Conservative writer apologizes for outing anonymous blogger

Former Bush official, now with the National Review, says he's sorry he revealed a blogger's identity

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 9, 2009 4:20PM (EDT)

Ah, blogging: It's sort of like high school, only with less maturity and a bigger audience. Plus, high schoolers generally haven't served in the Department of Justice or worked as law professors.

The latest example of this dynamic came just this past weekend and featured Ed Whelan, who heads the Ethics and Public Policy Center and writes for the National Review after a legal career that includes stints as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Whelan was upset by some posts written by a pseudonymous blogger who called himself Publius, and so he found out Publius' hidden identity -- he's John Blevins, and he teaches at South Texas College of Law in Houston -- and revealed it to the world.

This set off one of the tempests common to the blogosphere, in which an issue becomes the hot topic among political bloggers while the world at large says, "I'm sorry, what are you talking about? I was watching the Tonys." Though Whelan's colleagues largely defended him, and he initially fought hard on his own behalf, most of the blogosphere came down on Publius' side. Now Whelan has reconsidered his position and issued what seems to be a sincere apology:

On reflection, I now realize that, completely apart from any debate over our respective rights and completely apart from our competing views on the merits of pseudonymous blogging, I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius. Earlier this evening, I sent him an e-mail setting forth my apology for my uncharitable conduct. As I stated in that e-mail, I realize that, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to undo my ill-considered disclosure of his identity. For that reason, I recognize that Publius may understandably regard my apology as inadequate.

Publius has responded, writing of the apology, "I know it was not an easy thing to do, and it is of course accepted."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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