Gene Weingarten on Betsy Rothstein: “A fellow journalist described her as ‘the platonic ideal of a complete f—ing moron.'” She wasn’t.

Good afternoon.

Betsy Rothstein died on Sunday. She was, for a time, the editor of FishbowlDC, which was, under her leadership, a scurrilous, kind of disreputable website. It covered the Washington journalists with the sort of snark some Washington journalists covered other people.

Washington journos  by and large disliked her, understandably if not entirely justifiably.  She could be vicious.  She got some things wrong.  She was promiscuously unfair.  She defined as stories some things no one else would: petty, jaundiced, inexplicably snide takes on the private lives of people whose only real sin was being part of the petty, jaundiced opinionated world of D.C. politics. Betsy basically held up a mirror to her subjects. They didn’t appreciate it much.

One of her frequent punching bags was … me. FishbowlDC considered me a doddering old hack.  Her news site once illustrated me with a photo of a dog’s anus. I struck back, good-naturedly, I think, in this piece about a lawsuit against Betsy and her paper by an understandably aggrieved publicist whom they had spectacularly, outrageously defamed.  (It was eventually settled for a substantial amount of cash.)

Here’s the thing about Betsy: She was the epitome of what is a vicious and unjustified stereotype of journalists — she was an ACTUAL purveyor of Fake News. She did it jubilantly, and I think she knew exactly what she was doing.  Stereotypes are effective, and upsetting, and sometimes funny, because they tend to hint at truths, or partial truths, or perceived truths.  And journalists can be a prickly, self-absorbed, bunch of people.  She got under a lot of very thin skins.  One profile of Betsy included a quote from a well-known online journalist, describing her as “the platonic ideal of a complete f—ing moron.”

Betsy wasn’t. Betsy had a plan, and she carried it out splendidly and fearlessly. She was a happy, irrepressible bomb thrower in a dangerous arena of combat, one where you are bound to make enemies who can, and will, hit back, with excellent spelling and syntax and adroit use of withering rhetorical devices.

I never met Betsy, except in print.  But I admired her for her pluck and the fact that she simply didn’t give a crap about what people thought of her. I don’t think she took herself too seriously, which is a trait too often lacking in the people who practice my craft.

Yeah, I will actually miss her.

Also see Jim Swift of TheBulwark on Betsy Rothstein: “While in writing she could be mean or brutally honest, in person she was sweet and disarming.”

And on Olivia Nuzzi, a political reporter for New York magazine, wrote a tribute to Rothstein, whom she described as a friend and “a professional thorn in the side of Washington media figures.”

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