Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh famously said he hoped President Obama would “fail” in January, 2009. Almost a year later, when Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, Washington Post reporter David Weigel had a wish of his own. “I hope he fails,” Weigel cracked to fellow liberal reporters on the “Journolist” email list-serv.
“Too soon?” he wondered.
Weigel was hired this spring by the Post to cover the conservative movement. Almost from the beginning there have been complaints that his coverage betrays a personal animus toward conservatives. E-mails obtained by the Daily Caller suggest those complaints have merit.
“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?” Weigel lamented in one February email.
In other posts, Weigel describes conservatives as using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” According to Weigel, their motives include “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power.
“There’s also the fact that neither the pundits, nor possibly the Republicans, will be punished for their crazy outbursts of racism. Newt Gingrich is an amoral blowhard who resigned in disgrace, and Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite who was drummed out of the movement by William F. Buckley. Both are now polluting my inbox and TV with their bellowing and minority-bashing. They’re never going to go away or be deprived of their soapboxes,” Weigel wrote.
Of Matt Drudge, Weigel remarked, “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 to this degree.”
In March, Weigel wrote that the problem with the mainstream media is “this need to give equal/extra time to ‘real American’ views, no matter how fucking moronic, which just so happen to be the views of the conglomerates that run the media and/or buy up ads.”
When Obama’s “green jobs czar” Van Jones resigned after it was revealed he signed a 9/11 “truther” petition, alleging the government may have conspired to allow terrorists to kill 3,000 civilians, Weigel highlighted the alleged racism of Glenn Beck – Jones’s top critic.
“One extra, obvious point–Beck’s campaign against Jones was transparently racial . . . he treated his very white, very angry audience to video after video of Jones giving scorching speeches. At one point Beck just eschewed subtlety and played videos of Jones alongside videos of Jeremiah Wright while he remained on the screen mugging like Harpo Marx,” Weigel said.
Right wing “memes” begin in “WND/FreeRepublic/talk radio swamps,” Weigel wrote, referring to conservative websites World Net Daily and Free Republic. Sometimes, they spread like a virus into liberal sites, a fact that clearly upsets Weigel.
After Sarah Palin claimed Obama’s health care legislation included “death panels” that would ration health care, for instance, the Huffington Post reported that many Americans believed the claim was true. Weigel suggested that reporting on the subject might be counter-productive to liberal policy aims. The Huffington Post, Weigel pointed out, ran “a picture of Sarah Palin, linking to a poll that suggests 45 percent of Americans believe her death panel lie. But as long as the top liberal-leaning news site talks about it every single hour of every day, I’m sure that number will go down.”
“Let’s move the fuck on already,” Weigel wrote.
Weigel seems to harbor special contempt for a type of conservative he calls a ratfucker, a favorite phrase of his.
In a thread with the subject line, “ACORN Ratf*cker arrested,” Journolisters discussed how James O’Keefe, whose undercover reporting showed officials from activist group ACORN willing to help a fake prostitution ring skirt the law, had been arrested in another, failed operation at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.
Weigel’s response: “HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.”
“He’s either going to get a radio talk show or start a prison ministry. That’s was successful conservative ratfuckers do for their second acts,” Weigel wrote, likely alluding to Nixon aide Charles Colson who converted to Christianity after a stint in prison for obstruction of justice and founded Prison Fellowship.
Republicans? “Ratfucking [Obama] on every bill.” Palin? Tried to “ratfuck” a moderate Republican in a contentious primary in New York. Limbaugh? Used “ratfucking tactics” in urging Republican activists to vote for Hillary Clinton in open primaries after Obama had all but beat her for the Democratic nomination.
Reached by phone late Thursday and asked about the e-mails, Weigel responded, “my reporting, I think, stands for itself.”
“I’ve always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway …. people aren’t usually asked to stand or fall on everything they’ve said in private.”
In the e-mails, Weigel appeared particularly invested in the President’s health care law, expressing undisguised scorn for moderate Democrats who seemed fearful about voting for it.
Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a pro-life Democrat from Illinois who expressed reservations about the abortion provisions in the legislation was, according to Weigel, a “monster” because he represents “a deeply safe seat” and could afford to vote for it.
Before he left Congress in a cloud, then-Rep. Eric Massa rocked Washington by claiming that backroom deals were polluting the health care bill. Weigel seemed to have little patience for Massa’s inconvenient allegations. “Well, so much for the health care push leading the news cycle,” Weigel wrote. “Does anyone else think this guy’s turning out to be a political suicide bomber?”
After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat, threatening to kill the health care legislation by his presence, Weigel stressed how important it was for reporters to highlight what a terrible candidate his opponent Martha Coakley had been.
“I think pointing out Coakley’s awfulness is vital, because it’s 1) true and 2) unreasonable panic about it is doing more damage to the Democrats,” Weigel wrote.
But despite the perils of the modern media cycle, the health care bill survived, and for once, all was right in Weigel’s world.
“Tangentially related: Betsy McCaughey showed up at Grover Norquist’s conservative meeting today, massive spiral-bound health care bill in hand, and shook with rage as she promised that the ‘war’ was not over.”
“I’m still smiling.”
Ed. note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported a Weigel e-mail about “moronic” views of the American public as having been written in April. It was written March 12.