Andrew Breitbart, Who Pushed the Edge of Online Political Journalism, Has Died
BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 1 2012
The controversial rightwing online publisher Andrew Breitbart died early this morning, his website BigJournalism.org reports. Brietbart had been an editor at the Drudge Report and helped launch the Huffington Post before starting his own mini-empire of websites Breitbart.tv, BigJournalism, BigGovernment, BigHollywood and BigPeace.
During his time running those sites, he practiced a kind of shock journalism that blended occasional real scoops with selective editing and deliberate provocations of his targets. Indeed, Breitbart's reputation for hoaxing was so strong, as the news of his death spread this morning people were wondering if this could also be a publicity stunt — that is, until the Los Angeles coroner confirmed the news. Breitbart, very much at home in the Internet-fueled, 24-hour news cycle, appears to have been tweeting as late as 2:25 AM ET, very close to his time of death.
On July 19, 2010, Breitbart posted edited videos purporting to show an official from the US Department of Agriculture, Shirley Sherrod, making racially offensive remarks at an NAACP fundraising dinner. Sherrod was fired the same day. The full video clearly shows her remarks were taken out of context. Sherrod later sued Brietbart for defamation, and as of this writing the case is proceeding forward. A recent motion by Breitbart's lawyers to quash the case was denied by the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
Breitbart's one truly major scoop was his publication in May and June of 2011 of several sexually explicit photos of Rep. Anthony Weiner that had been sent via Wiener's Twitter account. The ensuing controversy led Weiner to eventually resign from office.
In 2009, Breitbart's site was involved in heavily promoting a series of undercover videos produced by James O'Keefe purporting to show endemic corruption at several chapters of the community organization ACORN. Subsequent investigations by law enforcement authorities in California and New York found that the videos were "heavily edited" to make ACORN staff appear culpable and no charges were ever filed, but by then the ensuing national controversy had led to the organization's collapse.
O'Keefe later pled guilty to entering federal property under false pretenses, when a different "sting" operation he was trying to set up against Senator Mary Landrieu was exposed. Breitbart's tweets from last night show that he continued to defend his young protege against critics, including one Neal Rauhauser, who ended his tweet-war with Breitbart by saying "Have you no sense of decency sir?" and then blocking him. To anyone who knows the history of McCarthyism, bullying and falsification of facts that led to the destruction of many lives in the 1950s, Rauhauser's comment couldn't have been more appropriate.
Breitbart was 43. He leaves a wife and four children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
This post has been updated.