Tag Archives: Andrew Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart’s mixed legacy

Andrew Breitbart at the CPAC conference in Washington last month.

It’s a tribute to Andrew Breitbart’s skill at media manipulation that when word of his death started spreading around Twitter this morning, the first reaction many people had was that it was a hoax. Only after confirmation from the Los Angeles Times and other news organizations did people believe it was really true.

Breitbart was someone I kept maybe half an eye on, at best, so I don’t have a fully developed take on his career as a media provocateur and what it meant. He seemed to be someone of endless energy and pugnacity, which served him well in bringing down Anthony Weiner, but which proved an embarrassment with the deceptively edited ACORN and Shirley Sherrod videos.

Two people asked me today if Breitbart was “a journalist.” I think it shows how much the media environment has changed over the past decade that the question didn’t strike me as making much sense. He was a conservative activist and a showman, and one of the things he did was journalism, both good and bad. If you do journalism, are you a journalist? Does it matter?

I ran across three pieces today that I think are worth sharing.

The first is a remembrance by Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal website Talking Points Memo, who gets at Breitbart’s dual nature. Despite being well to the right of someone like Marshall, and exceedingly unpleasant on occasion, Breitbart had a certain way about him that people found compelling. Marshall writes:

There are some people who live for the fight. It’s something I try not to be part of. Yet it’s a big, punchy, vivid and outrageously honorable tradition in the American public square. I cannot think of many people who lived more out loud than he did, more in primary colors.

The second, a 2010 profile by Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker, was pretty much definitive at the time and holds up well. Despite its warts-and-all depiction of Breitbart, it comes across as fair, and Breitbart emerges as a not-entirely-unsympathetic character driven mainly by resentment and disdain for those he considers to be liberal elitists. And if that’s not a good description of what the modern conservative movement is all about, I don’t know what is.

Finally, apostate Republican David Frum has written a very tough assessment for the Daily Beast that acknowledges Breitbart “was by all accounts generous with time and advice, a loving husband and father, and a loyal friend,” but that is unstinting in its criticism of Breitbart’s brand of media activism. Frum writes:

Breitbart sometimes got stories right (Anthony Weiner). More often he got them wrong (Sherrod). He did not much care either way. Just as all is fair in a shooting war, so manipulation and deception are legitimate tools in a culture war. Breitbart used those tools without qualm or regret, and he inspired a cohort of young conservative journalists to do likewise.

Like Frum, I wonder if Breitbart might have grown if given the chance. His Weiner takedown surely must have showed him that getting it right brings a completely different level of respect and influence than does faking a video and getting caught.

Breitbart was only 43 years old and leaves behind four young children. Was he on his way to media respectability, or is that just wishful thinking? We’ll never know.

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Why Anthony Weiner shouldn’t resign

Anthony Weiner

At this moment I think there’s at least an even chance that Anthony Weiner will resign from Congress. The supposed posting of an “X-rated” photo (I haven’t seen it, but Andrew Breitbart, who had said he wouldn’t release it, claims he was set up or something), coupled with the news that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant, raise the possibility that we are going to be treated to revelation after revelation. Certainly many of Weiner’s Democratic colleagues want him to resign, if only to change the subject.

But should he? Weiner stands exposed as a pathetic creep, but he’s been accused of no crime. I guess we can call this a sex scandal, although it doesn’t seem that anyone actually had sex. I’ve heard it said that Republicans at least have the decency to resign, but that’s ridiculous. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford stayed in office after he was caught hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has stuck around despite the revelation that he likes to visit hookers (a crime, by the way, even if you think it shouldn’t be one). On the other hand, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, couldn’t resign quickly enough after his sleazy behavior was exposed. You could spend hours compiling a list of Democrats and Republicans who did or didn’t resign after getting caught up in sex scandals.

The New York Times’ anonymously sourced tidbit that the Clintons, of all people, are unhappy with Weiner shows how ridiculous this has all become.

Unless Weiner is credibly accused of breaking the law, I say he should tough it out. And if party leaders want him gone, then they should recruit a good candidate to run against him in 2012.

Anthony Weiner walks out of our lives

Click on image to view story at Beatthepress.org

Well, that was one of the stranger political spectacles you’ll ever see. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., was late to his own news conference, thus giving right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart a chance to jump up to the podium and beat his chest for a few minutes. Unlike Weiner’s chest (allegedly, I must say, since Weiner later told the media he hasn’t seen the new pictures), Breitbart’s was covered by a shirt.

Among other things, Breitbart claimed to have an “X-rated” Weiner photo that he would not post. Still, you have to wonder if that might change given Weiner’s refusal to resign. God help me, I can’t believe I’m taking Breitbart seriously given his past transgressions. So that’s another gift Weiner has bestowed upon us.

Rather than keep babbling, let me direct you to our discussion of Weinergate on “Beat the Press” last Friday. The host, Emily Rooney, has some special insight into Weiner, and it’s worth hearing again following today’s confirmation that yes, that really was his wiener.