This morning, The Daily Caller posted a story about an email message radio publicist Sarah Spitz reportedly sent to Journolist, a now-defunct listserv.
"If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond?" The Daily Caller article began. "As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would."
But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio, that isn't what you'd do at all.
In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would "Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out" as Limbaugh writhed in torment.
In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. "I never knew I had this much hate in me," she wrote. "But he deserves it."
In fact, Spitz has never been an NPR employee. For many years, she has worked for KCRW, a public radio station in Santa Monica, California, as a producer and publicist.
KCRW is one of some 900 independently-operated public radio stations across the country that air NPR's news, talk and entertainment programming. Like network TV affiliates, they air national programming but act autonomously.
At 2:10 p.m. ET, Spitz issued this statement:
I made poorly considered remarks about Rush Limbaugh to what I believed was a private email discussion group from my personal email account. As a publicist, I realize more than anyone that is no excuse for irresponsible behavior. I apologize to anyone I may have offended and I regret these comments greatly; they do not reflect the values by which I conduct my life.
And in an email to NPR, Jennifer Ferro, KCRW's general manager, said "the private comments made by one of our employees, Sarah Spitz, are regrettable for all of us at KCRW."
Sarah is a longtime employee of KCRW. Please note that she is not affiliated or employed by NPR, nor does she work as a journalist, as has been incorrectly reported in the media.
Sarah was not acting in her position as KCRW Publicity Director when she wrote these comments. She spoke in the heat of the moment without consideration to the impact her words would have. We've all said things we didn't mean and don't reflect our core values. We believe that was the situation in this case. KCRW has, and always will be, dedicated to civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas.
Since 1991, Spitz has contributed six pieces to NPR's flagship magazine programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, about arts and culture in the greater Los Angeles area, on a freelance basis.
Her most-recent story, about an art exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), aired in 2006. Three pieces -- profiles of writer Ariel Dorfman and choreographer David Rusev, and a report on a literary conference -- predate NPR's Internet archive.
Anna Christopher, NPR's senior manager of media relations, says that, since The Daily Caller posted its piece this morning, just after midnight, she has been in touch with organizations that have misidentified Spitz. Many of them, including The Daily Caller, have corrected the error.
NPR News has established social media guidelines, which are available on NPR's website.
Employees are asked to "recognize that everything you write or receive on a social media site is public." They are advised to "conduct yourself in social media forums with an eye to how your behavior or comments might appear if we were called upon to defend them as a news organization."
The founder of Journolist, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, called it "an insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another."
Last month, David Weigel, a blogger The Post hired to cover the conservative movement, resigned after The Daily Caller published several messages he sent to the listserv.
Subsequently, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, the owner of Big Journalism, offered $100,000 for the full Journolist archive.