It’s never a happy occasion when someone dies and Andrew Breitbart’s sudden, shocking death at age 43 is no exception, especially for those friends and family who cared for and about him. However, it’s also no reason for an "objective news" program to whitewash a very controversial record that included promoting fraudulent videos about political foes, publicly blackmailing the President of the United States and unhinged hate mongering against liberals. Well, it’s not an occasion to whitewash unless you’re “fair and balanced” Fox News. Because “objective” host Martha MacCallum listened attentively and without offering any fuller context as Sean Hannity lionized Breitbart as some kind of conservative hero – other than to add her own supportive comments.
Before Hannity spoke on the air with MacCallum, her co-host, Bill Hemmer said about Breitbart, “He was an outspoken critic of the mainstream media and was known for his efforts at exposing government corruption and media bias and Breitbart carried a bright torch through his life each and every day.”
In fact, Breitbart was known for a lot of lies and distortions. The ACORN videos he promoted so enthusiastically were proved to be deceptively edited and the videographers were sued for invasion of privacy in California and for breaking wiretap laws in Pennsylvania. One ACORN worker punk’d the videographers by telling them that she had shot and killed an ex-husband. She later said she knew they were fakes and thought it would be fun to add to the prank. But Breitbart presented the video of her to Fox News viewers as if it were true and dissembled about fact checking. ACORN was later exonerated of any wrongdoing that the videos supposedly exposed.
Then there’s Shirley Sherrod. Breitbart released a video of African American Sherrod, then a USDA employee, supposedly making anti-white comments when, in fact, she was speaking out against racism. Sherrod was fired from the USDA as a result of the video (then offered her job back). How did Breitbart respond? By attacking the NAACP. Sherrod has since sued Breitbart.
You’d think that Hemmer or MacCallum might have acknowledged at least some of that shadow from Breitbart's “bright torch."
Hannity once again boasted about his insider status to the viewers. “I was pretty close friends with Andrew,” he said. He went on to extol Breitbart’s “sense of urgency,” how he “lived his principles out every single day, 24/7” and called him “a champion of freedom.”
But that “champion of freedom” threatened President Obama – right there on the Fox News airwaves – with the release of “more tapes” and “not just ACORN” during the election cycle, if Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t do the kind of investigation into ACORN Breitbart thought should be done.
MacCallum didn’t bring that up, either. She described Breitbart’s work by saying, “He spent a lot of his time kind of trying to smoke out from behind the bushes things that he thought were corrupt or people that he thought were being hypocritical.” She cited Sherrod as an example, without noting in any way how hideously he had been discredited over it – or the resulting lawsuit.
Hannity went on to say how Breitbart loved “nothing more” than to confront liberals and “challenge them on their ideas.” He even hinted that Breitbart may have gone too far with his tactics, saying that they had disagreed on “stylistic issues” about how Breitbart might “accomplish his goals.”
That’s a mild way of putting Breitbart’s unhinged animosity toward liberals. Just last month, Breitbart let forth in a deranged rant at Occupy protesters at CPAC (video below, via Crooks and Liars). At CPAC 2011, Breitbart said liberal protesters were “not Americans; they’re animals.”
But OK, we’d expect that kind of euphemism from a guy like Hannity. But what’s MacCallum’s excuse for sweeping such behavior under the rug? As if to counter any notion that Breitbart was an over-the-top zealot, she made a point of saying Breitbart was “very supportive of the gay community within the Republican Party… That was problematic for him at one point.”
I did not see the entire show and it’s quite possible Hemmer and MacCallum brought up these other aspects of Breitbart’s record. But that’s no excuse for failing to add a fuller perspective to Hannity’s eulogy. She could have - and should have, of course - done so tastefully and sensitively. Not doing so left her viewers in the dark about who the complete Andrew Breitbart really was. Ultimately, that's a disservice to him as well.
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That’s my point. I understand Breitbart had friends who will mourn him and they’re entitled. But you can appreciate a man without erasing a big chunk of his personality!
So, to act all surprised over the whitewashing is a bit of naivety on display. I won’t grieve his death any more than I did when Reagan or Falwell died.
But there is a line between showing the best of them and flat whitewashing their faults. Fox News is on the wrong side of that line in several of the segments I saw before I had enough and moved on.
But that’s just how I’m seeing it.
I never am happy about someone’s death, and at 43, maybe Breitbart might have seen the light some day. Or continued to be easy pickings for academic takedown of his crap. And I am sad for is family. But he was who he was, and in part, he was a destructive person who used evil to advance his “cause”. His unholy use of lies and fallacies certainly wasn’t Fox-Christian, nor even Judeo-Christian.
Fox is the rising Reich. Nizkor.