New details have emerged about how New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan came to lose his favorite editor, Gregg Birnbaum.
A newsroom insider said that the political editor quit the paper Monday night in protest after suffering a tirade of abuse from his Aussie boss over the phone. Allan was said to be irate, because he felt he hadn't been briefed properly on the deal struck between the White House and Congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts.
“Allan was apparently the only editor in the country who was unaware on Monday evening that Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years," says the source. "This, despite the fact that it was in the lead of our story being prepared for publication; despite the fact the president had done a presser carried live by every cable outlet; and despite the fact that it was in the lead of all the wire stories; and was all over various Web sites."
The source said Allan had disappeared from the newsroom at a very early hour on Monday. Newsroom insiders also said that it's not unusual for the boss to be absent as the paper is going to bed.
Allan decided earlier in the day to run a story about the tax-cut debate on the front page—but with the second edition deadline looming, he suddenly threw a fit and called into the newsroom, saying the paper had failed to grasp the deeper meaning of Obama’s decision for American tax payers.
Just before 10 p.m., he ordered the editors to tear up the paper and redo and expand the story. He also added a column from the paper's D.C. bureau, sources said.
Then, Allan, who was still out of the office, phoned Birnbaum and berated him for not fully briefing him on the story.
“It's amazing that Col could be that in the dark, then try to blame others,” said a source.
Staffers worked furiously to redesign the paper's story and layout. Because the argument occurred entirely over the phone, staffers were unaware of Birnbaum's resignation until a few days later, according to sources.
It's a surprise ending to the relationship between the outlandish Aussie editor—known for his screaming fits—and Birnbaum. Allan had historically deferred to the political editor's deep political knowledge.
But it's not the first time that Birnbaum quit the paper. Several years ago, he stormed out of the office in the middle of an edition after Allan berated him over the political coverage. He was persuaded to return several days later by managing editor Jesse Angelo, who has since left the paper to start an iPad publication for Post owner Rupert Murdoch.
Birnbaum, who runs a Web site dedicated to Hillary Rodham Clinton, confirmed his departure from the paper but refused to comment further.
His resignation comes on the heels of a yearlong exodus of top talent from the struggling tabloid.
Earlier this year, 25-year veteran police editor Murray Weiss left the paper.
Page Six editor Richard Johnson finally extracted himself from the paper after 25 years last month, after a protracted battle with Allan to get out of his contract. He is also working at the iPad publication.
Calls for comment to the Post have thus far gone unreturned.
Janon Fisher was on staff at the New York Post from 2006 until October 2010.