STEPHEN SPRUIELL LAPS UP DEBORAH HOWELL'S LATEST SELF-CONTRADICTION. Incredibly, Stephen Spruiell is still trying -- and still failing -- to discredit the notion that's hiring of Ben Domenech was a sop to the right. Now he says he emailed Deborah Howell and asked her to explain the discrepancy between two statements. First, her column of Dec. 11, in which she wrote that Jim Brady was considering "supplementing" Dan Froomkin's column with a "conservative blogger." And second, Brady's own statement two days later that "the desire to bring on a conservative blogger has never been related to Dan."

According to Spruiell, Howell has now contradicted her earlier version, emailing him the following:

Jim Brady said today that he will look for someone who has more journalistic qualifications next time. Froomkin and Morley are both liberals and he is looking for a conservative voice as well. I don't think it has anything to do with Froomkin, but more wanting a lot of voices. I only said that I thought Froomkin's column should have a different title.

Sorry, Stephen, this is nowhere near good enough. Howell's email is self-contradictory and full of holes. First of all, Howell says she doesn't "think" it had anything to do with Froomkin. That is completely inconclusive -- while her earlier statement to the contrary, by contrast, was completely definitive. Second, she says "Froomkin and Morley are both liberals and he is looking for a conservative voice as well." Ooookaaaay, so...there's no connection to Froomkin there? Or there kinda is, but there isn't? Confusing at best, I'd say. Third and most important, Howell
didn't do what Spruiell asked her to do -- that is, explain the contradiction between the two accounts.

Indeed, she papered over the contradiction with an outright falsehood that, amazingly, Spruiell didn't bother acknowledging. She wrote: "I only said that I thought Froomkin's column should have a different title." False. She did, in fact, say initially that Froomkin's column was prompting Brady to hire a conservative. Howell's email to Spruiell not only isn't a definitive denial, and not only doesn't do what Spruiell asked, but also contains a ridiculously blatant falsehood. Rather than address the discrepancy between the two accounts, she instead pretended it didn't exist at all. And Spruiell apparently didn't bother pressing the point. Wonder why.

For the moment, though, let's imagine that Howell's email is the good-faith denial Spruiell is pretending it is. There are now two possibilities. Either Howell misunderstood Brady the first time, as Spruiell suggests. Or Howell told the truth the first time, speaking candidly in an unguarded moment before anyone knew just how controversial her statement was. Brady then did damage control, denying the hire would have anything to do with Froomkin. Now Howell has contradicted her earlier account with a new one that's confusing and self-contradictory and doesn't address her earlier statement, but is more in line with Brady's. Is it possible that Spruiell is right? Anything's possible -- but her email simply doesn't offer any explanation for the contradiction, and hence, doesn't give us any reason to disbelieve her first statement. I still say my version is the far more likely explanation.

And with that, my sincerest apologies to TAPPED readers for spending far too much time on this ridiculous disagreement. I'll leave the final word to one of Spruiell's ideological fellow-travelers -- Rick Moran, who unlike Spruiell is not afraid to acknowledge the obvious, i.e., that this was in fact all about throwing a sop to wingers upset with Froomkin. Moran's take:

In fact, it was Dan Froomkin�s political blog White House Briefing that had conservatives calling for a blog to reflect the views of the right at the Post. The laughable bias of Mr. Froomkin contributed in no small way to the eventual decision by Executive Editor Jim Brady to hire Ben Domenech, founder of the blog and, at the tender age of 24, a seasoned political operative having worked at the White House on Capitol Hill as a speech writer.

Here's hoping that if Spruiell still wants to argue about this, he'll henceforth direct his broadsides towards Rick Moran. 'Cause for our part, we're done.

--Greg Sargent