The firestorm over Wonkette’s post about Sarah Palin’s mentally disabled son Trig has unexpectedly revived bitterness over last year’s Journolist scandal. The post, which was removed by the site following mass outrage and a growing advertiser boycott, was called “gross” by Slate’s David Weigel.
Weigel formerly covered the conservative movement for the Washington Post. He resigned from the position following the public revelation of comments he made on the Journolist email listserv.
In an email Wednesday to Adweek, Wonkette editor Ken Layne wrote, “we should always make it clear that it’s *Sarah Palin* who is the target of our disgust, because of what she does to that child.”
The email, cc-ed to Weigel, attacked the Slate blogger for his critique by mentioning Weigel’s unkind words in leaked Journolist emails. “Dave Weigel is a weasel,” wrote Layne. “Let’s see who runs to his defense next time he’s fired for calling Tea Party people a bunch of ‘Paultards’! What is wrong with that guy, anyway?!”
Weigel responded to the email, writing, “I’ll stick up for any satire that doesn’t *make fun of a mentally disabled toddler*” and that “there’s a subtle difference between private e-mails that get leaked out of context and material that’s written and published for everyone to read.”
“There’s a more obvious difference between a generic term that uses the suffix -tard and a personal joke at the expense of some kid who, through no choice of his own, will not be able to live a completely normal life,” wrote Weigel. “There’s a way to make fun of Palin and her fan base without going there.”
In a follow-up article published on Slate, Weigel posted the Journolist email containing the word “paultard.” It read, “Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.” Weigel wrote that, “Because I voted for Paul in the 2008 primary and I worked at Reason throughout the election, I didn’t see a problem with my ironic use of the derisive ‘Paultard’ term.”
Betsy Rothstein, editor of the media blog FishbowlDC, reacted angrily to Weigel’s assertion that emails sent over the 400-member Journolist listserv were private, or subtle.
“Please stop suggesting there is anything ‘subtle’ between what you wrote for WaPo and what you thought and shared with your listserv friends,” Rothstein wrote. “The fact is, there was nothing private about that list.”
Rothstein continued, “Spare everyone your role of victim. And spare us your heartfelt defense of Trig Palin. It’s rather easy to defend a child with Down’s Syndrome. It’s much harder, apparently for you, to mean the apologies you made to readers, since here we are nearly a year later listening to your excuses.”
Wonkette, after initially defending its decision to publish the post, has now replaced it with an apology. “A post on this page satirizing Sarah Palin using her baby as a political prop was very badly done and sounded like the author was mocking the child and not just Sarah Palin/Sarah Palin’s followers,” reads the text that has replaced the original post.
“We have decided to remove the post as requested by some people who have nothing to do with Sarah Palin, but who do have an interest in the cause of special needs children,” Wonkette said. “We apologize for the poor comedic judgment.”