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Joe Trippi Punished for Taking Daily Kos Seriously

mediaite_thumb1Full disclosure: Joe Trippi is a guy with whom I am friendly. We’re not BFFs, but we talk from time to time about things not directly related to my role as a journalist and his as a source.

I disclose this because it appears that community blogs, like Daily Kos, expect a chapter-and-verse dossier on everyone who posts there before they’ll consider them non-slimeballs.

Political strategist Joe Trippi posted an apology at Kos yesterday, confessing to the crime of having over-eager interns, and for not disclosing something that should have been obvious. His thanks for holding himself to a ridiculous standard? The Kos kids are tearing him a new cyberhole.

There are two issues that they’re working him over about. The first is his admission that several new staffers and interns had created “sockpuppets,” Daily Kos user profiles for the purpose of echoing Trippi’s support for a Carolyn Maloney Senate bid (a more accurate term would be “astroturfing,” but sockpuppeting is the term being used).

Trippi mans up and takes responsibility for this, but I’m not sure what the crime is here. Even if he ordered his staffers to do this, so what? This is the Internet. The fact that Trippi is catching hell for this from someone named “Partially Impartial” should tell you all you need to know. These “sockpuppets” didn’t present themselves as journalists, nor did they lay claim to any identity other than the anonymous ones of their current detractors. In other words, if you set up a site where people get to blog anonymously, people will do that.

The fact that Trippi owns up to something this trivial, that he didn’t even know about, shows a respect for the online community that obviously runs deep.

The second issue was his failure to disclose, in this blog post, that he had been paid by Maloney’s congressional campaign to field calls about her possible Senate run. In that same post, however, he discloses his desire to work for Maloney’s Senate campaign, should one ever materialize.

The thing is, you would have to be an utter moron not to have known this. If Maloney’s congressional office had been referring all calls about the Senate bid to Joe Trippi for weeks, you would have to conclude that Trippi had been hired to handle those calls. When I ask a question at a press conference, I don’t begin by saying, “Let me first disclose that I am being paid by Mediaite to ask this question.” I’ll try that next time, should get a big laugh.

Of course, any reporter could make the obvious inference that Maloney’s hiring of Joe Trippi to take phone calls was not for the sole purpose of whistling Dixie. It’s the reporter’s job to point that out, not Trippi’s. His job was to say that she hasn’t decided to run yet.

The fact that he apologizes for this, again, shows that Trippi is far more respectful of community blogs than they are of him. This outrage, and the implication that Joe is out there scamming people into lining his pockets, is as fake as those sockpuppeted accounts.

Everyone knows what Joe Trippi does for a living (the same cannot be said of the majority of Kos diarists). When I see Joe write something, anything, I always make two assumptions. First, I assume that there’s a decent chance he’s pimping a cause or a candidate that he’s working for. Second, I assume that he believes deeply in whatever cause or candidate he’s working for. These are the things he is known for. The post for which he is being lambasted wasn’t some frothing diatribe, it was a mild commentary about a Quinnipiac poll.

If he was really a money-grubbing slime, wouldn’t he have been better served offering his progressive cred up to a well-funded, well-positioned candidate like Kirsten Gillibrand? Does anyone really think that Joe Trippi had to be bought off for relative peanuts in order to support a progressive candidate?

The irony is that the “progressives” at Daily Kos are now being used to hamstring a true progressive, in service to the Establishment Democratic Senator. Furthermore, the very people who are trying to destroy Trippi’s credibility are the ones who, themselves, destroyed the progressive blogosphere’s credibility when one of their posts about Sarah Palin was amplified by CNN, and turned out to be false. Now, they want to lecture Joe Trippi for not abiding by their make-believe rules, even after he apologized for it.

I talked to Joe this morning, and despite my admonitions to the contrary, he stands by his apology. In my view, he’s conceding a molehill of a point, and being repaid with a mountain of mud.

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