A year ago I was up late packing for Puerto Rico, having given notice that I’d be offline for seven days’ vacation. My phone rang. It was The Boss, the late Andrew Breitbart. When he called, you answered, and a late night call was the meatspace equivalent of the Drudge siren.
I replied that I hadn’t seen whatever it was and he told me to check my email and Twitter. My mentions column was just a trickle: some of them were yfrog links, some of them included both our handles, @dloesch and @andrewbreitbart, along with the usernames of other media folk. I had one email from Andrew: a screenshot of a yfrog page which included a photo of gray material. I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at but the longer I stared the weirder it got.
Andrew Breitbart and the pre-Breitbart.com sites were all over every television screen in Puerto Rico. During the entire week images of a pursed-mouth Anthony Weiner, various pixelated screenshots, and muted interviews with Andrew filled the television screens at the bar by the beach, the hotel lobby; I heard the name “Andrew Breitbart” with a Spanish accent on the radio while drinking a pina colada in old San Juan. The sites churned out a plethora of stories: new photos were uncovered, people came forward. Andrew and I were accused of being hackers (a charge for which some have never fully apologized; Andrew was later falsely accused of leaking more photos to the media) which is where Weiner and his surrogates messed up: it began as a simple story about a congressman who mistakenly unveiled behavior unfit for a married man. It became a blockbuster when he deflected from accepting responsibility by blaming others for his actions. The lesson is that the cover-up is always greater than the crime itself.
By the time my family and I flew home a week later, the story had crescendoed to an amazing denouement: we de-boarded in Charlotte and the moment I turned on my phone it exploded. “Find a television, find a television” screamed the messages and texts. There, on live television, was Andrew Breitbart crashing Anthony Weiner’s press conference. He was in NYC for a television appearance and staying blocks away from the presser’s location. Andrew being Andrew, he thought he’d walk over and watch from the back of the room. Members of the press saw him and Tweeted about his presence alerting the rest of the assembled media; all of the cameras and lights that were focused on the podium swung around and trained on Andrew. They asked him to field questions from the stage. That’s how Andrew Breitbart came to set the story straight in an unparalleled new media moment.
I shouted in the airport and fist-pumped my arm like a piston. New media had once again bested traditional media and forced them to examine the story with honest eyes. Business Insider called it “Andrew Breitbart’s most famous moment.”
Weiner’s arrogance–as demonstrated by his hostility towards CNN’s Dana Bash–only contributed to the speed with which he fell. In the weeks that followed there was much speculation from conspiracy theorists who, in their irrational anger and political prejudice, thought us hackers–despite Wiener admitting that he uploaded all the photos himself, conversed with a woman in Seattle, was sorry he did it, sorry he falsely accused others, and sorry for what he’d done to his wife.
The story proved how the left refused to hold themselves to the same standard they’d set for conservatives. We refused them the yoke of zero accountability. We didn’t go to the mainstream press to break the story; we bypassed them to break it ourselves. Citizen journalists made it news to the point where the mainstream press was forced to cover it.
That’s the legacy of Andrew Breitbart.