WASHINGTON — The presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards has hired two bloggers known for derisive Internet missives against Christians generally and the Catholic Church in particular. They are at times so obscene that the Register cannot print some of them.

Not only has Edwards hired Amanda Marcotte as his campaign blogmaster and Melissa McEwen as his netroots coordinator, but he has also decided to keep them on staff despite the ongoing controversy and bitter complaints from Catholic activists.

Among Marcotte’s less offensive writings on her personal “Pandagon” blog are her assertion that Pope Benedict XVI is a “dictator” and that Catholic teachings on the sanctity of human life, sexual morality and contraception are “a way to disrupt people’s lives so the Church can get more control.”

One of Marcotte’s more offensive posts, which is too obscene to reproduce here in full, suggests that if the Virgin Mary had taken the “Plan B” contraceptive pill, then Catholics would “have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.”

McEwen, whose “Shakespeare’s Sister” blog prominently and frequently uses obscenities, referred to Christian voters in a November post as Bush’s “wingnut Christofascist base.” Last February, she wrote of Christian conservatives: “What don’t you lousy [obscenity] understand about keeping your noses out of our britches, our beds, and our families?”

No Intent to Offend

Both bloggers have issued written apologies suggesting that they did not intend to offend with their writings: “My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs,” wrote Marcotte, “and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics.”

McEwen likewise wrote: “It has never been my intention to disparage people’s individual faith, and I’m sorry if my words were taken in that way.”

Joe Cella, president of the Catholic group Fidelis, said that no reasonable person could believe these and other remarks written by the bloggers were not intended to offend.

“I think they believe what they wrote, and they did it to be provocative,” said Cella. “The degree of profanity and vulgarity that these writings contain is a clear sign that they’re trying to offend, no question.”

Kate Bedingfield, a spokeswoman for the Edwards campaign, referred the Register to a statement released by Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina and the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004. “I’ve talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith, and I take them at their word,” wrote Edwards.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, called such responses from Edwards’ campaign “lame.”

“This is all about tolerance for anti-Catholic bigotry,” said Donohue. “We know that if they had just once used the n-word, they’d be gone in a New York minute. But it’s completely different when it comes to Catholics and Christians.”

Donohue promised a campaign by a variety of religious groups — “Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups,” he said — to run advertisements and do television interviews criticizing Edwards for his decision.

“I’m going to use this as a springboard to discuss the tolerance of anti-Catholic bigotry,” said Donohue. “The two bloggers don’t matter any more, the only person that matters here is Edwards. The buck stops at the top. If John Edwards gets away with this, it will be totally open-season.”

Cella provided the Register with letters his group has sent to the other two major Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., asking them to denounce the bloggers and call on Edwards to fire them. Clinton’s press secretary did not respond to phone calls by deadline, and the phone in Obama’s Washington campaign office was busy all afternoon Feb. 9.

Cella said that Edwards’ refusal to fire the bloggers is a result of his obeisance to his party’s base. “It would fracture the base of his liberal support,” said Cella. “If you look at the liberal blogs like MoveOn.org and Daily Kos, that’s the lifeblood for a lot of these liberal candidates. So he’s really walking through a minefield.”

Despite their written apologies, neither McEwen nor Marcotte had removed any of the anti-Catholic comments from their blogs as of Feb. 12, nor had they distanced themselves from the remarks in any way.

The Internet magazine Salon reported that the Edwards campaign had fired and then re-hired McEwen and Marcotte when the controversy broke out, but Bedingfield, Edwards’s spokeswoman, told the Register that this report was untrue.

Said Bedingfield, “They were never fired.”

David Freddoso

writes from Washington, D.C.