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WaPo Ombud In Alleged E-Mail: If Jen Rubin Retweeted Post About Killing Israelis, ‘It’s Quite Possible’ She’d Be Fired

When Rachel Abrams, a board member at a right-wing pro-Israel group and wife of top Bush administration Mideast hand Elliott Abrams, called for Palestinian militants and their children to be made into “food for sharks,” something of a controversy erupted. The defense that Abrams was “clearly speaking about the terrorists” fell apart when she subsequently made the same call about this reporter and wrote that Palestinians of nearly any political stripe are terrorists.

The furor eventually extended all the way to the Washington Post after the neoconservative Post blogger Jennifer Rubin retweeted Abrams’ post. The Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton, deluged with complaints, wrote that he was “disappointed” with Rubin’s retweet, adding that it “did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.” The Post’s opinion page editor Fred Hiatt said that Pexton “is entitled to his views,” and refused to comment further on the ombudsman’s post.

Pexton is indeed “entitled to his views.” And, it seems, one of them might be that there exists at the Washington Post a double standard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a purported e-mail exchange with a reader, who posted the correspondence on an internet message board, Pexton wrote that he thought that if Rubin had retweeted a call to kill Israelis — instead of Palestinians — she would likely be fired from her job. The reader, who went by the name Joe Emersberger, wrote: “Simple question: if the rant had been directed against Israelis, do you think Rubin would have been fired by the Post?” Pexton, in the apparent exchange, wrote back:


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Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.

Asked to confirm the authenticity of the e-mail correspondence, the Washington Post’s public relations department referred ThinkProgress to Pexton, who “operates independently.” Pexton didn’t deny the authenticity of the email and replied only by saying: “My blog post published Monday represents my full comments on this matter.” He hasn’t responded to a follow-up e-mail. Emersberger did not reply to an inquiry by press time. Pexton declared his comments “off the record,” but that confidence was broken by the apparent reader and the e-mails were made public.

Rubin, a Mideast hawk, cut her teeth at Pajamas Media and the neoconservative flagship Commentary — where Abrams’ brother, John Podhoretz, is the editor. This year, she went to Israel and the West Bank (also considering the latter part of Israel) on the dime of the Emergency Committee for Israel, where Abrams sits on the board. Rubin has a history of making errors and misrepresenting reported facts to fit her story. If this wasn’t enough to make the Post question the decision to hire her, perhaps one should not be so surprised that she can retweet calls for mass killings and keep her job — that is, as long as the comment is about killing Palestinians.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a national security reporter for covering U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly Iran. Before joining the Center for American Progress, he wrote and blogged for Inter Press Service as well as the Columbia Journalism Review’s website,, and Common Dreams, among other outlets.

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