Computer messages revealed yesterday show another side to postings on a conservative Web site that sparked a firestorm of accusations between Democrats and Republicans and the resignation of longtime gubernatorial aide Joseph F. Steffen.
Steffen was forced to resign by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. after acknowledging to a reporter that he had written online, under the computer pseudonym "NCPAC," about spreading rumors on the conduct of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Steffen made the comments in exchanges with someone using the name MD4BUSH, whose identity remains a mystery. After the controversy began, MD4BUSH posted exchanges with Steffen on the Web site www.FreeRepublic.com and underlined some of Steffen's responses for emphasis.
But other parts of the online exchanges, reported yesterday by WBAL-TV and posted on the station's Web site, appear to show that MD4BUSH prodded Steffen into talking about the rumors, and that at one point Steffen advised against attacking O'Malley's personal life.
"O'Malley cheats on his wife and everybody knows it including my dentist," MD4BUSH said in an exchange with Steffen.
In another exchange, Steffen wrote, "I cannot and will not offer suggestions that may be considered unethical concerning what you should do campaign wise. This is especially true concerning MOM's [an apparent reference to O'Malley] personal life."
Amid the ensuing controversy, Steffen apologized to the mayor via e-mail and resigned. But his role in the Ehrlich administration - including the possible replacement of some state employees who were not politically loyal to Ehrlich - has remained a matter of debate between Democrats and Republicans.