Today, the prominent conservative blog Redstate is in a mess of right-wing drama following a Politico scoop that Redstate managing editor Erick Erickson was pressured by his bosses to pull support for a Republican candidate in a key Virginia Senate race. The race involves GOP frontrunner and former Virginia Senator George Allen and the former head of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, Jamie Radtke, who are both vying for the GOP's nomination. The pressure on Erickson to back away from his previous support for the Tea Party candidate was evident in one of Erickson's emails, obtained by Politico:
Erick Erickson, said he shifted his stance in a key Senate race because the company that publishes his RedState.com is “socially connected” to former Virginia Sen. George Allen.
Erickson told Allen’s challenger, Jamie Radtke, that he had to moderate his support for her because “my bosses are huge Allen friends,” according to an email he sent earlier this month, which her campaign manager forwarded to POLITICO.
The conservative media powerhouse Eagle Publishing, which owns the venerable conservative journal Human Events and the prolific Regnery Publishing, has published RedState since 2007. Eagle Publishing President Jeffrey Carneal contributed $1,000 to Allen's last Senate campaign.
Today, the Politico scoop sent Erickson (who's also a CNN analyst) scrambling to assert his editorial independence. He first admitted that his bosses at Eagle Publishing did attempt to influence him on his previous endorsement of Radtke in a blog post:
My bosses at Eagle Publishing do in fact have a relationship with George Allen, and a very good one, and asked me — after I endorsed her — to please go slow for once instead of shooting first and asking questions later...
To be clear: my bosses were not telling me to stay out, but telling me to wait a while. Perhaps Cuccinelli would get in. Perhaps someone else would get in. Perhaps Radtke would implode.
However, Erickson insists he didn't soften his support for Radtke because of his bosses. He says he simply soured on the candidate herself.
The Radtke campaign clearly was not getting traction and they and their proxies began incessantly harassing me to write about her campaign and do what I did for Marco Rubio and Mike Lee.
I didn’t want to be the bad guy or burn a bridge needlessly, so instead of saying I wouldn’t because the campaign sucked and was going nowhere or that I would wait and keep being pestered with “now will you do it”, I told them I could not. It seemed at the time to be the easiest way out.
I was certainly wrong.
Is Erickson telling the truth about how he soured on Radtke? It's impossible to say. But the story raises all sorts of questions about the intersection of partisan punditry and electioneering, and sheds light on how influential the conservative blog is in its kingmaker status. Interestingly, the story doesn't end there.
Erickson, quite reasonably feeling burned by whoever passed along his private e-mail to Politico, writes an additional post this afternoon blaming right-wing blogger Dan Riehl. In a strange rationale for the e-mail leak, Erickson says Riehl tried to blackmail him after a Redstate blogger criticized fellow right-wing blogger Michele Malkin for her opposition to Texas Governor Rick Perry's position on HPV vaccines. Erickson claims that Riehl promised to "burn Erick's integrity to the ground" if Redstate didn't retract the post attacking Malkin. Erickson says he refused. "I certainly wasn’t going to apologize for something... let alone be more or less blackmailed into an editorial position." But when he tried to stop Riehl from exacting his revenge, he failed:
I emailed some mutual friends to see if they could calm Dan down. Dan took that as me trying to have him fired, which was definitely not the case. Next thing I know, friends of mine are getting text messages and phone calls that various conservative radio show hosts, etc. are going to come after me.
I’m guessing Dan latched on my emailing our mutual friends, convinced himself I wanted to get him fired instead of just calmed down, and decided to go all junior high cat fight on RedState and me...
I can now confirm Dan Riehl is the original source to the Politico regarding the Radtke story.
We asked Politico's Ben Smith if Riehl had been his original source and, predictably, he declined to comment. Riehl also declined to say if he provided Smith with any information saying "this isnt my fight and im just watching. I have nothing to say about anything one way or another." Still, it's clear Erickson is somewhat furious with Riehl. The signoff on his latest post accuses the blogger of acting like "junior high school girls":
Well played, Dan. Well played. The Radtke campaign owes you big time. Sometimes the collective forces of the internet act like junior high school girls.
For his part, Riehl wasn't quite ready to throw a punch back. "I don't follow RedState or watch CNN," he tells The Atlantic Wire. Looks like things in the righty blogosphere are getting personal!