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Cardin Staffer Fired For Blog Remarks

Howard Dean helped persuade politicians that ready access to the Internet could drastically improve the way political candidates campaign. Now it's a junior staffer of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democrat running for Senate in Maryland, who has provided the inevitable reminder that with every great leap forward, there are bound to be stumbles back.

The staffer was fired Friday for maintaining an online diary about her experiences in the trenches of a U.S. Senate race, a campaign official said. The campaign has declined to release the name of the staffer.

Alone, the blog may seem an ill-advised blunder. But matters were made considerably worse by her postings, which contained racial and ethnic slurs. She even talked about a stash of Oreo cookies at Cardin's campaign headquarters, raising again the 2002 incident in which Republican candidate Michael S. Steele said he was pelted with the cookies at a political debate.

In a story that first appeared Friday on the political blog Wizbang Politics, the staffer, who went by the online handle "Persuasionatrix," vented her frustration with a working environment that she described as being hypersensitive about any issue that related to race, and described her discomfort in being a "sex object" for Cardin's Jewish friends, describing them using ethnic stereotypes.

At the time of the entries in late August, Cardin was facing former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume in the primary, and waiting on deck for the general was Steele who as lieutenant governor, was the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland.

In one posting, Persuasionatrix alleged that she tried to discipline a black campaign staffer, but failed because "he plays the racism card, the magic passport to a different chain of command."

Cardin responded to the blogging revelation by firing her, saying in a statement yesterday: "I am deeply offended and disgusted by the blog's racial and anti-Semitic overtones. The staff person responsible was promptly dismissed and will have nothing to do with this campaign."

Cardin's campaign spokesman, Oren Shur, characterized Persuasionatrix as "a junior staffer" but would not identify her by name. She was fired Friday "as soon as we learned of this."

Steele campaign spokeswoman Melissa Sellers called the blog a "deeply disturbing" chronicle of "racial prejudices toward Lt. Gov. Steele and others."

Steele allies said yesterday that they see a pattern. Earlier in the campaign, Republicans slammed a liberal blogger from New York, Steve Gilliard, for posting a doctored photo of Steele as a minstrel.

With that incident, Republicans began showing signs of a strategy that appeared to be aimed at building an allegiance with black voters by publicly identifying instances where Steele has been the victim of racial insults at the hands of Democrats.

Sellers, though, was more direct.

"This is the kind of attitude and gutter politics that Marylanders are sick of," she said, "and why they are ready for change."

By Phyllis Jordan  |  September 17, 2006; 7:53 AM ET
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Nabisco is looking like a good investment. Ticker symbol is MO for those who are feeling what I'm feeling.

When Steele gets 1/4 of the black vote and wins this election, there are going to be some angry leftists looking for something to throw.

Bleach manufacturers look good also. Blacks who dare to disobey orders have to match their race to their politics, right?

Posted by: Brandon | September 17, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

In the online diary the fired person describes herself as a "senior staffer" while the campaign describes her as a "junior staffer." Which is it?

Also, there was this little gem: "Before I leave, however, I need a picture of all of us holding the forbidden cookies [Oreos] with the caption: 'Devouring the Competition.'" Wow. Just wow. I don't think I need to even comment on this.

Posted by: MK | September 17, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

MK - I think the definition of junior/senior staffer is a bit subjective and depends on the depth of organization Cardin has.

The blogger decribed herself as a regional campaign coordinator who had lower-level staff reporting to her. Assuming that is true, it's still a bit difficult to tell what level that position is in the campaign hierarchy. Was she responsinble for half the state, just two precincts, or somewhere in between?

Cardin's people say it was a low level position; Wizbang is sure it was more senior. Unless someone has a organizational flowchart, it's kind of hard to pin down.

BTW - the blogger deleted at least two of the offending posts once everything hit the fan, then sometime late last night or early this morning she deleted the entire site. However, Wizbang cached the original posts and is maintaining them on their site.

Note to campaigns: Might want to have some type of blogging policy in place for your staff.

Note to bloggers: Don't be stupid, especially if you work for a candidate. Don't post stuff you wouldn't want to see splashed on the front page of the paper. And remember, even if you delete them, your words may live on in cyberspace.

- Russ

Posted by: Political Yak | September 17, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I am offended that Cardin fired this staffer. What can I do to make him issue an apology? Or is it that only hypocritical Democrats and liberals are allowed to demand apologies?

Posted by: D.C. Russell | September 18, 2006 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Jr. Staffer Phyllis? That's what the campaign described her as, but she was mid-level volunteer coordinator according to a former Cardin intern posting on the Baltimore Sun's forums.

Also Phyllis what's up with vaguely referencing her oreo comments? What she said was she wanted a photo of the whole campaign staff with a box of oreos that had a caption reading "devouring the competition." Those are some fighting words considering the whole oreo cookie history. It shows the inner thoughts of the Cardin campaign. To pretend no other Cardin staffers knew about this blog is silly since she referenced hanging out with them and crashing at anothers staffer's house. What, they didn't find it offensive too?

She became the 'advice girl'--well they're probably reading her online advice too.

Ben Cardin's attendance of the 'unity rally' to bring blacks to the polls for Democrats on Saturday must have been a particularly embarassing moment for him. I hope he apologized then for this continued set of racism against Steele.

Keep in mind Mike Miller called Steele an "uncle tom" and KKT supporters passed out the oreos originally--this sort of thought is nothing new to MD Democrats.

Posted by: Bryan | September 18, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

To Brandon:

Don't be ignorant....

If this young lady was not happy with working on his campaign, she should have resigned. we don't know if she is telling the truth about African Americans on his staff pulling the race card or not. None of us were there.

Posted by: Marcus | September 18, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

You have a point about the junior staffer reference. I took that out.

As for the Oreo reference, rather than excerpt I posted the whole blog for people to read and decide for themselves what to think.

Posted by: Phyllis Jordan | September 18, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Cardin's people say it was a low level position; Wizbang is sure it was more senior.

The facts are in her blog posts. Whether you consider that "senior" or "mid-level" doesn't much matter; what seems clear from her writing was that it was no entry level (i.e. junior) position.

She's clearly a high achiever - she was the debate coach at The Latin School in Chicago, one of the top schools in the country. That's what makes the "junior staffer" spin a bit silly. She had experience in 2004 and was a referal to the Cardin campaign from the DNC and/or

Here's how state party sources were spinning it Monday to The American Spectator:

"She was a low level staffer, doing minor office assistant type of jobs, nothing more important than making sure there were enough pens and notepads around the office, making coffee."

That is clearly a lie...

Posted by: Kevin Aylward | September 20, 2006 11:52 PM | Report abuse

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