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Sunday Late Night: Ben Domenech, MSNBC Un-Person

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Last Tuesday evening, as the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions wrapped up here on the West Coast and 7:30 approached, I switched over to MSNBC’s The Last Word for some Ezra Klein updates on The Sequester. How surprised was I to see Ezra seeking some guidance on the right-view of things Sequesterian from former Washington Post blogger fired-for-plagiarism Ben Domenech!

We all know there isn’t much you can do to get exiled from the Village Media circuit. If being wrong about war, weapons of mass destruction, the Clinton impeachment, the Catholic church’s child rape scandals, and Team Obama’s drone-assassination policy were bannable offenses, all we’d have for cable channels would be test-patterns (remember them?)

But it used to be, back in the days of standards that mattered, that plagiarism was out-of-bounds. Because, certainly, if plagiarism was considered an in-bounds error, no one was safe. Not one journalist’s work was safe from another’s predation if the guild permitted plagiarists to continue.

Janet Cooke lost her Pulitzer and her job at the Washington Post. But that was for making up an entire story, not really for plagiarism. Simply fiction, published as fact. Like the Watergate revelations, in some people’s minds. Funny coincidence: Cooke’s Pulitzer nomination was submitted by her editor, now-under-White-House-fatwa Bob Woodward, this month’s Salman Rushdie. As the scandal threatened to wash up on him, Woodward provided a glimpse of his understanding of his role as assistant managing editor and Pulitzer-nominator:

I think that the decision to nominate the story for a Pulitzer is of minimal consequence. I also think that it won is of little consequence. It is a brilliant story—fake and fraud that it is. It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes.[4]

Later, in this century, Pulitzer-winner Sari Horowitz lifted some Jared Lee Loughner research and writeup verbatim from the Arizona Republic, and suffered a three-month suspension from her position at The Post.

So, you can’t keep your job if you make things up, but you have to take a time-out if you copy another paper’s work? Okay.

Somewhere in between was conblogger Ben Domenech, hired by the Washington Post as its first Conservative Blogger — until his multiple plagiarisms were revealed. He lasted three days. At the time, the Post defined the sin for its readers thusly:

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

A comprehensive list of Ben Domenech’s plagiarisms can be found here. It’s not short.

Domenech, laboring unheralded back in the right-o-sphere (he was a RedState co-founder with now-former CNN contributor Erick Erickson) resurfaced in 2010 when CBS printed an opinion of his. At that time, Media Matters reviewed the Post’s decision to allow him to resign:

Finally, something to keep in mind about the Washington Post and Domenech: The Post didn’t get rid of him for calling Coretta Scott King a “communist,” echoing the slur used against the Kings by generations of racists. The Post didn’t get rid of him for comparing “the Judiciary” unfavorably to the KKK. Or for posting without comment an article* stating that “killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime.” Or for writing that a gay male journalist “needs a woman to give him some stability.”

During the health care debate in mid-2009, rising WaPo wunderkind Ezra Klein discovered that Ben Domenech had worked at the Bush Health and Human Services department and had contributed something useful about pharmaceutical development:

I hadn’t realized that conservative blogger Ben Domenech worked at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration. But he did, and while there, he got a firsthand look at the role that the National Institute of Health, and the government more generally, plays in medical research. This topic is frequently distorted and oversimplified in the blogosphere, so his post is really worth a read.

Too bad it’s a dead link now. I bet it’s really worth a read.

We haven’t seen much of Ben Domenech lately in corporate media. Until Tuesday, when ‘liberal’ MSNBC attempted a rehabilitation not unlike the one performed on Dave Weigel after he left The Post. Clearly these plugged-in rightie guys are somebody’s beer pal or poker buddy, and it’s awkward to turn them away when you guest-host The Last Word, while Lawrence isn’t looking. You want to have your friends on!

But now Ben’s name has been caught up with Josh Trevino (Tacitus, now Unplugged) in Trevino’s own Year of Living Dangerously By Not Filing Foreign Agent Paperwork Timely. And suddenly, rehab of friend Ben looks less likely, even for wunderkind and frequent guest-host Ezra Klein.

A search Sunday afternoon of the MSNBC website shows this:

Search: ben domenech

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.

One might actually call Ezra’s guest-slotting of Domenech spectacularly bad judgment and timing. But searching the MSNBC website, you’d never know it! Other outlets that have had to pull their Domenech oeuvre have done so with an Editor’s Note. Instead of admitting their recent use of Domenech as some kind of fact witness to the right’s stupidity, MSNBC decided to simply not post — or to pull once posted — the video segment from The Last Word last Tuesday featuring Ben Domenech. Providing a rightie view on the Sequester may have not happened at all for Ben!

And certainly not by Ezra. I guess plagiarism is rehabbable; payola ain’t.

They’ve un-personed Ben Domenech, which isn’t a terribly righteous path to rehab.

Video from The Heartland, Ben Domenech’s current home.

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge