WashingtonPost.com is standing by the decision to allow Glenn Beck to write a column for its On Faith blog in spite of his history of offensive comments and violent rhetoric, according to the site's top editor, Sally Quinn, who defended running the piece because readers know "who he is and what he is."
"When you run somebody like that, people already come to it knowing who he is and what he is," Quinn told Media Matters. "He represents a certain segment of society and he's got a following."
She also said it was On Faith that reached out to Beck, seeking his take on a religious issue for the site, which bills itself as a "Conversation on Religion and Politics."
Asked why the website would seek a view from a commentator with Beck's record, Quinn said, "He represents a huge segment of society and actually I thought that he had a sort of a unique take on the situation. We don't only run people we agree with or disagree with. We like to get all points of view. I didn't see that there was anything offensive about the column or controversial."
Beck's column was posted February 19 and attacked President Obama for announcing that rules promulgated under his health care reform law would give women access to health care plans covering contraception at no additional cost. Beck responded by declaring, "we are all Catholics now."
Beck also wrote:
This is why Americans are offended by the ruling from the White House that would force church-run institutions to pay for birth control and morning-after pills, which are tantamount to abortion. The so-called compromise is no compromise - under government-approved health insurance plans that the church pays for, abortifacients would be covered. Sin by proxy - that's the compromise.
Obama's birth control policy has broad support from Catholic hospitals, colleges, and charities, and recent polls show a majority of Catholics believe employers should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no additional cost.
The decision to give Beck space came in spite of Beck's repeated condemnation by Jewish groups for offensive comments, as well as his history of violent rhetoric. It also follows his departure from Fox News last year.
Quinn said On Faith Editor Elizabeth Tenety approached Beck because of his new "We Are All Catholics Now" project, which urges people to lobby Congress for "legislation that would protect religious groups' conscience rights."
Quinn said she was out of town when the column was reviewed and posted, but found nothing wrong with it. Tenety could not be reached for comment.
"I saw it when I got back. I thought it was fine, it just didn't occur to me that it was a problem," Quinn explained.
Quinn said Ed Thiede, an assistant managing editor at the Post, also reviewed the column and approved it. He did not respond to requests for comment. Quinn said Beck was not paid for the piece.
When asked whether Beck's controversial past comments and violent rhetoric should preclude him from having a forum on the website, Quinn compared it to giving space to presidential candidates.
"If you look at some of the things that some of the presidential candidates have said about Islam, you might ask 'how could we run anything that they'd ever write?'"
But isn't a candidate for president different than a television commentator?
"But the candidate is a public figure and somebody who is out there. I mean Franklin Graham said that Islam is an evil religion and we've done video interviews with him and run him on our site," Quinn said.