UPDATE: To his credit, Mr. Roeper printed a gracious correction today. — 4/19/11
Famous film critic Richard Roeper tee’d off on Andrew Breitbart in his Sun-Times column today. Here’s the passage:
Here’s ultraconservative activist Andrew Breitbart at a Tea Party rally in Wisconsin last Saturday, with a message for pro-union forces that had shown up:
“The Tea Party has been the most peaceful, law-abiding . . . group in the history of American protest. . . . You have no right to lecture us on civility. You have no right to lecture us on language. . . . Go to hell! No, serious. Go to hell! Go to hell! You’ve been so rude, you’re trying to divide America. . . .”
Right. And telling people to go to hell because you disagree with their politics isn’t divisive at all. That’s an instant classic of hypocrisy and a breathtaking lack of self-awareness right there.
Then again, this is the same Andrew Breitbart who went on Twitter in the hours after Ted Kennedy’s death to call Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard” and a “prick,” so he’s well-qualified to tell others they can’t lecture him about civility.
Roeper walked into two Breitbart traps in less than 200 words. Can you identify what they are?
The first one is that Breitbart didn’t tell the union protesters to “go to hell” because he disagreed with their politics, but because he considered their tactics reprehensible. Breitbart explained this in the column he posted following the rally. Simply take a look at the full context of the speech.
Here are some examples of the incivility Breitbart may have had in mind:
[youtube g0x_MfGmlCw nolink]
Note the attempt to drown out the rally with vuvuzelas and the WalkerHitler sign.
In this clip, the union protesters barely get it together to suspend the booing by the end of the “Star Spangled Banner”:
[youtube IURPRHVuqvM nolink]
Here’s an unhinged heckler screaming profanities at a teenage girl during the rally:
[youtube NXnJKc337Ic nolink]
And finally, incoherent lunatics scream at Sarah Palin:
[youtube w_RkyMZ9D9A nolink]
Breitbart also notes that he saw “Koch Suckers!” signs throughout the protest (in reference to the Koch Brothers) and that the names he heard Sarah Palin called would have made Bill Maher blush. Politics aside, it’s hard to fault Breitbart for reacting the way he did.
Roeper either dishonestly (assuming he understands the full context) or lazily (assuming he published the column before he bothered to seek out the full context) characterizes Breitbart’s comments as political. They weren’t. They were clearly a reaction to the way the union protesters obnoxiously attempted to disrupt a peaceful rally.
Roeper should seriously consider correcting his post.
The other trap Roeper falls into is trotting out the ubiquitous criticism of Breitbart for calling Teddy Kennedy names just hours after his death. This is a trap because the right wants to talk about this. For the half-dozen of you unfamiliar with the Chappaquiddick incident, it started with then-Senator Ted Kennedy driving a car into a Massachusetts tidal channel on July 19, 1969. Sen. Kennedy successfully swam to safety, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. Sen. Kennedy, who was married to then-pregnant Joan Bennett Kennedy at the time, did not report the accident to the authorities until the next morning, over eight hours later. Kopechne didn’t drown and wasn’t killed from blunt force trauma–she suffocated. That means the woman sat in Kennedy’s car until her death, waiting for someone to help her. But help never came.
While the Kopechne family lived through this most-avoidable of tragedies, Ted Kennedy maintained his seat for the next 40 years until his death, and even became known as “the Lion of the Senate.”
Roeper took issue with the fact that Breitbart called Kennedy a “villain” and a “prick,” among other, shall we say, colorful descriptors, just hours after Kennedy’s death. But how many women do you have to leave to die at the bottom of a body of water before the sketch Breitbart drew resembles you?
Roeper bringing it up out of the blue gives people like me the chance to retell the story of Chappaquiddick and illustrate just who Ted Kennedy was and what the liberal media will do to defend him.
Exit question: What position does Andrew Breitbart hold that makes him “ultraconservative,” as Roeper says he is, as opposed to, ya know, regular conservative? Is it Breitbart’s religious agnosticism? Is it that he threw a “Big Gay Party” at February’s CPAC? I’ve worked for Breitbart for three years and would be hard-pressed to name one issue where he is to the right of mainstream conservative thought. He just fights harder for conservative values than the left is used to.
So, can you name an “ultraconservative” viewpoint Breitbart holds? Or is movie-guy Roeper demagoguing here to marginalize a man who’s clealry a threat to his side?