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For a Senate Hopeful, Past - As "Publisher" Of Links to Porn and Crude Humor - is Prologue

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, January 24 2012

Once something is on the Internet, it's on the Internet forever, as one aspirant to the U.S. Senate now knows well.

TheLadders.com CEO Marc Cenedella is seeking support for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the U.S. Senate seat she currently holds. Potentially standing in his way is a vast tranche of over 1,000 blog posts that appear on a site under his name, many of them containing potentially offensive content, including crude sexual humor and links to pornography. The New York Times first reported the existence of these posts yesterday, saying that they were at blog.theladders.com/rock. In that story, representatives for Cenedella are quoted as saying that site was just a "maintenance staging site," a place where Cenedella's web designers could pull in copy from various sources to test the layout of his new blog.

Since then, Cenedella and an adviser, Republican consultant Bill O'Reilly, have been working to reconcile a deluge of posts that appeared on another one of Cenedella's websites, cenedella.com/stone — tagged as "posted by marc" and archived at the Internet Archive, which crawls as much of the public-facing Internet as it can and stores copies of every page it encounters — with their explanation that the writings were the product of at least six people working on a group blog called "The Stone," an effort in the style of Gawker. Cenedella told Capitol Tonight, and O'Reilly reiterated to me, that as "publisher" of the site, Cenedella takes full responsibility for the material, but can't confirm having written any individual post. To make things more convoluted, the posts that the Times first reported on, O'Reilly said, were drawn from "The Stone" as test copy.

O'Reilly named only one former contributor, Steven Higgins, a co-author who he said died in 2007 and who Cenedella memorialized on the blog at the time. O'Reilly could not provide information on other contributors before this post was published.

What's more, says O'Reilly, Cenedella and his staff knew that all of this was available for purview on the Internet Archive, which has been caching the public-facing web for about 16 years and has versions of most public sites that have been on the Internet in that time.

"All of this was available for everyone to look at and we knew that going in," he told me.

Available for purview on the Internet Archive is this about page, titled "About Stone" and marked as being updated last in July 2005, which makes no mention of anyone except Cenedella.

Also available without the Archive's help is this review of Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire", signed by Cenedella and giving his URL as cenedella.com/stone. A copy of this review appears on Cenedella.com/stone, too — well, in the Internet Archive version.

"Oh, there is no fanatic like a convert," the post reads, "And Nabokov's writing in the English language bestows his found tongue with rapture. This is Nabokov's finest (I suppose in this 21st century, I just don't find Lolita shocking! shocking! the way its rookie readers must have) and one of the top ten novels of the 20th century."

But Cenedella's thoughts on literature aren't what has riled up Gillibrand and the folks at EMILY'S List, an Internet-powered organization that raises funds for progressive pro-choice female candidates.

At issue are posts like one included in this archive page for cenedella.com/stone, including a post from 2004. A headline here reads, "A New Holiday for Men." This one links to a site that declares March 14 a day that women should show gratitude to men by giving them red meat and oral sex.

Another one-line missive linked to a website named "Free Porn For Our Troops."

O'Reilly says none of these potentially offensive posts can definitively be from Cenedella, but at least one here is written from the perspective of someone working at The Ladders:

Women turn up heat to beat the freeze

Sounds typical:

In Ottawa, Andrea Girones, a lawyer at a high-tech firm, said she and her colleagues have learned to keep company-issued fleece jackets handy. Yesterday morning, in a freezing board room, Ms. Girones tossed her fleece jacket over her T-shirt and light blue cotton skirt. It didn't exactly match her flip-flops, but she explained, "We're a business-casual building."

Only thing different at our office at TheLadders.com is the thing is so over-active that even the guys need to wear warm clothes!
Posted by marc at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Internet Archive is a non-profit that leans on some heavy-hitting web crawlers like Alexa to trawl as much of the public-facing Internet as it can and store whatever it finds. It has been doing this since 1996, providing an opportunity to look at websites all over the Internet more or less as they appeared at the time of capture. Cenedella.com is one of those websites.

O'Reilly says the pages found through the archive should be considered no more or less than what they are — relics of an Internet gone by in which commentators would note potentially odious things to call them out.

"They would link to them and say check this out or look at this or can you believe this," he told me. "They were commenting on what was going on, and that's very much in the style of the Internet, of the edgy type of satirical Internet world that came out of lower Manhattan in those years."

Later, he suggested that asking Cenedella to agree with everything on his site was not realistic.

"It would be like saying, if Arianna Huffington wanted to run for governor of California or governor of New York, that she would have to agree with or own everything that was on her site," he said. "That's obviously not the case."

With Miranda Neubauer

This post has been updated and its URL changed to reflect a headline that was changed prior to publication.

This post has been corrected. The Internet Archive has been archiving the Internet since well before 2001.