Edwards Keeps Bloggers, Makes Them Apologize

The saga of John Edwards’ bloggers continues to unfold, having now passed into the realm of the absurd. Edwards has apparently decided to humiliate them but keep them on staff.

He has posted a Statement on Campaign Bloggers:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte’s and Melissa McEwan’s posts personally offended me. It’s not how I talk to people, and it’s not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it’s intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I’ve talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith, and I take them at their word. We’re beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can’t let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

So, he’s “personally offended” and thinks their language “intolerant,” even though he hired them after their having written the intolerant sort of thing that offends him for years?

Simultaneously at 11:23, both of the offending bloggers posted separate apologies. Marcotte went the Kerry “botched joke” route:

My writings on my personal blog Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact.

McEwan followed Bill Clinton’s path and distinguished her private from professional life, even though blogging is her profession:

Shakespeare’s Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don’t expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I’ve posted. We do, however, share many views – including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people’s individual faith, and I’m sorry if my words were taken in that way.

These statements have all the believability of 5-year-olds being made to shake hands and apologize. Further, while I have no doubt both these women believe in the 1st Amendment, it’s utterly ridiculous to claim that they never intended to criticize people’s religious views. They did so routinely. The only way that religious people would not have been offended by any of dozens of statements on their blogs was by not reading them.

Of course, that was likely the case in most instances. Blogs that appeal to rabid partisans often devolve into ridicule and dripping condescension toward those who disagree. That’s great for building a fan base, as numerous bloggers (and talk hosts) on both sides of the aisle can attest. It’s not very effective for holding a national conversation, though, let alone a presidential campaign.

UPDATE: Cernig and Anderson think lumping Melissa McEwan in with Amanda Marcotte is unfair. While I’ve seen lots of offensive quotes from Marcotte around the blogosphere since this controversy erupted, I haven’t seen a single one from McEwan cited. Is this a bizarre case of guilt-by-association, with John Edwards throwing her under the bus for expediency?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Aside from simple uses of vulgar language, what has McEwan written that could be characterized as either anti-Catholic or that might otherwise have “personally offended” John Edwards?

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Religion, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I suspect somewhere down the line Edwards will regret this decision. A breaking story will occur, the bloggers will rush into the spin control, revert to type and speaking for Edwards they will say something he regrets.

    My problem is less with their profanity and views (they are welcome to them), and more with their poor judgement and perspective.

  2. thunderbird says:

    Time for JOHn edwards to be flushed

  3. Edwards is seriously pushing the boundaries of credibility on this one. The obligatory fake apologies don’t help either. But I doubt this will have a great impact on his campaign. He didn’t have much of a chance to begin with.

  4. Cernig says:


    You’re wrong, blogging was never Melissa McEwan’s main profession. Go back over her archives and you will often find discussions of her day-job. Another example of your lack of free-thinking and research on this issue.

    Blogs that appeal to rabid partisans often devolve into ridicule and dripping condescension toward those who disagree.

    Which is where you’ve now arrived. Without ever quoting one of Melissa’s posts or linking to someone who was quoting one of Melissa’s posts, you’ve tarred her with the brush the uber-right’s bigots handed you – for pure partisan purposes as you pander to your own readership base, who used to be farther right than you were.

    I used to respect your integrity and intellect. I’m left wondering where that went. Reading OTB isn’t on my “to do” list anymore.


  5. James Joyner says:


    I mean that it’s the job they’ve been hired to do by the Edwards campaign. I’m not “tarring” Melissa with anything, merely passing on the news accounts as well as the statements by Edwards and McEwan on the matter.

    As to the “partisan agenda,” I’m not sure what that might be. My sense is that Edwards, despite having been a recent VP nominee, is a 2nd tier candidate. I just find it to be an interesting controversy with wide ranging implications, especially for bloggers.

    Overall, my position on this has been rather clinical. I’m not outraged that Amanda said some rather vile things about the religious right but I’m not surprised that those things are unacceptable for a presidential campaign. I’m surprised that their posts weren’t more seriously vetted.

    UPDATE: Indeed, I’ve only tangentially discussed the nature of the blog posts in question. What interests me is the impact of the debate on the campaign, the netroots-candidate alliance, and the burgeoning “blogger relations” profession.

  6. Kathy says:

    Further, while I have no doubt both these women believe in the 1st Amendment, it’s utterly ridiculous to claim that they never intended to criticize people’s religious views. They did so routinely.

    I beg to differ, James. Neither Melissa nor Amanda had any intention of criticizing anyone’s religious VIEWS. When you take your particular religious views, and force everyone else to live by those views by linking your views to public policy, THAT offends me. Personally. And that is what Amanda and Melissa were criticizing. Their word choice was intemperate, I agree, but to say they were attacking Christianity or Catholicism is absurd and dishonest.

  7. James Joyner says:


    I haven’t seen the quotes from Melissa that are in controversy. Certainly, several of them from Amanda are pretty obviously anti-religious.

    What, exactly, is “Godbags” if not a slur?

    And this?

    Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

    A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

    KJL has more on Marcotte’s writings.

  8. Cernig says:


    while I have no doubt both these women believe in the 1st Amendment, it’s utterly ridiculous to claim that they never intended to criticize people’s religious views.


    I haven’t seen the quotes from Melissa that are in controversy

    I rest my case.


  9. Anderson says:

    Gotta say, this unfairness to McEwan is particularly sad. Cernig has a point.

    In other news, Giblets has demanded that Edwards, Marcotte, and McEwan bow down to him NOOOOOWWWWWWWWW! The Edwards campaign is said to be “seriously considering” complying with his request.

  10. Terrence says:

    I understand that those on the left would want to defend Marcotte and McEwan, but to assert that neither “had any intention of criticizing anyone’s religious VIEWS” is just plain silly. We do read, you know.

  11. James Joyner says:


    “The tone and the sentiment of some of . . .Melissa McEwan’s posts personally offended me.” – John Edwards

  12. I was visitiing blogs I had never been to when I happened upon Pandagon. I must have been the only person on the planet unfamiliar with the blog and the people connected with it. I started posting on my blog about it. This all took place in the last couple of days. Imagine my surprise.
    I had been to Shakespeare before and lumped it in with the likes of KOS and TPM, etc. This story has been useful for many reasons.
    The two bloggers in the post and Jesse Taylor and others reminded me that not all is sincere. John Edwards is a puzzle to me. But I don’t believe his action today was a bad idea regardless of the real reasons. But I will say Shakespeare is often an insane rant against what they see as non-believers but they have been a bit more relaxed since the midterms.

  13. Anderson says:

    FWIW, I’m not saying McEwan is blameless — it’s just that I, like JJ, have seen lots of “they’re terrible, look at Marcotte”-type posts.

    McEwan deserves either distinct treatment, or some citations to her “offensive” posts. I find it difficult to believe she can compete with Marcotte in that regard.

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    Well I browsed through some of McEwan’s posts that contained the word Christian and while some might be borderline, nothing that came anywhere near the level of Marcotte. So perhaps Edwards did through McEwan under the bus due to guilt by association.

  15. James Joyner says:

    The only thing I’ve seen, which came from the Catholic League complaint, was the use of the term “Christofascist.” I didn’t find that in a Google search of the sit, though.

  16. Anderson says:

    The only thing I’ve seen, which came from the Catholic League complaint, was the use of the term “Christofascist.”

    Which no one who’s used “Islamofascist” would be in a position to criticize, presumably.

    Now, why Edwards hired bloggers who are evidently down on the Christian religion, is a good question. Speaking of which, today’s Doonesbury is the first funny one I’ve seen in a while.

  17. James Joyner says:

    Which no one who’s used “Islamofascist” would be in a position to criticize, presumably.

    While I prefer the term “Islamist,” there’s a rationale for calling the philosophy that supports Islamist terrorism “Islamofascism.” Aside from the terrorists who kill abortion doctors, there are no equivalents among American Christians. Even the nuts like Pat Robertson aren’t within miles of that.

  18. David Harris says:

    This whole controversy (if it indeed is one) really shows the progession of blogs and their impact. The fascination with and the rise of blogs seemed, to me, to be a result of people wanting an outlet for documenting (and reading) the thoughts of people outside of mainstream media and special interest groups.

    Yet now, we have bloggers that are so established that a presidential candidate feels it wise to hire them in an official capacity, thereby making them beholden to said candidate. The circle by which these bloggers now find their own free speech hindered by political correctness is quite intriguing to me. As has been stated here (and I’m sure elsewhere), it’s almost certain that the same speech that elevated the status of these bloggers is PRECISELY that which has now landed them in hot water.

  19. Anderson says:

    Even the nuts like Pat Robertson aren’t within miles of that.

    I think Dobson and Falwell are more whom they have in mind. But I’ll borrow your “exercise for the reader” bit for their Christian-law-should-be-American-law spiels, b/c hey, it’s time for me to step AWAY from the monitor

  20. Cernig says:

    Aw gee, Anderson, that was an easy assignment.

    D. James Kennedy, Pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries, “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference in February, 2005. Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.

    Christian Coalition field director, Bill Thomson,You’re going to run over them. Get around them, run over the top of them, destroy them – whatever you need to do so that God’s word is the word that is being practiced in Congress, town halls and state legislatures. That’s your job.

    Representative John Hostetler, R-IN, Christian Coalition Speech: “When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them,” he told attendees. “Federal courts have no army or navy.. The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We’re not saying they can’t do that. At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce its opinions.”

    Joseph Morecraft, pastor of the Reconstructionist Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia: “Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s pseudo-right to worship an idol!”

    Gary North, Institute for Christian Economics, “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

    George Grant, a leading dominionist writer in “The Changing of the Guard, Biblical Principles for Political Action”: Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less… Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land — of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.

    Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton Our goal is world dominion under Christ’s lordship, a world “take over” if you will.

    Jerry Falwell, 1999: “[T]hese perverted homosexuals.absolutely hate everything that you and I and most decent, God-fearing citizens stand for. Make no mistake. These deviants seek no less than total control and influence in society, politics, our schools and in our exercise of free speech and religious freedom..If we do not act now, homosexuals will own America!”

    Pat Robertson, Christian Coalition, It’s going to be a spiritual battle. There will be Satanic forces…. We are not going to be coming up just against human beings, to beat them in elections. We’re going to be coming up against spiritual warfare.”

    David Limbaugh, “we have a right, indeed an obligation to govern.”

    Pledge recited at “Reclaiming America For Christ” conference: “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe.”

    Regards, C

  21. James Joyner says:


    You’ll certainly get no argument from me that these aren’t some whacked out views. There’s a not-so-subtle distinction between saying that the country should be governed according to biblical values and that those who oppose that end — or even tolerate those who oppose that end — should be murdered. And a further distinction still between saying that and, you know, doing that.

  22. Kathy says:

    I haven’t seen the quotes from Melissa that are in controversy. Certainly, several of them from Amanda are pretty obviously anti-religious.

    Amanda, among others (myself included) is very angry that a particular segment of the Christian demographic (socially conservative Christians, the religious right) wants to pass laws, and in fact HAS passed laws, that make it harder or impossible for women to obtain abortions — because THEY believe abortion is a sin. Amanda, among others (myself included) is outraged that people who believe, based on their personal understanding of their religion, that being homosexual is a moral crime, can actually impose that belief on others by passing laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Amanda mentioned Plan B in her rant that was widely quoted and felt to be so offensive. She mentioned Plan B because for a significant length of time (I think it was two years), Christians with a very, very, very narrow religiously based understanding of what their religion required used those religious beliefs to actually block FDA approval of making Plan B (emergency contraception) available over the counter to women 18 or older, despite the fact that a panel of FDA scientists found NO adverse health consequences. Thank God those religious nuts did not win, but Amanda, and many others (including me) find it extremely offensive — and I, as the mother of a teenage daughter, find it personally offensive — that a relatively small group of fanatical fundamentalist Christians could actually prevent public health decisions from being made on the basis of science, not religion.

    Everything Amanda wrote was shorthand for that anger. I will say again that I think her manner of expressing her anger was intemperate and ineffective, because all many people took away from it was the conclusion that she was against religion, or against Christianity, but I don’t believe that’s the case. She is against people who use their religion to control the way other people are allowed to live, to control the choices that other people have available to them.

    Sorry this is so long.

  23. James Joyner says:


    I understand people getting upset by perceived outrages in political discussions, although think there are more effective means than others of persuasion.

    Let me pose an alternative question, though: Why is religious belief any less legitimate a reason to come to a public policy preference than any other motivation? I’m not at all religious but still think abortion is wrong. Do I get to have that opinion because I’m not religious but those who are religious don’t? Or do I not get to have that opinion because I come down on the same side as the religious?

    Conversely, plenty of devout Christians think homosexuals deserve our love and understanding and/or think the state has no business making laws on the matter. Are their views valid?

  24. Kathy says:


    Obviously (or maybe it’s not obvious), you get to have whatever opinion you like. Of course you get to hold the opinion that abortion is wrong on religious grounds, or any grounds. I get to hold the opinion that abortion is a private medical and health decision that only the woman involved has the right to make, in consultation with her doctor and whoever else she chooses to involve.

    What is at issue here is public policy being driven by private beliefs (religious or otherwise). When individuals who are convinced that public policy should be informed by religious dogma or personal moral belief organize themselves into groups and organizations and lobbies to pass laws or propose laws to make abortion illegal, or to ban gay marriage, or to mandate prayer in public schools, or to enforce arcane laws still on the books that make adultery a crime, they have an influence that goes beyond individual belief. Focus on the Family does not have the right to tell me how to raise my daughter. It affects me if a law is passed in my state requiring parental notification for a teen to have an abortion. It affects me, not because I think that my daughter is going to have sex and get pregnant, but if that does happen, I have to worry that she might have an illegal abortion and die rather than report the pregnancy to a doctor, who would be legally required to tell me. That is an invasion of my privacy, and my daughter’s privacy. It’s a terrifying intrusion of the government into the private lives of individuals.

    So, long story short, yes you get to have the opinion that abortion is wrong, for any reason including religious, but you don’t get to tell my daughter that she has to notify me before getting an abortion. That’s MY business, not yours. You don’t get to tell a woman who has cancer or heart disease or diabetes or epilepsy or some other medical reason for needing an abortion that she cannot have the abortion, even if her doctor says it’s necessary, unless a second doctor reviews her medical records and submits her to a physical examination and then gives his ‘approval’ or ‘disapproval’ of the first doctor’s decision. What principle can you cite that gives you the right to impose your personal belief, religiously based or not, on a woman you don’t even know?

    Conversely, plenty of devout Christians think homosexuals deserve our love and understanding and/or think the state has no business making laws on the matter. Are their views valid?

    Why wouldn’t their views be valid? It does not infringe on anyone else’s rights to hold the view that the state has no business making laws restricting what homosexuals can or cannot do.

  25. Kathy says:

    I should add to the above that the concern about religiously based public policy stems from church-state separation issues. It’s a violation of the First Amendment for government to make laws forbidding abortions based, not on valid science or public health concerns, but on someone’s religious beliefs. Religious beliefs should not drive or inform public policy. Personal opinion is another matter entirely.

  26. Steph says:

    KAthy what’s the difference between your hate of christians and a KKK members hate of blacks?

    Absolutely none.