Dave Weigel got screwed

DAVE WEIGEL GOT SCREWED…. I don’t know Dave Weigel especially well. We’ve never met in person or talked on the phone, but we occasionally trade emails and tweets. And so when I express my deep, visceral disgust for what’s happened to him this week, I approach this with a degree of detachment.

I’ve come to admire and respect Dave as one of the best political journalists in the business, but my anger is not personal. It’s the result of a media professional who got screwed for no good reason.

When he arrived at a party on the Huffington Post’s D.C. office roof-deck on Thursday evening, Washington Post reporter/blogger David Weigel felt secure in his job. Earlier in the day, the media-focused site FishbowlDC had published a series of off-the-record emails written by Weigel in which he had disparaged members of the conservative movement that he covers.

But after checking with the powers that be at the Washington Post, it was relayed to him that they found the material not consequential enough to be a firing offense. Weigel, a well-regarded chronicler of all things Tea Party, had been an immediate success at the paper, and his offer of resignation was seen as highly gratuitous.

By Friday morning, however, things had changed. Weigel made a call to the Huffington Post at roughly 10:15 a.m. to privately relay that he was, in fact, leaving the Post. A new set of off-record Weigel emails had been disclosed to The Daily Caller disclosing even more snide quips about major conservative players (as well as comments expressing hope that health care reform would pass Congress).

The conservative-leaning website was ostensibly making the argument that Weigel was no longer objective enough to cover his beat. The Post editors agreed. The resignation he offered the night before was now viewed as the best path forward. And by noon the final deal had been struck to end Weigel’s three-month run at the paper.

Dave’s off-the-record emails, which were written before he joined the Post, came on a listserv called Journolist, created several years ago by Ezra Klein (if it matters, I joined Journolist more than three years ago). Dave, like most members, came to think of the list as a safe place to throw around ideas, vent, ask questions, highlight news, and engage in spirited debate. On a few occasions, Dave, like plenty of others sharing thoughts on a private email list, shared some uncharitable words and opinions about others. What’s wrong with that? Nothing; he was among friends.

Or so we thought. Someone — it remains unclear who — decided to try to destroy Dave professionally by leaking emails from the list. Tragically, it worked.

As much as the Post deserved enormous credit for having the good sense to hire Dave in the first place, the paper deserves equally strong blame for accepting his resignation today. For three months, he did exactly what he was hired to do — cover the conservative movement — and he did it better than anyone in American journalism. Was Dave let go because the emails brought his objectivity into question? If so, that strikes me as inherently ridiculous — his left-leaning libertarianism wasn’t a secret, and it helped shape the quality of his reporting.

Worse, I’m at a loss to explain the Post‘s approach to ideology. Marc Thiessen and Bill Kristol can publish dubious, morally-bankrupt nonsense, and remain contributors in good standing. Dave Weigel trashed Drudge and “Paultards” in a private email and has to go?

The whole fiasco just leaves me sad. Dave’s out of a job; Journolist, which I’ve come to cherish and rely on, has been shut down; the Post loses one of its most important voices; and the bastard who leaked Dave’s emails in the first place isn’t facing any consequences at all.

It’s not a good day.

For more on this, Greg Sargent, one of Dave’s Post colleagues, has a very thoughtful, worthwhile piece, and Marc Ambinder makes a compelling case that the Post made the wrong call today.