Give Andrew Breitbart a plate of spare ribs and a goblet of red wine and he’s yours for as long as you want him. In fact, he’ll stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning telling you what he thinks about a whole host of things on his mind. Hey, if we’re going to do that, can we at least have some ribs and wine too?
For now, it’s 8 p.m. on Wednesday night — CPAC eve — and Breitbart, a publisher who runs six websites, is just getting warmed up. He’s at home at “The Embassy” (the townhouse he and his business partner, Larry, call “home” in Washington) for a book party on digital kids books that focus on family values like hard work and patriotism. Larry is a little freaked out about by my miniature blue notebook and pen but soon enough he gets over it. No one is talking about those kiddie books. Certainly not Breitbart.
He’s chilling in the parlor in a masculine rich brown leather armchair. His exquisite mop of gray curls sets off nicely against his attire, a pale blue button down, faded blue jeans and dark loafers, and his eyes, a crystalline blue.
For starters, Breitbart in person is not Breitbart online. He dominates every room he enters with his emotional and physical presence, but he’s warm and hospitable — and quite the goofball. He knows the perception is off. “All these bastards in media who meet me like me because they know I won’t lie,” he says. But not all like him, not even on the right, and he knows it. Hence the bodyguard he’ll have as he attends CPAC this week. He doesn’t like to think about danger too much. He jokingly mentions weapons he carries that include a “bazooka, a dog feces catapult and horse urine balloons.” He gives a nod to his publicist on the dog feces line and makes sure she thinks it’s funny. At two or three junctures in our conversation, he prefaces what he is about to say by declaring that THIS will be the most shocking thing I hear from him all night. In those moments, I brace myself for news that he once ate a live chicken including the beak and then he inevitably tells me something comparatively benign.
But Breitbart, even at his least shocking, is anything but benign…
In some respects, Breitbart could make a killing by producing a CD of stories. There could be “Weinergate — the weekend that could have ruined my life,” “Weinergate, the weekend that could have destroyed my marriage,” and “Up in the Air with MMFA’s Eric Boehlert – Five hours of Bliss.”
For now, that doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, the Breitbart Variety Show is about to begin.
As the man who launched Weinergate with that infamous underwear shot, he looks back on the ordeal with an eye of wonder. “It wasn’t until the heroic Dana Bash jumped into the fray and said this is bullshit” that things began to take off, he’s saying in a long outpouring on the matter. “Everything in this town is go along to get along. When you do your job I am going to stand right behind you, even if I had a problem with you two weeks ago.” He continues praising Bash, saying, “Dana Bash was a pretty good experience for me. I could imagine the pressure she felt going after a New York liberal congressman. I believe it took political courage to do what she did.”
He says he’s “appalled” and “flummoxed” by the Roland Martin saga. Yesterday CNN suspended the analyst after making what some believed to be homophobic slurs about a Super Bowl ad. “Black used to outweigh gay in terms of who was a greater aggrieved class,” says Breitbart. At this point he tells me he’s about to BLOW MY MIND (chicken images persist). He tells me Mark Atlan, the French graphic designer who helped create the David Beckham undie commercial that is at the center of the Martin scandal, is his brother-in-law. “Everything he does causes this kind of uproar,” he says, noting his soul mate status in his life.”I find political correctness to be grotesque.”
While Breitbart is somewhat torn about Martin, after all, he’s a perceived liberal journalist, he says he will defend him: “There is a part of me [that says] you wear this political dog whistle looking for injustices, but my heart is in defending you because its gone too far.”
He says to the “establishment” — “A) Get a sense of humor. Not everything is bullying, which is an Anderson Cooper patented term. B) I live in a world where I’m happy to be called a breeder with disdain by my gay friends. I’d rather get into a fight with Mike Spinks at his prime than the political left guy that holds political correctness like a heavyweight champ. It’s out of control, where the slightest, politically correctable language, politically incorrect transgressions, have become death penalties, where livelihoods are ruined overnight.” Suddenly he throws in his most dramatic twist, saying,”The slip of the tongue has turned into a mortal wound.”
Breitbart is aghast at the idea that people could be perfected in the politically correct ideal. “Everyone knows people have bad days or that they stay stupid things all the time,” he says. “The way that the left has taken to kicking you off the Survivor type island is to call you a bigot. … I know what that mindset is and I’m fighting my ex-self. I know what a morally superior cocksucker I was.”
(At this point we’re told that Joe the Plumber and a couple members of Congress are mingling in the kitchen and living room. But Breitbart’s not budging. He’s on a roll, he has only devoured one rib and his glass of wine is still full. He goes on a major tangent about his diet — he’s on Atkins and says he has lost about eight pounds. “As long as I can eat steak, drink red wine and Starbucks breve lattes, I’m good,” he says to gales of laughter in the room.)
Hands down, the funniest… Breitbart rant is the “epic battle” he had with Clear Channel’s Colby Hall, who formerly ran Mediaite. The fight occurred when Hall worked for Mediaite and at the onset of the Weiner scandal. Hall was about to report that Breitbart had done something evil. Breitbart was hiking with his wife and a family friend at La Quinta resorts in Palm Springs, Calif. The weekend was supposed to be devoted to family. No work. No cell phones. No Twitter bullshit. Just children. Wife. Friends. And Breitbart saw his life about to be swallowed whole by a juicy Weiner scandal.
While his wife and friend enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature, Breitbart was on the phone with Hall having one of the worst conversations of his life. They said vicious things to each other that can only be laughed about in hindsight. “If you write this, I’m going to stick this monument up your ass,” he remembers telling Hall. “I said I was going to live to 100 so I can destroy your grandchildren.” Looking back, he explains, “I forged a bizarre relationship with the guy.”
Speaking of bizarre, when someone at the resort overheard Breitbart’s ranting at Hall, he or she tweeted for him to GET OFF THE PHONE and go be with your children. In retrospect, and even then, he was mortified because he knew the tweeter was right. But he justified it, thinking that his childrens’ welfare and future were on the line here. “I knew we’d be attacked, but I didn’t know it would be from Mediaite about this weird two-pronged girl,” he says, referring to two underage women who “claimed” to have conversed with Weiner. Turned out the women didn’t exist. To this day, he still doesn’t understand what he was being accused of. “It felt deathly serious. If I brought the country to a standstill over the non-erection erection of a congressman’s penis, how do you unring that bell?” He calls the phone exchange with Hall a “screaming festival of epic proportion where I don’t usually apologize. If it was ever properly documented, we’d both be in exile.”
Breitbart doesn’t hate all liberal journalists, he insists. In fact, “I like good journalists,” he says. “I like good, liberal journalists. I just like people who don’t want to bullshit me.” In that vein, he likes to point out in vivid, incessant detail the way he thinks he and his conservative cohorts are regularly maligned. “We media conservatives are experts to the point of absurdity, to Tourettes, to OCD in noticing these hypocrisies,” he says. “When you see Christiane Amanpour, when you see George Stephanopoulos, who ran Bill Clinton‘s war room,” the networks run their names and titles, he explains.
But George Will? He’s a “conservative columnist.” At this point Breitbart starts waving his finger in a corkscrew in the air and emits a strange, high-pitched sound resembling an ambulance siren. He calls this a “European Swedish siren” that declares to the world that you are conservative. Breitbart explains, “One of the reasons why I’m so ludicrous in my mannerisms is that if you disagree, you are kicked out of the herd. You won’t believe how leftist this environment is!”
Again and again Breitbart returns to his riff on “group think” and a pack mentality he deplores. “Group think isn’t an innocuous process,” he says. “People always describe us as conservative.” He says people rarely know what he really believes on this issue or that. “I’m a culture guy. I care about Hollywood, the media, academia.”
A couple final things to note about Breitbart: He’s an admitted Twitter addict who spends anywhere from one to five hours online a day. “Twitter allows me to live out my inner Andy Kaufman,” he explains. Some Twitter messages do hurt his feelings, but most roll off. Only the stuff that bears hints of truth gets to him. “I can totally be hurt,” he says. “My ADD has ADD.”
As of late, Breitbart admits that all the retweeting of lewd comments by his detractors is getting a “tad old.” To that end, he says, he has tried implementing rules for himself — rules that never work. He looks back two years ago to the five hours of pure “bliss” he felt while sitting in first class on a Virgin Atlantic flight out of Logan Airport. Over wine, sparkling water and upgraded fare, he crafted all the mean, rotten jabs at Media Matters for America’s Eric Boehlert that his brain could muster. “It just was absolute bliss and I can’t explain why,” he says. “It was just a disgusting, wonderful moment in human history.”
He begins his airplane story with a vintage Breitbart preface, saying, “This is saddest thing you’ll ever hear from me.”