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The FishbowlDC Interview with the Wile E. Weigel

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weigelpic.jpg Say hello to Slate‘s David Weigel. Emotions have cooled since we published Weigel’s scathing e-mails on conservatives from the Journolist listserv and he was subsequently forced out of The Washington Post. “Here’s an insane thought,” I wrote him last week. “Want to do the Fishbowl interview?” He accepted, no arm-twisting required. In reaction to publishing the scribes e-mails, Weigel’s fanatical followers called us “neo con asswipes,” ranted and told me to light myself on fire, and they charged that publishing his e-mails was personal.

It wasn’t, and neither is this. We wanted to learn more. And that we did.

Weigel’s into comic books and video games, though he says he was never “passionate about comic books because I was cheap.” Growing up, his favorite thing to do was read. He spent two and a half years living in England when his father was transferred there for work. He preferred role playing video games like Final Fantasy (not sure we want to know more on that, but we thank him for the information). Nowadays, it’s Rock Band, and, of course, his new job at Slate, where there are no special rules for him where the Internet is concerned.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? This is a transparent attempt to distract from the more pressing question of what kind of tree I’d like to be. Anyway, Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.

How often do you Google yourself? Fairly often, at least once a day. It’s a good way of finding out if I need to respond to something, or if an article is really succeeding.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? You know, I can’t think of a conflict that was interesting enough to hit this spot. I have had the occasional disagreement about whether some article or another was a piece of crap or not, but the disagreement ended with said article ceasing to be a piece of crap. I’m pretty mellow in this regard.

Who is your favorite working journalist? Christopher Hitchens.

Do you have a favorite word? Sure, “acquiesce.”

Who would you rather have dinner with – First Lady Michelle Obama or Bestselling Author and former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin? Obviously Palin! SheÂ’s newsier, unless you’re a tremendous fan of organic vegetables. I hope she doesn’t use this as the basis of a Facebook post about me “stalking” her or something.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? It’s a 15-second clip from “Hustlin” by Rick Ross.

When did you last cry and why? When Abigail died (spoiler!) in the John Adams miniseries, which I finally saw last week.

Find out what made Weigel really lose his temper after the jump…


What word do you routinely misspell? Equivalent.

What swear word do you use most often? Horseshit.

What word or phrase do you overuse? Horseshit.

What TV show do you have to watch? The Venture Brothers, the truly fantastic Cartoon Network series which parodies and pays tribute to basically all of the pop culture I care about.

Where do you shop most often for your clothes? Brooks Brothers for nice things, Marshall’s for everything else.

Who do you prefer for daytime talk, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Oprah, Tyra or the women of The View? I don’t think I’ve ever watched any of these shows, although I liked it when G.G. Allin went on Donohue.

Pick one: Leno, Letterman or Conan? Come on, I’m a twentysomething white male who lives in the city and uses the Internet. Guess.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, which public official would you want to be trapped with and why? Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.), who asked I refer to him in a 2007 interview as an “adventurer.”

Who is your mentor? The one guy who’s done the most for me in journalism is probably David Mark, my boss at my first internship, now a senior editor at Politico. But Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, and Tim Cavanaugh at Reason are responsible for my cynicism, and Spencer Ackerman‘s hustle inspired me to try and hustle at the same speed. That’s not really possible, by the way.

What’s the best advice you ever received in the course of your career? Pick up the damn phone.

What and where was your first job in journalism? The first job at which I filed stories at what was not an internship at Campaigns and Elections, now Politics magazine. Learned plenty, especially because it was clear the magazine was downsizing in preparation for a sale. It was not the last magazine to do so.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? You’d think you know the answer, but you’d be wrong. Fairly early into my USA Today job, I was tasked with getting quotes about media bias for Al Neuharth’s column. One of the first people I called was “Bias” author Bernie Goldberg. I started naively, politely asking him questions, and he stopped me and lit into my boss, explaining how he’d been wrong by him in some manner that I can’t remember the details of. He closed by saying “you tell him I said if I ever see him again, I’ll stick my foot so far up his ass he’ll taste leather.” So I told him.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy most? Penn Jillette, over the phone and in his dressing room after a show at his (and Teller’s) Vegas theater. It ran in Reason in 2008, and the toughest part was choosing which stuff not to quote.

Which one interview did you enjoy least? I winced when I had to ask Ron Paul to respond to Jamie Kirchick‘s New Republic story on his old newsletters, largely because I didn’t think Paul was telling the truth.

What is your biggest scoop? There are all kinds of scoops, aren’t there? There are the ones you were fed because you had access and the ones you got because you got in there and dug for them. I have resolved to do more of the second kind; generally, I’m happy that I was one of very few reporters to closely follow and attend the first tea party protests, thinking there might be something there.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? It was at something my friend Matt Quirk said – also so funny that I forgot what it was.

When and why did you last lose your temper? Really, really lose it? When the last leg of a flight to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, was cancelled, and I was briefly (wrongly) informed that the next flight would be four days later.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? Enemies, A Love Story

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Kyle McLachlan, I think. Might make people stop comparing me to Charlie Sheen.

Name some jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Nothing interesting. Mostly work for a bank in Delaware, which is a condition of living in Delaware.

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