In Tuesday’s special election for the District Nine House Seat of New York, Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin by eight percentage points. The district, comprised of voters from Queens and Brooklyn, was represented by Anthony Weiner before he resigned in a now-famous “sexting” scandal.
No one, I believe, could have imagined that two years ago—that the seat would now be held by a Republican.
And there’s no way, I believe, that that fact would be true if it weren’t for the work of one man, Andrew Breitbart.
For idiosyncratic reasons I had been scheduled to meet Breitbart yesterday, which just happened to be the day after the historic special election. Consequently, I (and Ricochet) was afforded an exclusive in-person interview with the history-making man of the moment.
First some background. You may recall this picture—where Anthony Weiner appeared shirtless. It first appeared on one of Breitbart’s “Big” sites. The woman to whom Weiner had sent the picture had given more details to Breitbart, and Breitbart was prepared to release them. It was only after Weiner learned this, I believe, that he decided to resign.
You may remember the press conference where Weiner confessed to sending the lewd photos. At the urging of reporters at the press conference, Breitbart took the podium and answered their questions, which delayed Weiner’s confession.
“I was in the corner of the room, trying to charge my cell phone,” Breitbart told me. “Then I become surrounded by reporters. I’m answering their questions. But then the television camera people get angry because their cameras are pointed at the stage and they’re being left out. Some of them start telling me to go on stage. So I did.”
“We were here [in California] watching TV,” said Joel Pollak, the chief legal counsel at the “Big” web sites. “And then we see Andrew at the podium. We had no idea he’d do that. And we had no idea the reporters had invited him on stage. We thought, ‘Oh no. What’s Andrew doing.’”
I met Breitbart on UCLA’s campus, where we had lunch (see photo). Just before our lunch, his cell phone rang. “I hope you don’t mind,” he said. “I promised to do a 10-minute radio interview.” The interview was with conservative talk-show host Rusty Humphries.
“I’m about to eat lunch at the UCLA Faculty Club,” Breitbart told Humphries at the end of the interview. “Yeah, it’s amazing that they’re letting me in. I don’t know. I may have some sort of John-Belushi-in-the-cafeteria-Animal-House incident.”
Below are some of the questions I asked Breitbart, along with his answers (in italics):
A lot of people—and I am one of them—believe that yesterday’s election would have never happened if you didn’t exist. This is a historic moment. Have you had time to reflect on it?
Yes, I have, partly because I’ve had to live it. The truth be stated, I feel great about it. I’m not this Woodward-and-Bernstein, pretend-I’m-a-neutral-fact-finding-scientist type guy. I was falsely maligned while reporting on this story—by Weiner and people in the media. It’s only human that I derive pure satisfaction from this outcome.
In my first post as a blogger at Ricochet, I criticized conservative bloggers because they often do nothing more than regurgitate stories that have already appeared in the mainstream press. A commenter on Ricochet [John Marzan] responded, “Andrew Breitbart’s Big blogs do original reporting.” I think he’s right. What separates you from most other conservative bloggers?
Let people recognize that as significant, because that’s what we’re after.
But it’s also very difficult. We do so with pure people power. The power of our sites is citizen journalism that wants to get beyond complaining about liberal dominance and begin the reporting and narrative-driving that has been sorely lacking [from conservatives] for at least a generation.
It’s just one of those labors of love. I pick editors who are experts and generalists and curators and social commentators, who can bring together like-minded people—professionals, many of whom have day jobs, who recognize that the New York Times and NBC News have no desire to deliver the news in a fair manner. So, without the billions of dollars that it takes to constitute the mainstream media, we’re building something—not unlike the tea party—from the bottom up.
[In his recent book Breitbart is very open about his Attention Deficit Disorder, which I witnessed firsthand. As I was about to ask a question, he pointed to a gift that I had given to him earlier. It was a small poster of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. “Is this some sort of astrology thing?” Breitbart asked. “No,” I responded. And I gave a short lecture about Wooden’s wisdom about some of the Pyramid’s building blocks, including “Industriousness,” “Enthusiasm,” and “Confidence.”]
I can tell you where I get my enthusiasm and confidence. I talk to lots of tea-party groups. And after I talk, I stick around and hang out with folks. Sometimes military people come up to me and say things like, “We’ll take care of the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. You take care of the enemy at home.”
I live by a veterans’ cemetery. I can see it from my window. In fact, I live on the side where the new graves are. Sometimes I see parents who are my age burying their sons. At times I get these Woodenesque clear moments. I’m from L.A. I’m from Hollywood. There’s a tendency for us to be shallow, and I know I have my shallow side. But when these folks come up to me, I basically get slapped out of my A.D.D., and it makes me focus. They tell me, “These are serious times. You have a duty. Keep doing what you do.” And I heed their call.
These people—the military people, the tea-party people, the frickin’ fly-over-country people who the media institutionally berate and malign—come up to me and say “Thank you.” And when they do, [Breitbart paused] … IT … IS … EVERYTHING.