Boston.com fired an associate editor for writing that John Boehner's "pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins" to save the House speaker from an alleged poisoning plot.
Victor Paul Alvarez's story Tuesday about a former bartender accused of threatening to shoot Boehner and poison his drink was originally titled, "Would Anyone Have Noticed if Bartender Succeeded in Poisoning John Boehner?"
"The question is: Would anyone have noticed? Stories about Boehner’s drinking have circulated for years. His drinking inspired a blog called DrunkBoehner, and in 2010 he brought booze back to Washington. Had he been poisoned as planned, perhaps his pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins," Alvarez wrote.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) leaves a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, Jan. 13, 2015 in Washington. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
Boston.com later removed that final sentence with an editor's note saying it "made an unsubstantiated reference to the health of Speaker Boehner." On Thursday, Alvarez was fired. He told the Associated Press he apologized to his bosses for the "terrible mistake."
"The story I wrote was awful. Tasteless. Mean. Bosses felt it was inexcusable. They fired me," he tweeted.
Ordered silent yesterday. Now I can comment: The story I wrote was awful. Tasteless. Mean. Bosses felt it was inexcusable. They fired me.— Victor Paul Alvarez (@vpaulalvarez) January 15, 2015
Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb told the AP that the piece was published without senior editor approval. An apology was sent to Boehner's office from Mike Sheehan, the chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners, which owns Boston.com.
A note posted at the top of the edited story says the original version "made references to Speaker Boehner that were off-color and completely inappropriate. It reflected the opinions of one of our writers; what it did not reflect, by any standards, were the site’s collective values. Rather than remove any reference to it or pretend it didn’t happen, we are handling with transparency and self-awareness. We are sorry, and we will do better."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told the Boston Herald earlier in the week: “It should be obvious to any sentient human being that an item mocking threats against the Speaker and his family is completely insensitive and inappropriate.”