as possible" and that Domenech is not intended to balance anyone in particular on his staff.
Domenech is "controversial" and the fact that liberals object to his hiring "shouldn't really be a shock to anybody," Brady said.
Said Domenech: "I'm there to do opinion. That's what I do. I'm not a journalist."
In a letter yesterday, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said: "Balanced coverage and ideologically diverse editorials have long been hallmarks of responsible journalism. If The Post would like to appear evenhanded, I strongly suggest the Web site launch a similarly partisan liberal blog, 'Blue America.' "
Domenech, who was home-schooled by his mother in South Carolina and Virginia, says he began writing for the conservative publication Human Events when he was 15 and continued until he left to attend the College of William & Mary. He was an intern and researcher for the Bush White House, served as a speechwriter for Tommy Thompson, then the health and human services secretary, and then spent two years working for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).
Over at the The Daily Kos, it turns out Domenech steals other people's material:
From Oregon Guy and fleshed out further by James at Your Logo Here -- who is himself on a spectacular Box Turtle Ben rampage -- we learn that some instances of Ben's much-vaunted homeschooled teen wonderism in college actually came from, well, flagrant plagiarism of published works.
...Ben's lyrical stylings on a real party are completely lifted from P.J. O'Rourke's "Modern Manners" - a chapter entitled "Real Parties." I should have known as this is one of the gifts my older brother gave me years ago that did not involve punching me in the nads.
O'Rourke, p.176: Office Christmas parties. Wine-tasting parties. Book-publishing parties. Parties with themes, such as "Las Vegas Nite" or "Waikiki Whoopee". Parties at which anyone is wearing a blue velvet tuxedo jacket.
BenDom: Christmas parties. Wine tasting parties. Book publishing parties. Parties with themes, such as "Las Vegas Nite" or "Waikiki Whoopee." Parties at which anyone is wearing a blue velvet tuxedo jacket.
O'Rourke: It's not a real party if it doesn't end in an orgy or a food fight. All your friends should still be there when you come to in the morning.
BenDom: It's not a real party if it doesn't end in an orgy or a food fight. All your friends should still be there when you come to in the morning.
Joe Conason adds his two-cents worth on Salon:
Does the Washington Post intend to maintain journalistic standards in the brave new blogosphere? Or are those standards incompatible with the Post company's ambitions for WashingtonPost.com?
Those questions arise from the Post's hiring of Ben Domenech -- best known as a founder of RedState.com, but also known as a Bush appointee, and the son of a Bush appointee, and as a contributor to National Review Online -- to write a daily blog on the newspaper's Web site. That decision by Post management has provoked much speculation about its motive for employing Domenech. Many observers surmise that Domenech was brought on to "balance" Dan Froomkin, the popular White House Briefing blogger on WashingtonPost.com whose skepticism and wit have provoked whining from the right -- and defensive reactions from certain Post reporters worried by accusations of "liberal bias" at the paper.
Media watchers will remember that the Post's internal thrashing over Froomkin's column led to the Web site's last major public stumble, when it removed blog comments from a post by the paper's ombudswoman, Deborah Howell (after an imbroglio that began over Froomkin's column and continued over Howell's imprecise post about allegedly bipartisan political contributions by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.) In their eagerness to appease critics on the right, the Post editors have blundered again. Whatever Froomkin's political views may be, he is a veteran reporter with a long résumé of newspaper jobs, including a decade at the Post. Domenech is a partisan operative with no newsroom experience of any kind, no training in journalistic standards and ethics, and nothing to guide him except home schooling and Republican reflexes.
Almost immediately the liberal blogosphere exploded with outrage over Domenech's hiring by the Post. But by Thursday bloggers had more than ideological reasons to oppose the Post's move, as he plagiarized film critic Stephanie Zacharek, and Mary Elizabeth Williams as well.
At 3:30 p.m. Friday, the Washington Post announced Domenech's "resignation."
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