Edwards’s Bloggers Making More News Than Candidate

After several days of criticism from the right side of the blogosphere, John Edwards’ blog outreach team is now coming under fire from the Catholic League, which is demanding that Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan be fired for anti-Catholic comments written on their blogs, Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister. Bill Donohue issued a statement saying, “John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots.”

As more campaigns (and corporations and PR firms) get aboard the “blogger relations” bandwagon, the natural impulse is to hire established bloggers. Hillary Clinton has hired Peter Daou, John McCain has Patrick Hynes, Rudy Giuliani has Patrick Ruffini, and the Senate Republicans have hired Jon Henke, who was also brought on too late to do George Allen much good.

Having top bloggers on the staff makes sense, because these people have demonstrated not only that they have the ability to express themselves in writing but that they “get” blogging. As a bonus, they probably have a network of other bloggers that they can reach out to with more credibility than some flack on the communications staff.

At the same time, however, there is a serious downside that Edwards is now discovering: Bloggers have a “paper” trail. The longer someone has been blogging, the more of their sometimes-developed thoughts are out there for public consumption. Not only have they likely written things uncomplimentary to their now-boss, but they have almost certainly written things that could embarrass him. At the very least, as Marcotte and McEwan are demonstrating, the bloggers can wind up taking the attention away from the candidate’s message.

UPDATE: WaPo has picked up the story, too, via the AP wire.

More blog coverage of the controversy:

  • Patrick Frey digs up the offending quotes from Marcotte and McEwan. They’re pretty vulgar, frankly, even from a non-religious perspective.
  • Barbara O’Brien sees intimidation at work here and observes that, “Donohue hates everybody who isn’t the Pope.”
  • Bruce McQuain (Henke’s former blogmate) writes, “My guess is that both Marcotte and McEwan would wear such accusations by a religious group as badges of honor if they were still blogging at their own respective blogs.”

McQuain also points out this, which I had missed in the NYT story: “Mr. Edwards’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, said Tuesday night that the campaign was weighing the fate of the two bloggers.”

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Triumph says:

    Edwards’s Bloggers Making More News Than Candidate

    I think this is a little overblown, James. The only people who seem to care about this are bloggers themselves.

    I get four daily papers at the house–three national ones and a local–and each of these has had nearly daily coverage of Edwards and none of them have even mentioned blogging.

    The Wall Street Journal and the NY Times have focused most of their coverage on his health plan and fundrasing efforts. Neither one has talked about inconsequential members of Edwards’ campaign staff.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The link goes to a story in today’s NYT. My guess is that the blogs are simply ahead of this story and more will come.

  3. Triumph says:

    The link goes to a story in today’s NYT

    My bad—I just checked the print version. The story is buried on p. A15 with the obits.

  4. James Joyner says:

    AP has picked up the story, too. It’s in WaPo and presumably hundreds of other papers. It takes a while for these stories to break out sometimes.

    It may turn out to be no big deal in the long run. Certainly, it’s not going to derail Edwards’ campaign. But presidential candidates aren’t generally keen on low-level staffers getting them bad press.

  5. Cernig says:

    So Mel uses the F word occasionally.

    I’m betting that if you check Donahue’s background, he’s not only said it he’s done it as well.

    I’ve known Melissa McEwan as a blogging pal for a couple of years now. She’s often outspoken, even uses a few naughty words, but she is as far from a bigot as it is possible to be.

    According to the NYT, Donahue is speaking for “The Catholic League, a conservative religious group.” I’m pretty certain he is weilding the political hatchet on behalf of the latter part of the group’s description, rather than the former. Dirty tricks by proxy are always more effective.

    Regards, C

  6. James Joyner says:


    Agreed on Donahue’s political agenda and the use of profanity. See Frey’s link, above, though for legitimately offensive anti-Catholic writings.

    I don’t read Pandagon that much in the post Klein-Taylor era and have only read Shakespear’s Sister a few times, usually following links from elsewhere. The writing at both sites is often thoughtful by blog standards but more over-the-top insulting than is my taste.

    The problem is that bloggers writing for an insular audience can fall into the trap of writing for people who agree with them and share their prejudices. That’s great for building a sense of community and ginning up traffic; it doesn’t necessarily serve you well on the job market or otherwise outside the blog context.

  7. ken says:

    Donahue is just a republican posing as a Catholic. His opinions on matters concerning Catholicism are twisted by his politics.

    The Catholic League has never been considered a credible source for information regarding the Catholic Church, its doctrine or its teachings.

  8. Dave Schuler says:


  9. Cernig says:

    James, I notice Frey’s link has nothing to say about Melissa’s posts.

    As for Amanda, I don’t read her. Like you I stopped reading Pandagon post Klein/Taylor. Where one cannot speak, one must remain silent.

    But I will climb the water tower to defend my Sis’s honor 🙂

    Especially from a man who define’s the word “bigot” simply by looking in a mirror.

    Regards, C

  10. Mark says:

    One wonders if Marcotte or McEwan spewed this vile towards Islam instead of Catholicism if they would still have a job in the Edwards campaign?

    I am guessing the answer would be a resounding no.

  11. Cernig says:


    Show me where Melissa McEwan has “spewed vile” towards Catholicism, if you have such evidence. Or try getting your own opinion instead of relying on the noise machine telling you what to think.

    Her degree is from Chicago’s Loyola University, by the way. A Jesuit university certainly seems an odd place for a supposed anti-Catholic bigot to study. Or maybe Mr Donahue’s handlers at the GOP just didn’t do enough OpFor research…

    Regards, C

  12. Not to get too over the top here, but the first rule in debate is to never let emotion get the best of you, when you use profanity, you are simply stating that you do not have the valid resources to clearly state your views.

    This issue is really one that is neither left or right, simply put it is a guilt by association. Our Mamas have all told us, “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas”.

    Edwards’ campaign is in its infancy and this is a bullet that he is going to want to dodge. Although Marcotte’s views are extreme at best, it is her lack of being able to engage in a true discussion of an issue without having to always run into the gutter for cover that makes her less than effective when debating the issues.


    To James Joyner, your point on today’s 10:13am comment regarding writing to an “insular audience” is very well taken and is at the heart of this debate.

  13. carpeicthus says:

    I’ve never been a fan of Amanda, but I rely on the principle that William Donahue is never right about anything, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

  14. Bandit says:

    ignorant haters – pitch perfect for any Dem campaign

  15. Ron says:

    Profanity = Strong expression from a weak mind.

  16. Cernig says:

    James, Salon is reporting that both bloggers have been fired.

    Regards, C

  17. Paul Barnes says:
  18. Cernig says:


    You’re link only gives Marcotte quotes. Which is exactly my point. Melissa McEwan is being swiftboated on a “her too” basis but when you actually look, there’s no “there” there.

    Regards, C

  19. Big Joe says:

    These bloggers need a good, strong, Catholic man to straighten them out and show them the power of God’s love. Too bad I’m currently taken.