Unless you're active on the blogosphere, you've probably never heard of Ben Domenech. Why should you? He's a 24-year-old who never completed college and recently resigned (just ahead of being fired) after three days on the job at WashingtonPost.com (WP.com).
I first became aware of Domenech in February when he displayed the singularly bad taste and judgment to diss Coretta Scott King as she was being laid to her well-deserved rest. A co-founder of the ultra-conservative blog RedState.com, Domenech questioned why President Bush was attending Mrs. King's funeral in a posting headed, "The President Visits the Funeral of a Communist."
After that bon mot, you can understand why the liberal sector was outraged a month later to find that WP.com had hired Domenech on a part-time basis to write a blog for them called "Red America."
In an article dated 3/24 in Salon magazine, Joe Conason speculated that the Post had hired Domenech to avoid being accused of a liberal bias and "to 'balance' Dan Froomkin, the popular White House Briefing blogger on WashingtonPost.com whose skepticism and wit have provoked whining from the right."
Domenech started work at WP.com on Tuesday, March 21st. Left-leaning bloggers all over the country were already hard at work studying his record in an effort to discredit him. You wouldn't think they would be able to find much. After all, the guy is only 24 years old. However, what they did find was almost unbelievable.
Before I describe those revelations, let me give you a bit of background on Domenech. The following information came largely from two sources: Domenech's own bio on bendomenech.com and Wikipedia. Domenech was born in Jackson, Mississippi--the son of a Puerto Rican father and a Dutch-Irish mother. His mother home-schooled him for his last three years of high school. Then he attended the College of William and Mary where he did not graduate. During his college years, he worked on the school paper as well as contributing to the National Review Online. He "claims to have been the 'youngest political appointee' of the George W. Bush administration, though it is unclear to which position this refers." (Wikipedia). He became known as a Republican activist through his blog, RedState.com. Although his reputation as a blogger was well-established by the time WP.com hired him, the online service was still criticized for hiring a non-journalist to write their blog.
The first crack in the Domenech veneer came from the blog DailyKos.com, which posted an entry on 3/23 pointing out that Domenech had plagiarized P.J. O'Rourke's "Modern Manners." There were multiple instances of Domenech's lifting material verbatim.
Once the left wing bloggers got a whiff of where the bodies might be buried, they went on a rampage, turning up multiple examples of Domenech's "borrowing" of material, starting in his college days and continuing afterward. He was an equal opportunity plagiarist, stealing everything from movie and music reviews to the Washington Post's own story about the Branch Davidian compound.
Domenech tried to stem the tide. He claimed that the college paper's editor was at fault. He claimed he was young and stupid. He even posted an apology for his blog about Mrs. King: "Mrs. King participated in many different political causes, some of which involved associations with questionable people, but referring to her as a Communist was a mistake, hyperbole in the context of a larger debate about President Bush's political priorities. Mea Culpa."
What I found interesting was how quickly the conservatives turned on him. Domenech's full-time job was as an editor for the conservative publisher, Regnery. One of his own authors, Michelle Malkins, posted this on her blog the day after the Daily Kos story broke: "Painfully, Domenech's detractors are right. He should own up to it and step down." Malkins and Domenech had reportedly worked together on several of her books. I found it remarkable that she should be one of the first to call for his resignation.
At any rate, Domenech did resign from WP.com on Friday, March 24, three days after writing his first blog for them. He has also taken a leave of absence from RedState.com. The New York Times reported on 3/25 that Regnery Publishing is looking at the accusations in view of his position with that company.
When I was a small girl, my mother always said to me, "Don't do anything that you wouldn't be proud to see on the front page of the newspaper." Looking back, that's a pretty good way to judge the actions one takes.