ACORN video creates new conservative star

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009

Andrew Breitbart blew into Washington recently for what amounted to a victory lap.

The Internet entrepreneur spent last week soaking up accolades from conservatives for having offered guidance to the two twenty-somethings who posed as a pimp and prostitute and took a hidden camera into several ACORN offices. The pair filmed workers from the national liberal community group appearing to aid them as they inquired about starting a brothel -- a move that has put ACORN on the defensive and made the activists, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, instant conservative heroes.

But in the end it's Breitbart who may be the biggest winner.

It was the 40-year-old Breitbart who masterminded the strategy of releasing the videos one at a time on his Web site, Big Government, as a way of maximizing exposure of the campaign against ACORN. And it is Breitbart who is being heralded as the conservative movement's new Web wizard and the answer to liberal sites such as the Huffington Post and Talking Points.

In Washington, the burly, white-haired Breitbart --who runs his Web sites from his basement in Westwood, Calif., near Hollywood -- was shuttled between on-air television interviews and meetings with conservative activists. Talk radio host Laura Ingraham praised him as an "Internet mogul," and he was invited to speak at both the Heritage Foundation think tank and a black-tie conservative dinner, where he spoke only minutes before former vice president Richard B. Cheney.

"They're able to frame the narrative and we're always on defense," Breitbart said to a group of conservative activists as he complained about what he called the "Democratic-media complex" -- Democratic pols, Hollywood and traditional mainstream media. "The Republican Party has never had a long-term strategy on fighting the narrative. The narrative should be fought on college campuses, it should be fought through the media and it should be fought in Hollywood, and the conservative movement is AWOL on all three."

Conservatives bashing the media is far from new, but Breitbart's timing is particularly good, as activists on the left and right feud over the power of conservative outlets, particularly Fox News, which the Obama administration recently heavily criticized as biased toward the right.

Breitbart, who once worked for both the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post, has started a network of conservative news sites with a two-step approach: to generate reporting that highlights liberals' foibles, then shame other media into covering the stories. Case in point: the ACORN controversy.

Breitbart is also networking beyond his own sites. Before releasing the ACORN video, he alerted Fox personality Glenn Beck. Beck highlighted them on his show. Soon other media outlets were picking up the story.

Another Breitbart site, Big Hollywood, posted the transcript of an August conference call between artists and officials from the National Endowment of the Arts that resulted in an NEA staffer resigning after Beck repeatedly attacked him on air. Beck accused the NEA of recruiting artists to create works in support of Obama policies, an allegation administration officials deny.

"The mainstream media is oriented to the real and imagined scandals of conservatives and that provides a real opportunity for someone like me to expose corruption" from liberal groups, Breitbart said in an interview.

Media Matters for America, a liberal group that criticizes the press for bowing to conservative causes, has slammed Breitbart's efforts. "Capturing a raw video isn't journalism; journalism includes some content. A real journalist would have contacted ACORN," said Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow for Media Matters.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company