This week The Daily Caller and Politico got into a public war with internal ramifications. Initially it was over a story that The Daily Caller‘s Jonathan Strong broke about Rep. Michele Bachmann‘s (R-Minn.) migraine headaches.
After Strong broke the story, Politico assigned a few reporters the task of finding out more and rewriting it. They credited The Daily Caller, but not without calling the publication “conservative” and not without using the word “confirming.” The sentiment that translated: Politico has “confirmed” what The Daily Caller has written.
That didn’t sit well with The Daily Caller‘s Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson, who then instituted an office-wide policy of referring to Politico as liberal. The decision was largely emotional and many reporters interpreted Carlson’s edict over email as half-joking. After all, he told them, from then on Politico was to be referred to as a liberal publication based in suburban Virginia. The new Executive Editor, David Martosko, (the dude with a seriously long rap sheet) took the letter of Carlson’s law so seriously that he was intent on sifting through old stories and adding the words.
Martosko did not ultimately go through with his mission. Nor did the new policy last. As the week wore on, The Daily Caller had its first leak to a conservative New York-based publication called The Blaze, which reported the alleged new policy by way of an anonymous source. This marked trouble within the ranks of The Daily Caller, a young publication known for its fraternity-like atmosphere. No betrayal of this nature had ever happened. Some chalk it up to inevitable growing pains.
But an office meltdown ensued. Publicist Kurt Bardella sent a sharp but polite note to reporters saying all press inquiries need to go through him, Carlson or Martosko, an act that some reporters found condescending even if that was not his intention. We’re told this was among some 30 emails Bardella sends internally daily. Others are, at times, relieved by Bardella’s insistence on a certain way of handling things, thinking “Thank God” when he steers the publication away from negative press. Carlson, meanwhile, held an office meeting, expressed anger over the leak, and encouraged staffers to come talk to him and get whatever they need to off their chests.
The gist of the office meeting: Don’t go blabbing to other publications about internal matters. Colleagues have one solid suspect, but no one would bet their lives on the mole’s identity. And so far, no one has cracked under the stresses of intense peer gossip.
Since the migraine story, other anti-Politico stories have emerged on The Daily Caller website that irked Politico. They include a spate of stories insinuating that Politico leans liberal — one about Politico‘s David Rogers, another on Politico reporter Andy Barr leaving the publication to go work for the Democratic Party in Arizona.
Politico Executive Editor Jim VandeHei, who wouldn’t comment on this matter further, told The Blaze, “I know Tucker well, and feel quite confident he doesn’t actually believe we are a partisan publication. Just like our other readers, Tucker knows we pride ourselves in fairness and fact-based reporting. Perhaps it was a simple editing error in his shop.”
Carlson would not speak to FishbowlDC on the record for this story. A quick scan of The Daily Caller website, however, shows a story on Politico and it is not described as a suburban liberal publication. Although reporters have not be told that the policy has been nixed, the idea of the office-wide policy is dead in the water.
Even so, we highly suspect the spark of tension between the two publications is far from over.