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Ezra Klein Defends Latest Hire, But Says He Hadn't Read Writer's Criticized Work

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AP Photo / Charles Dharapak

Shortly after it was announced Wednesday that the startup had hired the openly gay Brandon Ambrosino as its writing fellow, the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America issued a stinging rebuke.

A post by MMFA's Luke Brinker declared Ambrosino to be "Homophobes' Favorite Gay Writer," citing previous pieces in which Ambrosino defended the late anti-gay televangelist Jerry Falwell and "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson, who came under fire late last year for his backwards comments on homosexuality.

Brinker also noted that Ambrosino's work has won praise from the likes of Glenn Beck and Breitbart News.

The MMFA takedown was followed by an equally tough piece on Slate by Mark Joseph Stern titled "Vox's Unbelievably Terrible New Hire."

"Vox’s stated goal is to 'explain the news,' yet Ambrosino’s only known explanatory talent is the ability to translate his private hang-ups into public screeds against his own community," Stern wrote.

But prior to the hire, Klein said he actually hadn't read any of the pieces for which Ambrosino has been so sharply denounced. Klein rectified that on Wednesday, and indicated to The American Prospect that he doesn't understand the criticism.

"I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate," Klein said. "But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.”

The Prospect's Gabriel Arana took issue with Klein's use of "homophobia," which Arana said was probably the "wrong word for it."

But Klein added that he's still pretty green when it comes to the hiring process.

“I gotta be honest,” Klein said. “With a lot of this stuff, I’m trying to figure out what success means.”

Ambrosino has not responded to TPM's multiple requests for comment.