Matt Zeitlin commented this weekend on the firing (if that is what you can call the termination of an informal agreement with a freelance contributor) of John Derbyshire by National Review for a pretty blatantly racist column published elsewhere. As Matt said, this is a chronic issue for movement conservative journalism, and perhaps movement conservative journalists should spend some time reflecting on why that is so.

I have a more limited observation to make, which has to do with Rich Lowry’s post at NRO announcing “Derb’s” excommunication. It describes the offending publication as having “lurche[d] from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible.”

It would have been helpful if Lowry had drawn the line a bit more clearly. But I’m glad to see the line was drawn. At some point during the last few years, the term “politically incorrect” has become an all-purpose defense for any racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted remark from conservatives, as though racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry are only objectionable because over-sensitive souls or political monitors find them “incorrect” or it proves inconvenient or embarrassing to the conservative cause. It seems NR is willing to acknowledge some right-wing utterances are inherently immoral and worthy of condemnation, irrespective of “politics.” It’s a start.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.