“[T]here’s leaning left, and then there’s behaving like an idiot.” —Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic) quotes an unnamed Washington Post source on the resignation of Dave Weigel, who until today covered the political right on a blog for the Washington Post.
Weigel came under fire for blowing off steam in an online forum, where he invited conservative blogger Matt Drudge to set himself on fire (among other improprieties). When his writings came to light, Weigel initially apologized, and then resigned.
Nobody expects journalists to live a life that is completely opinion-free, and having a liberal reporter cover the conservative movement is not a bad idea — so long as the reporter respects and understands the political philosophy behind conservative. However, when professional reputation is at stake, a habit of writing and publishing angry missives (instead of writing them, printing them out, dramatically tearing them up, and then moving on) has serious consequences.
From what I’ve seen, Weigel’s writings were pretty tame, as far as online rants go (especially compared to what his Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein posted on Twitter a few years ago). Journalists are human, they feel emotions, and being writers they will want to put those emotions into words. Nevertheless, Weigel may have lost the trust of the contacts he needs to forge withing the conservative movement, since those contacts are the source of the information he needs in order to do his job.
Like any American, Weigel has the freedom of speech; but, that right only prevents Congress from enacting a law that infringes on the right. The First Amendment does not promise to insulate anyone from the professional or social consequences that may result if an individual chooses to make use of that freedom.