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News and Features: Online exclusives

Pierce leaving Globe after being disciplined

In Esquire blog, he called Delaware Senate candidate “a sideshow freak”

BY: Jack Sullivan

Boston Globe magazine writer Charlie Pierce, who needs little prompting to offer opinions on everything from sports to politics, is leaving for a job at Esquire magazine after the newspaper disciplined him for writing a caustic piece about one-time Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell for an Esquire blog.

Pierce, who began his Boston writing career at the Phoenix in 1978 and has covered sports for the Globe and Boston Herald as well as national publications, will become a political blogger and Esquire contributor starting next month, the magazine announced.

In an interview yesterday, Pierce called the Esquire job a “terrific opportunity coming into an election year.” He confirmed he has a union grievance pending against the Globe, but he declined to offer any details. When asked if the dispute with the Globe was one of the reasons he was leaving the paper, he said, “You could probably safely say ‘yes.’”

A source familiar with the grievance said it stems from a blog post Pierce wrote for Esquire following O’Donnell’s upset win in the Republican primary last year. In that piece, Pierce called O’Donnell “a sideshow freak,” “a crackpot,” and “a deadbeat” and insulted all those in Delaware who voted for her.

“She no more belongs in the Senate of the United States today than she did the day she was born,” Pierce wrote. “That 30,000-odd primates in Delaware thinks [sic] she belongs there is their problem. If enough people in Delaware come to think so, then she becomes our problem.”

At the end of the column, Pierce said: “Christine O'Donnell's campaign is a successful exercise in angry, misfit masturbation, with as little to do with the deadly problems this country faces as some guy wanking in the balcony of a grindhouse has to do with Romeo and Juliet.”

According to the source, Globe officials found the column to be “intemperate and intolerant.” The source said Globe policy forbids writers from making insulting personal comments about candidates, even in another publication.

The Esquire piece appeared on Sept. 15 last year. Pierce wrote one more piece for his Esquire political blog two weeks later and then wrote nothing until late July. It is unclear if Pierce resumed writing on his own without Globe approval or if he had been given permission to resume writing for the publication.

Pierce and the Globe could not work out a settlement to their kerfuffle and he sought the backing of the Boston Globe Employees Union to fight for the grievance on his behalf. It is unclear what remedies Pierce is seeking now that he is leaving.

“It’s an unnecessary tempest,” says one union official who asked not be identified.

For his part, Pierce says he’s looking forward to the change as well as contributing to Grantland, a new blog on ESPN managed by Boston native Bill Simmons. But Pierce says he is leaving with some regret. “I have a lot of people I’m going to miss here,” he says. “Especially a lot of people in the magazine.”

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