I was shocked and saddened Thursday morning when I read of the untimely passing of Andrew Breitbart. The New Media generation has lost perhaps its most courageous fighter. And let’s make no mistake about it… he was a fighter.
Once a reluctant conservative, Breitbart became a vocal defender against injustices dealt to the conservative movement. He was also a pro-active crusader for accountability in the mainstream media, and pushed hard against the established grain of progressive social wisdom maintained for decades by what he called the “Democrat-Media Complex”.
Though his name probably isn’t recognized by most Americans, I can guarantee that a good portion of the country is aware of his work.
Breitbart was the man who brought down ACORN. In 2009, he nationally publicized hidden videos taken by conservative activists that revealed breathtakingly corrupt practices at multiple branches of the publicly-funded organization. The publicity ultimately led to the U.S. Senate excluding ACORN from federal funding.
Breitbart was also the man who took down Anthony Weiner, the U.S. congressman who was forced to admit that he had partaken in inappropriate, sexually graphic communications with Twitter followers. Breitbart’s documentation of the evidence and uncovering of Weiner’s multiple lies to the public is what eventually led to the congressman’s resignation. In one of the most satisfying examples of personal vindication that I’ve ever seen play out in the news media, Breitbart (who Weiner had earlier accused of hacking his Twitter account and planting incriminating photos) ended up as the opening act for the press conference in which Weiner copped to his indiscretions. In a twist of fate, Breitbart (who happened to be staying in a hotel across the street from where the press conference was arranged) showed up at the event out of curiosity. He was spontaneously urged up onto the microphone podium by reporters who began flooding him with questions about the controversy. The image of Breitbart getting his due in that fashion was surreal and absolutely iconic.
In 2010, when then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Lewis claimed that there were racial slurs thrown at them by anti-Obamacare protesters in front of the U.S. Capitol, Breitbart took an active role in debunking the accusation. While most of the mainstream media shamelessly took Pelosi and Lewis at their word (and continue to), Breitbart recognized the audacity of the claim when multiple news cameras that captured the event failed to substantiate the politicians’ account. Breitbart came to the conclusion that the story was fabricated by Pelosi and others in order to paint The Tea Party as a racist movement. Seeing from the news footage that there was a sea of home video cameras at the rally, Breitbart offered a substantial reward to whoever could produce video of the alleged slurs. No one ever came forward to collect on that reward.
As an editor for the influential Drudge Report and owner of multiple news and blog websites, Breitbart played a large role in busting down the walls of the American Left’s long-held, agenda-driven monopoly of the news media. He was a pioneer of the New Media invasion and deserves credit for the way many of us now find our news.
Last year, I read Andrew Breitbart’s book entitled “Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World”. It’s a great read for those of you interested in political media and the culture wars. In it, Breitbart tells a story that I’ll never forget – one that spoke to me on a personal level. He wrote of the first time he appeared on Bill Maher’s show and found himself trivializing his conservative beliefs and conceding points he shouldn’t have because he got caught up in the moment of being a celebrity. He wanted to be liked by Maher and the left-leaning panel. He wanted to be applauded by the audience by throwing a few prominent conservatives under the bus. Afterwards, he was deeply ashamed of his pandering and experienced a moment of awakening, vowing never again to compromise his principles. As far as I can tell, he held true to that vow… and he made the world know it.
I think a lot of us conservatives have been there. There are times when we’ve found ourselves sitting quietly by when we hear our beliefs being mocked and misrepresented by others. Maybe we’ve even gone along with the mockery to fit in with the perceived popular crowd. As Andrew Breitbart showed us, it takes courage to be a principled voice of truth, and that one person can indeed make a difference in this world if he or she stands up strongly for what they believe.
Farewell Mr. Breitbart. You’re an inspiration to many of us in the New Media community and you’ll be sorely missed.