On Monday, The Washington Post announced it had hired Philip Bump, a journalist currently at Atlantic magazine’s The Wire, to cover politics for their daily blog The Fix.
The move set off a chain of congratulations from across the political press corps.
But lost in the media love fest was Bump’s partisan past — a history left unspoken in either the Post’s official announcement or any of the Twitter applause. Not only does Bump’s archive at The Wire betray a palpable bias in favor of progressivism; his career as a journalist began when he headed a vicious pro-labor blog which published the names and addresses of opponents later targeted by unions.
“We’re excited to announce that Philip Bump will be joining The Fix team,” the Post’s public relations team trumpeted Monday afternoon. “Bump has written about politics and the environment at Grist and has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily and Huffington Post.”
The Post’s announcement added that Bump is a former designer at Adobe Systems, a participant in Americorps and a veteran of several political campaigns in Silicon Valley, California.
But what were these political campaigns? According to the political blog San Jose Inside, in 2009 Bump worked for the South Bay Labor Council (SBLC), a Silicon Valley-based union group with a penchant for making the political personal. Cindy Chavez, the group’s former chief executive, frequently targeted political opponents and local journalists who dared to stray from her preferred storyline.
Bump, for his part, was SBLC’s political director and administrator of “San Jose Revealed,” a pro-union website which published vitriolic hit pieces against the Council’s perceived enemies. Although the website was run anonymously, San Jose Inside discovered Bump’s connection through an examination of electronic evidence and two sources who alleged the SBLC made payments to him.
Under his direction, “San Jose Revealed” published the personal address — obtained under spurious circumstances — of a frequent target of pro-union groups. This individual’s home was later vandalized, with property destroyed and defiled with swastika graffiti.
Bump also reportedly published a map to the house of a deputy district attorney who prosecuted violent Bay Area gangs for a living, shamed a local business owner’s daughter for an unpaid garbage bill and posted the Match.com dating profile of an opposing local politician.
While Bump may have moderated his tactics after he began working at more mainstream media outlets, he still wore his liberal politics on his sleeve.
A cursory review of even his most recent articles for The Wire — one mocking former Republican governor Jeb Bush’s bank account, one admittedly “trolling” the conservative Heritage Foundation for “making Obamacare work,” still another suggesting inherent racism in the Republican Party — reveals a talented writer with an unapologetically progressive bent.
Past articles show a proclivity to wax apocalyptic about the scourges of global warming and gun violence, with one piece excoriating Americans who fail to take the “gigantic problem” of climate change seriously and another advocating forced scarcity of bullets as a way to work around Second Amendment protections.
This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself; many journalists betray open partisanship, and Bump’s pieces appear to be well-written and logically consistent. But for a paper like the Post, which prides itself in objectivity (particularly in its political reporters), it’s noteworthy how little attention was given to their newest hire’s sharp left-wing bent.
Contrast that with the Post’s hiring of Robert Costa, another recent Post employee poached from the conservative National Review. Despite Costa’s utterly objective reporting on the Republican Party — he never wrote an editorial or column for National Review and took care to express that he’s not on the “conservative team” — his hiring last fall was met with surprise by those who never expected the Post to take on even a perceived conservative journalist.
Newsbusters called it “perhaps the first time in decades that a top-tier ‘mainstream’ news outlet has hired away a reporter from a right-leaning publication.” And on the other end of the spectrum, Esquire Magazine noted that Costa “came up through the various nurseries of the longtime white-supremacist journal, National Review.” Unlike Bump, almost no one ignored the ideological component of Costa’s hiring.
In the same Esquire piece, Charles Pierce writes that although Costa’s reporting on last fall’s government shutdown was impeccable, he still “await[s] the first national political reporter that the Post hires from, say, The Nation.”
With Bump — who once contributed to the ultra-liberal Mother Jones — Pierce’s wait appears to be over.