My encounters with Andrew Breitbart, and why his death is both incredibly hilarious and a little sad
When I heard that talking colostomy bag Andrew Breitbart had died, I lol’d until I cried. I don’t need to explain why the image of him clutching his chest, lifelessly keeling over, and smashing his dumb face into the sidewalk is funny. But my tears of joy unexpectedly turned into tears of sadness. And that requires some explanation.
I first met Andrew in the lobby of the Minneapolis Hilton. He’d just trolled the lefty blogger convention Netroots Nation. He was sweaty and well fed. “They weren’t violent,” he said, frenetically, “but there was one guy who, basically, enacted a mob.”
“As individuals,” he told me, “most people here, who are from Netroots, have been pleasant — as individuals.” As one of those individuals, I agreed. Matt Yglesias kept giving me the stink-eye but, generally, Netroots attendees were a pleasant bunch.
During the previous evening’s opening keynote speeches, Netroots Nation chairman Adam Bonin warned us all about the scary Americans For Prosperity-sponsored copycat convention, happening next door at the Hilton, RightOnline. He showed us a slide of a pimped-out James O’Keefe, and said they were a “wily” bunch who were prone to trickery. He showed a Flip cam to the 2,000-plus audience. “This is a weapon.” Bonin told us not to talk to strangers, then implored us to be the bigger conference, and resist the urge to mess with them.
Downtown Minneapolis had, for the weekend, been a region ideologically divided by lanyard color. Every year AFP sets up their little shop of horrors as close to the larger Netroots as physically possible, so they can use “that conference next door” as an applause line, and siphon off some press. Wisely, Netroots has chosen Rhode Island for 2012 because of its noncompete convention rule. Until that moment, however, I’d never heard of RightOnline. I immediately set to work in the back of the dark Convention Center creating the faux-conservative blog, Eagles, Guns & Eagle-Guns, and registering for the conference, so I could get in for free and mess with them.
“But this one guy, Clayton Something-or-Other, just started to accuse me of crazy things and ask me crazy things,” Breitbart said. The guy, dipshit progressive activist Ryan Clayton, immediately accosted him with his Flip cam, and kept asking him, “Have you ever used cocaine?” The near-ubiquitous Dave Weigel was on the scene.
“They were insisting I not be there even though I was in a pubic area like this, not in the actual event,” said Breitbart. “It basically forced, I think, the people to have to react to him and to defend him, because, what are they goind to defend: Brietart’s right to be there, or were they going to go along with their person?”
“Well, they should have!” I said. Breitbart was rambling at 100 mph, and the semantic ambiguity was lost on him.
“So it was a weird experience that’s acting as a Rorschach test because those on the left were like, ‘Wow, we kicked Breitbart the coward out of there! We didn’t want him there, but he left because he couldn’t get in, but he’s a coward.’ So there’s a contradictions there — kind of like the hacker story along with the prank story. Wait, what’s the story? Were you kicked out or were you not allowed to go in because you didn’t have credentials?”
I nodded in agreement, even though this was clearly not a contradiction. He was kicked out because he didn’t have credentials. “So you still riding that, um, Weiner high pretty good? I asked.
“I’m high on — I’m on to the Netroots high!” he said, giggling. “My high was from two Mondays ago: The press conference where I feel I was vindicated because he had been lying, and many people were accusing me of being the hacker. That became readily obvious that that wasn’t the case.”
“What crazy things did they accusing you of at Nutroots?” I asked.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said, looking away, and touching his nose. “I gotta go.”
“It was an honor!”
I was sad I couldn’t tell him who I was. But, you know, the fake David Koch doesn’t identify as such when undercover at an Americans For Prosperity event. Unlike Andrew, I actually wanted to see what was happening at the “rival” conference. I was more than a little worried that someone would recognize me before I got to see Breitbart protégé James O’Keefe give a PowerPoint talk.
O’Keefe denied being funded by billionaires, though this is demonstrably false, and bragged at length about his various stunts — like the ACORN scandal that really launched he and Breitbart into the national consciousness, and that time he got a Planned Parenthood rep to agree that his fake donation would go to abort black fetuses. But when O’Keefe accepted $100 of Jay Mitchell Hunstman’s “crack pipe” money, he didn’t seem to mind the hypocrisy.
But this is about Breitbart, not his sniveling camera twerp.
Andrew and I spoke on two other occasions since Minneapolis, though I’d called his house a dozen times. We weren’t friends by any means, and our chats were contentious, but we had a sort of unspoken respect for each other as professional troll-faces. I say sort of because it’s like saying you respect Charlie Manson or Donald Trump. You don’t respect them as people. You respect their tenacity to brazenly lie, murder in cold blood, or wear a dead rat on their heads, respectively.
His kid answered and got him on the line. “Hey, Andrew,” I said casually. “How ya’ doin’?”
“Who is this?”
“This is David Koch…impersonator Ian Murphy.” It was the only time I’ve ever heard Breitbart grasping for words — even briefly.
“Why are you calling me – at home?!” he growled.
“Sorry,” I said, but I didn’t have your — ”
“What the hell do you want?” he said, indignant.
“I don’t really know,” I said. “I just want to talk.” And, for a few minutes, we did just that. He called me a “scumbag.” And I said, “It takes one to know one.” He laughed.
Perhaps it was my call that put me in his Big Government sites. My last visit to Wisconsin, some Koch/other rich asshole-backed websites conducted a smear campaign against any Democrat I’d had any contact with whatsoever. I’d link directly to the Big Government blurb, but it’s since been redirected to their homepage like it never happened. Just like Andrew Breitbart. All I have to remind me are these wonderful comment screen captures:
Our second, and final, phone call lasted nearly 15 minutes. I was very drunk that night. And I’m pretty sure he was too. It took a few beers to call Breitbart sans nefarious intent and not feel like you were betraying all that’s beautiful and good in the world. This latenight chat was more…friendly.
He said he envied liberals because we “have the facts on our side.” I said I admired him for being so dedicated to the craft of lying at the behest of his exceedingly wealthy masters. He told me I was, like him, a “performance artist.” And the blurry lesson I took away from our final call was that he just didn’t care what side he was on. He didn’t really know who he was. Andrew’s self-identity was derived from conflict. A simple twist of fate, and he’d have been prank calling asshole governors. He just liked the fight. Although, he admitted, his side paid better.
He also wouldn’t stop talking about “having sex with animals,” and “fucking pigs.” The context no longer matters.
Like awaking from a uncharacteristically candid stupor, Andrew cut me off suddenly and asked in a slurred voice, “Why do you keep calling me? What the hell do you want?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
And, truly, I don’t know what I wanted. The Big Plan, in the beginning, was to mess with him. Naturally. Make Believe Jesus knows he deserved it. But by the time I actually got him on the horn, I’d begun to both pity him and view him as a sort of gift to liberal politics and society on the whole. Though I can’t say the same about Andrew, I never recorded our chats out of that pity, backward admiration, and as a perverse professional courtesy. Maybe it was naivety. Or plain stupidity. If I ever made the news again, I worried, perhaps he’d be ready with a juicy, and highly edited, soundbite.
Or maybe that’s what I secretly wanted. Because when Andrew Breitbart went after you, you knew you did something right.
And, honestly, what could I possibly have done to discredit him? He was better at that than anyone. The Master. And that’s why, I’ve come to realize, his death is slightly sad. Slightly. It has nothing to do with squeamish false piety, as some have put it, or some seriously misguided ideal of human decency or a laughably blind respect for the dead. Unhinged, unstable, unconscionable, compulsively lying, vulgar without humor, incompetent, petulant, lacking anything resembling credibility, and generally unsavory, he was the best enemy the “professional left” could ever hope for.
You only get someone that awful once a generation.
I’d been meaning to call Andrew since the “STOP RAPING PEOPLE!” incident just to see if he was OK. We all saw this coming. Just a few weeks ago, The BEAST’s Josh Bunting even predicted Breitbart’s death on Twitter, and implored him to get help. It was becoming more and more obvious the Koch-head couldn’t handle his “natural causes.” I was genuinely worried about him. But I put it off.
So I know it’s silly, but I feel somewhat responsible for Andrew’s timely demise. And, frankly, I don’t know whether to apologize or take a bow.