Did AOL fire Tommy Christopher for criticizing Playboy?

Earlier this week, Playboy outraged conservatives and some liberals as well when they published Guy Cimbalo’s perverse essay listing the top ten conservative women he’d like to “hate-f**k”, most of whom are friends and colleagues of ours.  Tommy Christopher at AOL’s Politics Daily immediately denounced and heavily criticized the article, but the article mysteriously disappeared shortly after PD published it, the first time the editors of AOL-PD ever dumped a story down the memory hole with no explanation.  Tommy reprinted it at his own site, and prepared an alternative version for AOL-PD — and was told he no longer worked there, after two years.  Stephen Gutowski at Newsbusters connects the dots:

AOL News has been bending over backwards lately to make sure that the do not cover thecontroversy surrounding Playboy.com writer Guy Cimbalo’s vile attack on conservative women. AOL News has taken some drastic steps to censor any mention, let alone criticism, of Playboy’s screed. They have deleted posts about the article, banned contributors from mentioning it, and even fired one of their liberal writers over it.

The fact that banning reporters from, well, reporting is so contrary to the purpose of a news organization it really is puzzling. It seems to be in direct contrast to their commitment to “traditional journalistic values”.

The evidence is stacking up quite high that AOL News fired liberal writer Tommy Christopher today due to his repeated attempts to get coverage of the Playboy attack list on AOL’s Politics Daily. Christopher had first attempted to post this criticism of Playboy’s sick list the day it was published on their website. However, he was surprised to find that shortly after putting his article on Politics Daily it was deleted by an editor.

But why?  Stephen sees corporate ties as the key:

Has the fact that AOL’s parent company, Time Warner, has a business relationship with Playboy may have affected their editorial decisions? After all Time Warner is a major national distributor of Playboy TV through their cable company.

Tommy has been a friend for quite a while, and a semi-regular guest on my daily show.  He and I do not agree on most topics, but Tommy is a good opinion journalist and one of AOL’s few that actually does traditional reporting.  He goes into Washington DC on his own to attend White House press briefings, occasionally getting to ask a question and providing first-person reporting for AOL-PD.  That seems to me to be a valuable commodity for any political website, a marker of relevance that one does not lightly toss aside.

Many people do not know that AOL has actually conducted a massive turnover in its staff under new editor Melinda Hennenberger.  Our friends Caleb Howe and Mark Impomeni have also gotten their walking papers more than two weeks ago.  Both are good, solid writers, and brought a conservative perspective to AOL-PD that now the terrific Matt Lewis has to provide all on his own.  Tommy could have been part of that revamping, but he appeared to have survived it — and again, why get rid of someone who has a spot inside the White House?

I called Tommy last night, as a friend and not as a reporter, and we discussed some of the issues off the record.  We’re going to talk to him and Caleb Howe about this and other issues on today’s Ed Morrissey Show, when they join us at 3:30 pm today.  Be sure to read all of Stephen’s column.