BuzzFeed Brews: ‘It’s Like a First Date’

Asked to describe the idea behind “BuzzFeed Brews,” John Stanton says, “It’s like a first date. Get them a little drunk and relaxed so they can talk about things people don’t normally hear them talk about.”

Stanton is the Washington Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed and last night was the launch of the website’s new series wherein newsmakers are invited to sit before an audience and answer questions. And there’s free beer.

It’s essentially the same thing as Politico‘s Playbook Breakfast, “minus the stale bagels, plus the beer,” cracked BuzzFeed‘s Politics Editor McKay Coppins to FishbowlDC. (The site’s publicist Ashley McCollum boasts that she came up with that description.)

The first guest: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). For roughly 45 minutes Rubio answered questions from BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith about immigration, gay marriage and the future of the Republican Party. Of course, lengthy segments here and there were spent on why Rubio prefers Tupac over Biggie Smalls (“His lyrics are more insightful in my opinion.”) and whether he had to “think long and hard” before letting his son play recreational football. Stanton said that’s another thing distinguishing the Brews series from Playbook Breakfast, whose audience may not be interested in those things.

One nitwit attendee floated a rumor that Rubio only agreed to do the interview if they provided him with a Florida-brewed beer. A glass of beer sat at Rubio’s side during the Q&A, but we’re told it was Budweiser and he was scarcely seen drinking it. Stanton flatly denied the rumor, noting that it would be “kind of diva-ish” for Rubio to have made such a request.

The event, which took place at 201 Bar, drew about 250 media and political types, according to McCollum. Before it began, Coppins chatted with us about the now-famous Aladdin-like Brooks Brothers vest his colleague Andrew Kaczynski recently wore on an MSNBC hit. “That was such a controversy,” Coppins said. He also said Kaczynski has been receiving conspicuously large amounts of packages full of Brooks Brothers clothing at the BuzzFeed office in New York. “Maybe he got a raise,” Coppins said. At this point, one attendee who said he worked for CBS approached Coppins to introduce himself: “Mr. Smith, hi,” the unwitting fellow began. Coppins corrected him.

On a similar note, Brian Darling, a former Human Events contributor who shares an uncanny resemblance to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), was spotted in the crowd. Asked if he’s ever been mistaken for Cruz, Darling said yes and admitted that at RedState‘s annual gathering in Florida last year, he went with it. “Someone approached to congratulate me on winning my primary and I just said, ‘Thanks, it was a tough one,'” Cruz said. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Catching up with the other BuzzFeeders

  • LGBT reporter Chris Geidner watched the Rubio interview on-screen in an overflow area of the bar. He could be seen frequently shushing chatty-Cathy attendees.
  • Rosie Gray told us she’s officially making the move from New York City to D.C. next week.
  • Viral Politics Editor Benny Johnson was seen watching the Rubio interview from behind a glass window that led to a separate area of the bar.
  • Toward the end of the night, Smith approached Stanton to inquire on the whereabouts of politics reporter Rebecca Berg. “She might still be writing,” Stanton said. “She better still be writing.”
  • Zeke Miller was seen not tweeting for lengthy amounts of time.
  • COO Jon Steinberg made it into town for the event.

Other notables: Talking Points Memo‘s Evan McMorris-Santoro (who was recently promoted to national politics reporter: “A little bump up,” he called the promotion); Washington Examiner‘s Charlie Spiering and Nikki Schwab; DCist’s Ben Freed; CQ Roll Call‘s Neda Semnani and Warren Rojas; Slate‘s Dave Weigel, who was more inviting than in our last encounter; WCP‘s Jenny Rogers; Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller; CRC Publicsts Ashley Morris and Kelley Hudak; GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia; Yahoo! News‘ Chris Moody; Metro Weekly‘s Justin Snow; The Daily Beast‘s David Frum (seen taking handfuls of complimentary LOL and OMG stickers) and Justin Green (who made his dislike of Politico‘s “Behind the Curtain” series very known: “Inane conventional wisdom,” he called it); Politico‘s Kate Nocera; and Red Alert Politics‘ Francesca Chambers.

Quotable: “A bunch of journalists drinking for free, that’s not news. If Rubio punches someone in the face, that’s news.”– An anonymous attendee, commenting on whether he would write something about the inaugural BuzzFeed Brews.

Sen. Marco Rubio interviewed by Ben Smith

Politico’s Kate Nocera chats with McKay Coppins

201 Bar

John Stanton’s infamous chain wallet