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Boston.com fired associate editor Victor Paul Alvarez after he published a story questioning whether U.S. House Speaker John Boehner had a drinking problem and joking about a death threat against Boehner, the Associated Press reported.

The article, “Would Anyone Have Noticed if Bartender Succeeded in Poisoning John Boehner?,” said in part,  “Had he been poisoned as planned, perhaps his pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins.” The article’s headline now reads: “Bartender’s Threat Against John Boehner Thwarted.”

Alvarez’s piece responded to the death threat against Boehner by an Ohio bartender. ABC News reported this week that the Ohio man was charged with threatening murder after saying he thought about poisoning one of Boehner’s drinks at his country club.

Alvarez’s Boston.com article is still published on the Boston.com website with a note attached to the top of the article apologizing. The note, signed by Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb, called the opinion article “off-color and completely inappropriate.”  Politico noted that Alvarez’s article was originally labeled a news article.

In full, the note said:

“Last night, an opinion piece was published on Boston.com that has since been adjusted to what you’ll see below. The original column 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.”

The article also carries an editor’s note at the bottom of the story saying, “Editor’s note: A previous version of this article made an unsubstantiated reference to the health of Speaker Boehner.”

Gottlieb added that Boston.com failed to properly vet the Boehner article, according to the Boston Herald. “This piece didn’t get the kind of read that it should have,” Gottlieb is quoted as saying. “We missed a step in our process. It went from production to actually going live on the site.”

Alvarez confirmed the firing to the AP and on Twitter.


 

 

 

Boston.com’s owner apologized to Boehner, the AP reported. Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told the Herald, “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.”

iMediaEthics has reached out to Boston.com and Alvarez.

This is the third controversy in little over a month at Boston.com.

iMediaEthics reported last month about the suspension of Boston.com news editor Hilary Sargent after she made and sold online T-shirts mocking a Harvard Business School professor, Ben Edelman, about whom she had reported. Edelman had made the news for his e-mails complaining to a local Chinese restaurant about being over-charged $4.

Sargent also published a story, now-retracted, claiming that Edelman sent a racist e-mail to the restaurant; that story was false and based on a fake e-mail.

This month, Capital New York reported that two Boston.com staffers were disciplined for secretly taping and leaking an editorial meeting.

UPDATE: 1/15/2015 7:52 PM EST A PR spokesperson for Boston.com provided iMediaEthics with Boston.com’s Gottlieb’s two statements about the matter.

The Jan. 14 statement reads:

“Last night, an opinion piece was published on Boston.com that has since been adjusted to what is currently on the site. The original column 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.”

The Jan. 15 statement:

“We do not comment on individual personnel matters. Any decisions made are far less about one employee than they are about the collective Boston.com team and maintaining and strengthening the standards and values they share.”

UPDATE: 1/16/2015 9:34 Replaced statements.

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Poison John Boehner Story Gets Boston.com Editor Fired

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