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    Big Law Firm Takes Down Big Conservative Blogger

    Big Law Firm Takes Down Big Conservative Blogger

    I’m late to this, but the story has not received a lot of coverage in the conservative blogosphere.  Paul Mirengoff of Power Line blog no longer is of Power Line blog.

    Mirengoff is an attorney at Akin Gump, a big law firm with a large presence in Washington, D.C., where Mirengoff works as a partner in the employment law group.

    Mirengoff was one of the founders of Power Line.  While I have disagreed with the folks there from time to time, there is no doubt that the Power Line bloggers are among the biggest names in the conservative blogosphere and make a valuable contribution to the conservative movement.  Any disagreements I have with them are disagreements among teammates.

    So why is Mirengoff no longer at Power Line?

    It all resulted from this blog post Mirengoff made after the Tucson shooting memorial service, in which the service was opened with a prayer, of sorts, from an American Indian tribal leader:

    “As for the ‘ugly,’ I’m afraid I must cite the opening ‘prayer’ by Native American Carlos Gonzales,” Mirengoff wrote. It “apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.”

    The original post has been taken down, and I can’t find a Google Cache version, but the post was picked up elsewhere and is available here

    It is clear that Mirengoff was setting up a “the good, the bad, and the ugly” type of structure (originating, I think, from the movie of the same name).  Mirengoff even put the word ugly in quotation marks.  This is a very common device signalling that Mirengoff did not literally mean “ugly” but was using the term in the context of the phrase he was parodying.

    Mirengoff’s post was not an attack on American Indians, the Yaqui tribe, or the participation of the tribal leader in a tribal prayer.  The point of the post quite clearly was on the absurdity of not having a Christian prayer said for Christian victims.  The lack of a Christian (or Jewish) prayer was commented on and criticized by a lot of people, and I agree with that criticism.  The American Indian leader was welcome to participate with a traditional prayer, but if you were going to have a memorial service, why not also pay religious respect to the people you were mourning?

    But that was not good enough for one of Mirengoff’s law partners, James Meggesto, who issued a sanctimonious statement saying he was “shocked, appalled and embarrassed” by Mirengoff’s “insensitive” “web posting” (emphasis mine):

    “As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff, who posted on his personal blog an insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism of the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the recent memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona. As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.” “

    Meggesto doesn’t say who dropped the dime on Mirengoff.  How this even came to the firm’s attention is surprising.   After all, the paragraph in question was pretty mild, part of a larger post and not really much different than a lot of others were saying.  Perhaps some innocent concerned citizen just happened to read Power Line that night and call Akin Gump, but it’s equally likely the watchers were behind it, directly or indirectly.

    The criticism by Meggesto and Akin Gump was disingenuous at best.  There was nothing in Mirengoff’s post which was a “criticism of the use of the Yacqui prayer”; Mirengoff was making a point about the absence of a Christian prayer at a memorial service for religious Christian victims. 

    And just what are Akin Gump’s “values”?  The primary value at stake here seems to be money to be generated from representing Indian tribes and financial interests.  Nothing wrong with that, but Akin Gump should have just said what it really meant:  “We are afraid that left-wing bloggers and others who hate Power Line will make a big deal about this and try to use it against the firm to disrupt our relationship with clients who pay us millions of dollars in legal fees each year.”

    If Akin Gump had justified its actions based on its own financial interests, rather than hiding behind words like “insensitive,” I would have respected its decision (although still disagreed with it).  A law firm has a legitimate interest in maintaining client relationships.  Instead, Meggesto and Akin Gump chose to portray Mirengoff at best as insensitive and at worst as a bigot, which conclusions were not supported by the blog post in question.

    Mirengoff obviously feared for his position at the firm, because he issued a confession/apology worthy of a political prisoner in (insert name of tyranny here):

    “In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people, and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”

    That Mirengoff, to satisfy Meggesto and Akin Gump, confessed to criticising the use of a Yaqui prayer when his post clearly did not do so, speaks volumes to the pressure Mirengoff must have been under.

    And then Mirengoff left Power Line.  And the post was taken down at Akin Gump’s insistence, which reminds me of how Stalin ordered biographies of purged leaders to be removed from encyclopedias across the country.

    I can’t blame Mirengoff for confessing to sins he never committed.

    Mirengoff probably makes big money at Akin Gump, but like most big firm lawyers, probably does not have his own clients.  So Mirengoff’s livelihood was at risk, and having been tagged as ethnically insensitive, he was vulnerable.  Mirengoff, being an employment defense lawyer, knew better than anyone how his blog post could be twisted and turned against him.

    I guess the only good news is that Mirengoff was not forced to “name names” to get a more lenient sentence.

    I can’t help but think that Mirengoff being a well-known conservative blogger contributed to the fauxtroversy and that there was a double standard.  If Mirengoff were a liberal blogger, and had made exactly the same comments but about having only a Christian preacher opening the memorial service for non-Christians, Mirengoff still would be blogging at Power Line.

    I’m glad I don’t work at a big law firm.  It’s so much easier being an outspoken conservative blogger at an Ivy League university.

    I hope Mirengoff does not give up blogging altogether.

    While I am generally against anonymous blogging, I might be willing to make an exception.  Mirengoff can blog here under the pseudonym Pyotr Yakir

    And don’t worry, Paul, I won’t name names, either.

    Update:  Robert Stacy McCain has more on some of the background. 

    And Eric Boehlert of Media Matters is practically jumping for joy that Mirengoff no longer is blogging, which is what Boehlert had been hoping would happen, Note To RW Bloggers: Could Obama Derangement Syndrome Cost You Your Day Job?

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    Presumably, there is far more relevant information regarding this incident than has yet to surface publicly. We may never know many key facts.

    That is not surprising, as lawyers are able, and often required, to hold dear information that even priests and spouses are occasionally be required to divulge.

    Hence, I can only conclude that there must be a more plausible explanation thereof, at least one more likely than the variety of explanations that have yet been posted, such as in the comments here, and elsewhere.

    Now, I'm not being critical of anyone's analysis, least of all Professor Jacobson’s insightful post. But to me the extraordinary decision made by Paul to stop blogging, just does not compute with anything I've read yet.

    Could there possibly be a provision in the firm's "social media policy" (if they indeed have such a policy) that subjects partners to potential future censorious action on the basis of a vote . . . a "prior restraint" of sorts? I cannot imagine such a thing, but who knows?

    What if Paul had simply issued the typical "passive voice" apology as a way out, you know . . . "If anyone was offended by what I wrote, I would offer my sincere apologies," . . . and then toughed it out as the nasty reaction hit? That would at least compute with what we know.

    But he didn’t. He fully conceded that he understood how others interpreted his words in the way that they did, and he sincerely apologized. Well, that made him a bigger man than most . . . so why wasn’t that the end of it?

    His real apology, combined with retracting the post (as he did), would certainly be more than any liberal reaction I ever recall anyone taking.

    Was this voluntary? If so, is Paul Mirengoff just being too hard on himself? I'd say by a long shot, but decent people do have to feel comfortable in their own skins.

    The problem is that a person who can write as clearly and forcefully as this, has now been effectively silenced — at least for the time being.

    And now is not the time.

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