Andrew Breitbart

Tags ››› Andrew Breitbart
  • Breitbart News Has Always Been A Disaster

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Shapiro Breitbart PollakBreitbart News is currently imploding. The site's decision to prioritize its support for Donald Trump over its responsibilities to its own reporters has triggered what seems to be a staff uprising and potential exodus, with four writers out the door and others reportedly circulating their resumes. Breitbart management is now embroiled in a vicious back-and-forth with no end in sight.

    The purged are invoking the journalistic "legacy" of the site's creator, the late conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, as a key reason to flee. "Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: fight the bullies. But Andrew's life mission has been betrayed," wrote editor-at-large Ben Shapiro in his statement of resignation. "Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew's legacy."

    Under Andrew Breitbart's leadership, this story goes, the website did great things, but those who inherited his empire have ruined it.

    As a member of Media Matters' research staff, I have been reading the various elements of Breitbart's network since his "news" site Big Government went live in 2009. I have watched the launch of various sub-sites under the "Big" umbrella under Andrew Breitbart's stewardship and the relaunch as the Breitbart News Network shortly after his death in 2012. I can say with some authority that the notion of a "golden age" of Breitbart journalism is fiction.

    By all accounts, Breitbart was a loving father, husband, and friend, and a cherished mentor to a generation of young journalists. That said, his news site was always a hotbed of ridiculous smears and lies pushed by writers with little interest in the truth.

    Following the conservative writer's death, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf wrote of Breitbart's work:

    It would have been great if the Big sites aimed for higher quality journalism. Said libertarian press critic Jack Shafer in his obituary of Breitbart, "I liked the idea of Andrew Breitbart better than I liked any of his work at Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Peace, Breitbart or" And no wonder. What are the best 10 pieces published in the history of those sites? You'll find more quality work in a single issue of City Journal than the sum total of everything Breitbart wrote or commissioned and published in his whole career.

    Breitbart's media empire began with his news aggregation site and his video aggregation site Big Hollywood, his group blog focused on culture, launched in January 2009. But it was Big Government, his political news site, that first made him a national political figure when it debuted in September 2009.

    The Big Government site launched with a major exclusive: conservative activist and videographer James O'Keefe's "nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation," a series of videos documenting supposedly illegal behavior by staffers for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a community-based organization that advocated and provided services for the poor. The story drewfirestorm coverage from the media as new videos trickled out one by one on Breitbart's website, triggering congressional action to ban federal funding for the organization and eventually leading to its collapse.

    It was also based on a lie.

    A series of investigations by state and local authorities found inappropriate behavior but no criminality on the part of the ACORN staffers. They also found that O'Keefe's videos, prominently trumpeted on Breitbart's website, had been "severely edited" by O'Keefe and a fellow activist, who had taken the statements of the employees out of context in order to "meet their agenda."

    Breitbart's sites spent much of the rest of 2009 publishing similar smears of progressives that did not survive the most minimal scrutiny. Was the White House making a political statement with Mao Zedong ornaments on the Christmas tree? (No.) Community organizers were praying to Barack Obama! (No.) The White House got union members to beat up a Tea Party protester! (Definitely not.) Meanwhile, the crew at Big Hollywood was spending significant time with birther nonsense as well as more pedestrian comparisons of Obama to Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Fidel Castro.

    The site's low point may have been Jim Hoft's disgusting anti-gay smears of Ken Jennings, the Department of Education official responsible for preventing bullying in schools. Hoft, the dumbest man on the Internet, wrote a series of posts targeting Jennings for his Gateway Pundit website, repeatedly drawing upon the work of hate group MassResistance. Hoft's attacks on Jennings were routinely cross-posted on Big Government.

    Breitbart's attempts to attack members of the administration culminated in his July 2010 effort to prove that Shirley Sherrod, an African-American official at the Department of Agriculture, was a racist who refused to provide aid to a white farmer. Sherrod was quickly fired as right-wing outlets began pushing Breitbart's story. But the claim imploded after full video emerged showing that Breitbart had taken Sherrod out of context, and the farmer in question came to Sherrod's defense, calling her a "friend" who "helped us save our farm."

    Sherrod subsequently sued Breitbart; she settled with his estate in October 2015.

    As Breitbart sought to defend his smear, he made what must go down as one of the strangest editorial decisions of his career. Big Government published two posts attacking Sherrod that were authored by one Dr. Kevin Pezzi, who claimed that Breitbart had sought him out himself. Our investigation of Pezzi quickly revealed the following:

    Pezzi, who says that "Breitbart asked me to write for," has a peculiar self-described history. Pezzi claims to be responsible for "over 850 inventions" and schemes such as a "magic bullet" for cancer, a "robotic chef," and sexual inventions like "penile enlargement techniques" and "ways to tighten the vagina" (because "men like women with tight vaginas"). Pezzi has started multiple websites, from term paper helpers to a sexual help site that answers "your questions about sexual attraction, pleasure, performance, and libido" (Pezzi is qualified to do so because "No doctor in the world knows more about sexual pleasure than I do").

    Pezzi's posts were subsequently removed from Breitbart's website, because while they represented "one of the most thorough and well-researched examinations" of Sherrod, "we have been made aware of other writings from this author which do not reflect the principles and values of this site."

    Breitbart followed up his fabricated smear of Sherrod as a racist by accusing civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) of lying that Tea Party activists protesting health care reform had hurled racial epithets at him.

    Breitbart's defenders cite his 2011 report that the married Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) had been sending sexually explicit material to other women as one of his websites' major victories. Breitbart published a series of Weiner's explicit social media posts, and his work triggered Weiner's resignation. But the story wasn't exactly Watergate.

    The rest of 2011 was basically par for the course for Breitbart's websites. There was the time they accused President Obama of having "marched with" the New Black Panther Party in 2007 (thousands participated in the march, which commemorated the 1965 march from Selma, and Obama actually spent the event with civil rights icon Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth). There was the time Big Government reported that an Occupy activist had been murdered inside a protest camp in Savannah (that did not happen). There were all the different times Big Journalism featured a Nazi-era anti-Semitic cartoon. And there was the time that, two days after Breitbart himself attacked birtherism, a blogger for Big Journalism promoted Jerome Corsi's book Where's the Birth Certificate under the headline "What If The Birthers Are Right?" (days later, Obama released his long-form birth certificate).

    In March 2012, following Breitbart's tragic death, the site released Breitbart's final column, which was designed to kick off his relaunched news empire's effort to "vet" Obama the way the media had purportedly failed to do.

    Breitbart's post revealed that in 1998, then-state Sen. Obama attended a Chicago play about activist Saul Alinsky and then took part in a panel discussion afterwards.

    In the months that followed, Breitbart's heirs unveiled a series of similarly shoddy efforts to "vet" Obama. Among the big stories was one about a "smoking gun" video showing then-Harvard Law student Barack Obama hugging the late Harvard professor Derrick Bell at a 1991 protest supporting Bell's push to have a woman of color offered tenure at the school.

    As Bell was, according to the website, a dangerous radical, this was supposed to be a big deal. In fact, Bell was a respected academic; even if he had been a dangerous radical, the video of him and Obama hugging would prove nothing, and the video had been available online for years and the event had been repeatedly reported on.

    Another supposedly big story covered a 1991 pamphlet published by Obama's former literary agency that erroneously describes him as being "born in Kenya." This supposedly fit "a pattern in which Obama -- or the people representing and supporting him -- manipulate his public persona." Hours later, the literary agency revealed that it had been a fact-checking error on its part.

    The years to come would bring embarrassments like the "Friends of Hamas" smear and the time the website tried to attack the wrong Loretta Lynch. The flagrant support for Trump has been a new and humiliating development for the site.

    But there was no journalistic legacy for Breitbart's heirs to squander. Big Journalism was always bad journalism.

  • Sometimes The Journalism Is Just Too Big

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    This past Saturday, February 4, Big Journalism contributor Charles C. Johnson made a novel argument about how the January jobs report proves that the media were wrong about the economic recovery. The crux of Johnson's argument was that "only 125,000 jobs were added in January," a drop-off from December's 200,000 jobs:

    But digging a little deeper into these December jobs report finds that 42,000 were Christmas couriers and messengers, one in five of the 200,000 jobs allegedly created during December was shipping and delivering goods. These holiday jobs were hardly the jobs of the future; they weren't even the jobs of the next month.

    Indeed, according to CNBC, the jobs report showed that only 125,000 jobs were added in January, compared to 200,000 created in December. This is very bad news and it essentially ends the hope of a recovery as the economy needs to generate 125,000 jobs a month just to stay apace with the growing population.

    There's nothing unusual about media conservatives trying to make lemons out of lemonade regarding the improving jobs picture. What set Johnson's argument apart from the others was the curious assertion that the jobs report showed "only 125,000 jobs" were created in January. The BLS report put the number at 243,000, nearly double what Johnson claimed, and an increase from December. What accounts for this discrepancy, upon which the entirety of Johnson's argument was based? Let's take a look at that CNBC report he linked to.

    Here's the key passage:

    Economic reports in the coming week could be mixed, as the January jobs report Friday is likely to show lower job growth in January, with an increase of nonfarm payrolls of about 125,000 jobs.

    December's report showed 200,000 jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent.

    Now things begin to come into focus. Johnson based his argument on a CNBC article published on January 27, one full week before the actual jobs report was released. Either he didn't bother checking the dateline, or he didn't quite register the fact that the article clearly looked forward to the forthcoming release of the jobs report. Whatever the explanation, it's an embarrassing error.

    And it gets worse.

    You'll notice that I haven't linked to Johnson's Big Journalism post yet. That's because I can't. Breitbart's website scrubbed it sometime on Sunday. It no longer appears on Big J's front page, nor does it show up in Johnson's author's page. It does live on, however, in the Google cache, and can be seen here for as long as it remains cached. (And we grabbed a screenshot, for posterity's sake.) The tweet Big Journalism sent out promoting it is also still around.

    What Big Journalism neglected to do was to post a correction or any sort of editorial notation regarding the story's disappearance -- a curious oversight for an outfit that enthusiastically demands corrections of other media outlets at every given opportunity.

  • Conservative Bloggers Can't Decide Who's Getting Softer Press Treatment, Romney Or Gingrich

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    With signs that the Republican nominating process may take much longer, and become much more contentious, than once thought, fault lines are beginning to appear within the conservative media, which has traditionally been very disciplined in their messaging.

    What's confusing though, is watching conservative bloggers, who traditionally bash the press for being unfair to Republicans, suddenly claiming the press is being too nice (too fair?) to certain GOP hopefuls.

    Last week, Andrew Breitbart's editorial panel at Big Journalism, claiming to have spotted a long-term press conspiracy, lashed out at the mainstream media for giving Mitt Romney a free ride prior to his possible nomination:

    John McCain's Romney oppo file makes its way to the Internet. Will the media now begin to talk about some of the troubling things in Romney's record, or will they "Obama him" and allow a candidate to skate through the primary with little vetting -- except what the candidates can push through before they're jumped on and called "mean?" The media doesn't want to vet Romney now; they're holding their fire in the event he becomes the nominee, after which they will unload.

    This week, conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who has been forceful in her support of Romney, lashed out at the mainstream media for giving Newt Gingrich a free ride while supposedly "grilling" Romney with "enthusiasm":

    The key question for tonight's debate is whether the NBC moderators will serve up more hanging curveballs over the plate for Newt Gingrich to bash out of the park or whether they will actually scrutinize him with the same enthusiasm they have shown in grilling Mitt Romney.

    There's something surreal in watching conservatives complain the press is being too nice to a Republican candidate during primary season.

  • "A Classic Example Of What Is Wrong With Our National Discourse"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    A network that employs one contributor who repeatedly threatened to pull a "gun" on government employees and another who praised U.S. Marines for apparently urinating on dead Afghans is now hosting discredited liar Andrew Breitbart to provide political commentary. CNN anchors previously said that Breitbart lacks credibility following his use of deceptively edited video to smear former Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod as a racist.

    Breitbart has appeared on CNN four times this year, including interviews with the network's hosts Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan in panel segments during their coverage of the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina and New Hampshire Republican primaries. Pinsky also hosted Breitbart on the January 20 edition of his show, Dr. Drew.

    Breitbart on CNN

    CNN is well aware of Breitbart's history of fabrications and his lack of credibility. After his infamous Sherrod smear unraveled, CNN's own Anderson Cooper calling his actions "a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse." Cooper joined a wide array of media who criticized Breitbart's tactics and pointed to what Ben Smith called his "growing credibility problem."

    As recently as last November, CNN's Don Lemon reported that a remark from President Obama had been "taken out of context" in an ad produced by Mitt Romney's campaign and commented, "for those on the right who are jumping on the lazy bandwagon, perhaps they should remember that context is everything. And there's always the videotape. Just ask Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod."

    Even Morgan has said that it is "perfectly natural to be suspicious of Mr. Breitbart" and "understandable people might be at least skeptical" of his reporting "given his track record."

    In 2010, ABC News drew widespread criticism, including from its own newsroom, after Breitbart's website reported -- and Media Matters confirmed -- that he would be providing analysis for the network during its election night coverage. ABC's George Stephanopoulos had previously called out Breitbart for pushing claims about Shirley Sherrod that were "clearly not true." The network subsequently announced that Breitbart would "not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage," but rather would be "participating in an online-only discussion and debate" for After many recriminations, with Breitbart saying he had been promised broadcast time and ABC responding that he had "exaggerated the role he would play," ABC dropped him from its elections coverage.

    Surely CNN can also find a conservative to discuss elections who hasn't had his credibility rightfully criticized by the network's own anchors.

  • Why Conservatives Can't Do Journalism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Another year, another concerted effort by conservative leaders to play catch-up with liberals and to finally launch effective media and messaging tools online. They can keep trying, but until conservatives change their behavior, their goals will remain elusive and their established trend of failure will continue indefinitely.

    The news this week came in the form of a Politico article announcing the launch an outpost called Center for American Freedom, which will house a conservative news outlet called the Washington Free Beacon. Its founders are touting the launch as an effort to match the impressive gains progressives have made at places like Center for American Progress, the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo. The founders are also candid about how their side has been getting lapped by progressives for years in this arena.

    The reason remains simple: Partisan conservatives have routinely shown they have neither an interest in genuine journalism, nor the skills to practice it. Conversely, progressives over the last decade have put in the hard work, held themselves to professional standards of conduct, and have reaped the rewards. So it's no surprise that year after year conservatives moan that progressives have built a new media infrastructure and are outclassing them, especially online.

    They are.

  • The Muppets, The Girl Scouts, And A Third Grade Song

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Sometimes you can learn all you need to know about the precarious state of the right-wing media by looking at who they select as opponents for public scraps in their never-ending cultural war battles. Sometimes by examining the unsuspecting adversaries, you learn more about the confused far-right players than you do by paying attention to their diluted arguments.

    I'd suggest now is one of those helpful, crystallizing moments as the right-wing media, supposedly led by adults, have recently whipped themselves into various states of frenzy while calling out the evil forces behind The Muppets, the Girl Scouts of America, and a song sung by third graders in Virginia. (For the absurd sets of circumstances, see here, here and here.)

    Talk about a Murderer's Row.

    Now, anyone who regularly reads Media Matters as we monitor the dim stars of the conservative Noise Machine understands that being robotically, systematically unserious remains a prerequisite for a leadership role in that community. So the notion that misguided conservative media outlets waste their time concocting nonsense isn't exactly news. And I guarantee you that as 2012 unfolds, we will uncover countless instances of head-scratching ineptitude that will replace the current meltdowns that seem so defining.

    But it's worth noting, I think, this current trilogy of insipidness disguised as political commentary, and to pay particular attention to the targets of of the burning right-wing wrath. I repeat, The Muppets, the Girl Scouts of America, and a song performed by third graders.

  • Breitbart Editors Won't Stop Digging

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    What a humiliating week it has been for Andrew Breitbart and his team of editors as they continue to struggle with the fact that Big Government editor-in-chief Mike Flynn posted an entirely erroneous report that an Occupy activist had been murdered inside a protest camp in Savannah. The claim was patently false. But rather than acknowledge that fact and apologize for the mistake, Breitbart's editors have chosen instead to keep digging a very deep and very embarrassing hole, while piling lies on top of lies.

    The latest effort today comes from Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief of, who contributes a weak attempt to deflect attention from the Savannah debacle. In his angry pushback, Pollak lobs all kinds of unrelated attacks against Media Matters, because we helped highlight the Flynn fiasco. But what does he have to say about the botched Savannah report? Pollak pushes the flimsy lie that Flynn had moved quickly this week to correct his post. Pollak also claims the Savannah story was confusing, and there was so much breaking news, nobody could really tell what was going on.

    Except everyone else in Savannah was able to follow the story. Only Flynn, who made up the claim about a murder inside the Occupy camp, seemed to have trouble keeping up.

    The problem Breitbart's team cannot get around, and still refuses to concede, is that Flynn made an astonishing sloppy error in his original post on Monday. Basing his item on an Occupy Savannah Facebook posting that announced the sad news that local activist Jonathan Brazell had been shot and killed over the weekend, Flynn immediately reported the killing took place inside the Occupy camp.

    It did not. And nowhere in the Facebook posting was it suggested that it did. (According to press accounts, police say Brazell was the victim of an attempted robbery that occurred ten miles from the Occupy camp.) Flynn though, made the erroneous connection and then used that manufactured connection to smear the Occupy movement, which Breitbart's sites have been doing obsessively for two months.

    Colleagues of Brazell though, began to flood Big Government to denounce Flynn's fabricated claim about a murder inside the camp, as well Flynn's tasteless attempt to politicize it.

    So what did Flynn and Big Government do? Nothing. Flynn posted his report on Monday. On Tuesday morning, Media Matters called out the falsehoods in the item. It wasn't until Wednesday that Flynn attached a non-correction, non-retraction "update" to the top his misguided story [emphasis added]:

    "Savannah police have now clarified this morning to Big Government via telephone that the shooting of Occupy Savannah activist Jonathan Brazell is being investigated as an ordinary robbery, due partly to the fact that it occurred at a significant distance from the protest site itself.

    Savannah police "have now confirmed?" But they confirmed that on Monday!! So why did it take Flynn until Wednesday to acknowledge facts that were already widely known? Do you see just how incredibly dishonest this all is?

    The sad part is nobody should be surprised this week by the unethical and borderline amoral behavior displayed by Breitbart's editors. They seem to thrive not only on concocting stories and spreading misinformation, but doing it in the most hateful and distasteful ways possible. And when they're caught, they refuse to behave like grownups.

    Like I said, it's been a humiliating week for all of them involved.

  • Breitbart Editor Still Has Not Retracted False Claim About Murder At Occupy Savannah

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yesterday, Big Government editor-in-chief Mike Flynn posted a report claiming somebody had been murdered at the Occupy Savannah protest. Flynn's post fit in with an obsession at Andrew Breitbart sites to portray the Occupy movement as a haven for rapists and murders and drug addicts. The right-wing media has spent months now relentlessly trying to demonize the activists.

    Flynn seemed eager to add to the list of alleged crimes [emphasis added]:

    Social media has been the principal vehicle of communication for the #Occupy movement. Through Facebook and Twitter, the loosely-knit band of anarchists, communists and leftist agitators have coordinated their actions and disseminated news to supporters around the world. There has also been a very dark side, but we'll leave that aside for now. This afternoon, #OccupySavannah, through its Facebook page, announced the murder of an activist at the #Occupy camp:

    False. The Facebook post in question did not announce the murder of an activist "at the #Occupy camp." Instead, it passed along the sad news that a local musician, and Occupy protester, had been killed in Savannah the day before.

    According to police, the man was shot during a robbery that occurred in another part of town from where the Occupy protests are being held. But having already botched the story about the murder taking place "at" Occupy Savannah, Flynn, just hours after a man had been murdered, charged ahead and made sure to claim there was a political connection:

    I will temper my thoughts in the wake of this tragedy. But it bears repeating that earnest, well-intentioned, but misguided youth like Mr. Brazell have been cynically exploited by the progressive-industrial machine for political gain. They have been lured into situations that are increasingly dominated by criminals and predators.

    Wow. The murdered man in Savannah had been "lured" to his death by the Occupy movement, even though the man was the victim of a robbery approximately ten miles away from the protests?

    What's even more remarkable is that press accounts debunked Flynn's erroneous claim, and even after readers at Big Government posted links that completely debunked Flynn's erroneous claim, no correction or retraction has been posted by Flynn or Breitbart.

  • Pelosi Smear Reportedly Based On Book By Breitbart Editor

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Right-wing media have used questioning by CBS' Steve Kroft of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to accuse her of a "conflict of interest" based on an investment in Visa, ignoring her shepherding of historic credit card reform. Kroft's questioning will air on tonight's 60 Minutes, which was reportedly based on a forthcoming book by Peter Schweizer, the editor in chief of one of Andrew Breitbart's websites. Schweizer has worked on behalf of President Bush, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin, and drew criticism for a previous false attack on Pelosi.

  • Breitbart/Fox Pelosi Smear Continues To Fall Apart

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    More details continue to emerge putting to rest the claims by conservative media activists that Rep. Nancy Pelosi faced a conflict of interest as speaker of the House because of an investment in Visa she made during that time.

    On Thursday, 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft asked Pelosi whether her family had invested in Visa while she served as speaker, thereby creating a conflict of interest as she oversaw credit card reform. Andrew Breitbart and Fox Nation quickly sought to create a mini-scandal by linking to the video with salacious headlines.

    The smear was completely discredited by the fact that, during that time, Pelosi oversaw the passage of historic credit card reform -- legislation aggressively opposed by the financial services industry and touted by consumer advocates.

    Today, Politico further discredited the story, reporting that Pelosi's investment did not create a conflict of interest based on Congressional ethics rules:

    [T]he House Ethics Committee notes that "ownership in a publicly traded company generally will not present a conflict of interest requiring recusal from voting" on legislation affecting that company. In that instance, lawmakers are treated as part of a "class" of investors rather than as individuals and are allowed to vote.

    The Pelosi's holdings in Visa stock would likely not have been seen as significant in a company with hundreds of millions of shares outstanding.

  • Right-Wing's Pelosi Smear Ignores Historic Credit Card Reform Passed Under Her Watch


    Right-wing media figures are accusing Rep. Nancy Pelosi of a "conflict of interest" based on an investment in Visa when she was Speaker of the House. But as Pelosi herself noted, while she was Speaker she oversaw historic credit card reform that was opposed by the financial services industry and touted by consumer advocates.

  • The Occupy Wall Street Disconnect

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Something is not adding up when it comes to the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests.

    According to the right-wing media, which has showered the movement with endless coverage for the last six weeks and done its best (worst?) to demonize it, Occupy Wall Street and its protesters are "anti-American," "communist, Nazi....pot-smoking, sex addicted morons." They're "anti-Semitic" "whiners," "loons," "parasites," and "petulant little children." They're lunatic," "comrade", "losers" who represent the "fringe of the fringe of the fringe," are becoming "increasingly violent" and follow the lead of Hamas. They're "anarchists," and "smug stupid idiots" who "sound like the Unabomber."

    The disconnect? According to the latest CBS/New York Times poll, a plurality of Americans support Occupy Wall Street.

    In terms of messaging and propaganda, we may be witnessing one of the right-wing media's all-time great failures.