As part of the promotional rollout for his new book, Hollywood Hypocrites, Jason Mattera yesterday unveiled an ambush interview he conducted with U2 lead singer Bono. Or at least, that's who Mattera thought he had ambushed.
The video was posted at conservative websites like Breitbart.com and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, but was later marked “private” on YouTube and pulled from Breitbart.com. Why? As explained by The Blaze,“There is widespread discussion on Twitter that the person Mattera interviewed in the videos may have been a Bono impersonator.”
In what is likely the vaguest retraction in recent history, Breitbart.com added an editor's note saying, "Last night, we removed an article about Bono at the request of the videographer who had provided the links to the videos upon which the article had been based."
During an appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program yesterday, which includes a brief snippet of the Mattera interview with “Bono,” Hannity and Mattera touted "bad boy reporter" Mattera's impressive ambush interview skills. Asked by Hannity how he managed to get an interview with “Bono,” Mattera replied that it was “basic shoeleather journalism.” (Hannity promised to run the video on last night's edition of his Fox News program, but said on Twitter this morning that Mattera's appearance was preempted by election coverage and that they would run the video tonight instead.)
Mattera and Hannity complained about how “Bono” refused to answer Mattera's inquiries about controversy over U2's taxes. As Mattera put it, “He just filibusters forever without any actual explanation.”
In light of the speculation that Mattera was actually interviewing a Bono impersonator, some of the exchanges in the video take on newfound hilarity, including Mattera browbeating “Bono” for saying that he doesn't have control over U2 (transcript via The Blaze):
Mattera: By dodging taxes on royalties are you raiding the poverty programs you purport to champion?
Mattera: No? Don't you want governments to be generous with other people's money and not yours?
Bono: I don't have control over that...
Mattera: How do you not have control over that? It's your company. Are you not in charge of your own company?
Bono: It's not my company.
Mattera: You have no say in what U2 does?
Bono: Not particularly.
Mattera: You don't? You don't have a say in what U2 does?
It's no longer possible to watch the video online, but courtesy of The Blaze, here's a shot of Mattera interviewing “Bono.”
Via Ebaum's World (h/t commenter eddie-george), here's the now-pulled interview between Mattera and “Bono”:
The video identifies the encounter as having taken place on February 8, 2012, at The Village Recording Studios. Last night, Twitter user Mark Abernathy pointed out that a Bono impersonator was present at an event there that night (and wearing identical clothes as the “Bono” that appears in the video).
Sean Hannity, who played portions of this interview on the radio yesterday, owes his listeners a retraction.
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple got comments from both Mattera and the Bono impersonator. Mattera admits that he “got punked,” which he claims was “bound to happen sooner or later”:
Yes, he says: “I got punked. I thought I got Bono. I didn't. I got his impersonator apparently. Hats off to him. He got me -- and how!” writes Mattera in an e-mail that speaks to his sense of accountability. “After scores of interviews with big-time politicians and celebrities, I finally got had. It was bound to happen sooner or later. On the bright side, if I'm gonna get had as good as I did, it might as well be in pursuit of one of the greatest rockers ever. While we're on the subject of me getting snookered, I'm now left to ponder: was that really Vice President Joe Biden I talked to?”
It's true! When you practice “basic shoeleather journalism,” you will inevitably spend several minutes interviewing a Bono impersonator about U2's taxes at some point.
Wemple's entire piece is worth reading. Highlights include the Bono impersonator telling Wemple that he was “waiting” for Mattera to clue into the fact that he wasn't actually Bono, but that it never happened.
During today's radio show, Hannity apologized for running the Mattera video yesterday and invited Mattera on to explain himself. Mattera, who said that he was “sort of laughing about it,” repeated his explanation to Erik Wemple that “it was bound to happen that I would be punked sooner or later.”
Hannity, who said that he finds the entire story “hilarious,” explained: “I looked at it -- it looked pretty real to me. And I just figured you were standing next to him that you would know if it was or wasn't but I guess if he can convince you, then the guy deserves credit for being that good at it.” The impersonator told Wemple that he wasn't even “pretending to be Bono” and that he wasn't trying to affect Bono's accent.