Andrew Breitbart: Warrior, friend, mentor
The news of Andrew Breitbart’s passing absolutely floored me. Not only was Breitbart a warrior who fought against the degrading quality of journalism plaguing our country and against corrupt career politicians, but he was my close friend and mentor.
The first time I ever reached out to Andrew was for a story I was writing about the collusion between the NAACP, the far-left-wing blog ThinkProgress, young ambush videographers from “New Left Media,” and, of course, Andrew’s favorite worst enemy, Media Matters for America. It was in early September 2010, and I emailed him to see if he’d talk with me about an interview the “New Left Media” kids conducted with him after I uncovered how those same videographers had misled tea partiers to try to get them to say dumb-sounding things.
He emailed me back almost immediately with a message that contained just his cell phone number. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean, as most folks will email back some kind of short response and times they’re available with their number. But, that was typical Andrew: always going strong, all the time, like the Energizer Bunny of conservative media, with no time for unnecessary formalities.
I called him and interviewed him, and came away with the impression that he was one of the few left in the media world I was about to enter who challenged the status quo, and who actually pushed for answers and accountability from all politicians and people in power.
That was the beginning of a relationship that I’ll always remember and cherish.
Over the past few years, Andrew became one of the few people I’d trust for guidance as my journalism career progressed. There were countless nights where I’d call him late — or he’d call me — and we’d talk for hours about the media, and about various politicians. We’d talk about journalism, and the unwritten ethics codes of it, and we’d talk about what was going on in the news at the time.
Sometimes those calls would go well past midnight. He helped me understand how politicians think and how those in the mainstream media think. Andrew shared with me his intimate knowledge of the ongoing collusion between the media, establishment politicians and corrupt Washington insiders.
When he would come to Washington, D.C., I’d observe how he worked. He and I, usually with a group of other folks, would go out to different bars around town. Once we were at the Capitol Lounge on Capitol Hill. Our group got a table on the bar’s screened-in back patio and we talked politics for hours.
Andrew ordered a couple of pitchers of beer for the group, and we hung out there into the night. Andrew sat there on his iPad running his numerous websites, checking his Twitter account and keeping an eye out for breaking news — all as he was having four or five different ongoing conversations and taking phone calls every couple of minutes. I’d never seen anyone do that before.
Other times, such as at the Conservative Political Action Conferences in 2011 and this year, I’d walk around with Andrew talking to different people. It always amazed me how he could go from one subject to another, to something else, to talking on his cell phone, to tweeting and back and forth — between everything all at once. Andrew was a master of doing it all, and doing it all at once.
Meanwhile, when he got hold of a story like Weinergate or ACORN, he was a pitbull of a journalist. He was someone who wouldn’t give up until he reached the often bitter and gruesome end of whatever he was working on.
Andrew’s mentoring — allowing me to shadow him and the countless hours he and I spent on the phone discussing corruption in the political establishment — helped me learn his ways. It was through these experiences and conversations that Andrew taught me how, and inspired me to try, to help fill the void in the media that has existed for decades.
There were specific stories that Andrew helped me with, too. For instance, there was a story that detailed instances in which Glenn Beck had used conservative bloggers’ content without attribution. That story took me about a month to put together and Andrew was a major source in it. During the weeks leading up to its publication — once again — I spent hours on the phone with him. He helped me understand the blogger community. He taught me how the larger media market works and he put me in touch with many others who were helpful.
Shortly after the story ran, Breitbart’s book “Righteous Indignation” came out. At a book-signing party The Daily Caller hosted for him, a smiling Andrew wrote in a copy he gave me: “Matthew: Liar, cheater, plagiarizer, lover, fighter! – Andrew Breitbart,” a reference to the article I just had written.
Then there was Weinergate, a scandal that put Andrew in front of cameras and in front of the world. I covered several angles of that scandal, too, and once again he and I would talk for hours late at night about what we thought, and where we thought the scandal was going. We discussed how a Democratic politician’s use of social media to distribute photos of his genitals was playing out in the media and in the political sphere almost identically to how Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal progressed.
We talked about how the liberal media at first ignored the evidence of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexual deviance, then tried to push back on it, before finally admitting the truth. I remember saying during one of these late-night phone calls: “Andrew, this Weinergate sounds exactly like what you described about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton in your book!”
Andrew simply replied: “Of course, Matthew, that’s how the left works. It feels like I’m living my book.”
In the end, obviously, Andrew won: Weiner resigned. It’s that type of persistence that inspired millions of Americans to get involved with local tea parties and other conservative groups, and it’s what has inspired me to continue doing the journalistic work he helped me learn how to do.
Above all, Andrew was someone I could trust if I was upset with something personally, or if I needed someone who understood the political world I lived in, someone who would talk with me and listen to me. Andrew was always there, and he always cared. I’ll remember him forever and I’ll never forget what he taught me.
Rest in peace, patriot.