Crouch apparently has a history of this sort of thing. According to Salon, he got fired from the Village Voice for a similar kind of dust-up in the late 1980s:
It's true that Crouch's blustery style and pugilistic spirit can sometimes get a little out of control. In another bit of Crouchian legend, he got fired after throwing down some street fighter justice on a Village Voice colleague who disagreed with his dislike of gangsta rap music -- a brief but intense dust-up that led to the police being called and Crouch getting the ax. Crouch later described this as the best thing that could have happened to him, careerwise: "I want them to know that just because I write, doesn't mean I can't also fight," he said.
And Crouch has made a crude homophobic slur against Peck before:
"Dale Peck," he says, "is a troubled queen, and the only person who cares about him being a troubled queen is himself."
No sympathies for Crouch here -- even if he was trashed by Peck earlier.
You would think that Crouch would be able to take his lumps -- after all, his reputation as a critic is based on his pull-no-punches take on African-American intelligentsia. I'm sure that more than one left-learning black critic, writer (Toni Morrison), or filmmaker (Spike Lee) has probably wanted to slap Crouch over the years, but they're refrained. If you can dish it, you have to be able to take it.
Speaking for myself, I can't really take it, so I try not to dish it.
[Here is Sven Birkerts criticizing Peck's "Hatchet Job" technique in Bookforum, if you haven't already read it.]