The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Liberal media critic Eric Boehlert dies in bicycle collision

Courtesy of Eric Boehlert's family (Boehlert family)
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Eric Boehlert, a liberal critic who offered blistering takedowns and analysis of mainstream and conservative media, died Monday in a bicycle collision in his New Jersey hometown. He was 57.

“Through his journalism, social media, books, and appearances on CNN and MSNBC, Eric was a fierce defender of democracy, social justice and truth in media,” Boehlert’s family said in a statement released Wednesday. “He was fearless and brilliant in his investigation of hypocrisies and double standards in the media, and his contribution was priceless.”

Boehlert’s wife, Tracy Breslin, told the Bergen Record her husband was the cyclist that N.J. Transit said was struck by a train on Monday night. The couple have two adult children.

News of Boehlert’s death provoked an outpouring of grief online from friends and fans of his media criticism, which started appearing in liberal publications such as Media Matters for America, Daily Kos and Salon in the mid 2000s, before he later became prominent on social media and cable news.

“Adored his kids Jane and Ben, his dogs, biking and running and basketball and good friends, a fierce and fearless defender of the truth,” veteran journalist and commentator Soledad O’Brien wrote on Twitter. “Eric was an amazing friend. He fought to rescue journalism and democracy, which need saving.”

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch told The Post he knew Boehlert for more than a decade, and called him “one of the great human beings in journalism — just a good-natured dad, sports lover and outdoorsman who also happened to be a relentless pit bull in the public arena in calling out misinformation or shoddy work in the media, whether it was his bête noire, Fox News, or often at mainstream outlets like the New York Times.”

Hillary Clinton tweeted: “I’m devastated for his family and friends and will miss his critical work to counteract misinformation and media bias. What a loss.”

Boehlert covered the music industry for Rolling Stone and Billboard early in his career, before he turned his attention to media criticism. He contributed to the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for more than a decade starting in the mid-2000s and also worked as a senior writer for Salon and a media critic at Daily Kos. He took aim at both right-wing media and mainstream outlets for what he saw as their failings, and in early 2020 he started his own liberal newsletter called Press Run because, as he wrote, “we can’t fix America if we don’t fix the press.”

“When a radical White House player is eagerly chipping away at our freedoms and the Constitution, we need the press to stand up to the unprecedented challenge at hand — a press corps that doesn’t wallow in ‘Both Sides’ journalism as a way to escape the wrath from Republicans,” he wrote in February 2020.

“His passing is a real loss for truth and will leave a void in the broader media landscape,” Media Matters said in a statement. “Eric’s sharp wit and biting insight shone through in his fierce writing.”

Salon said in a statement that “his passing is a huge loss to media criticism and liberal journalism.”

While N.J. Transit would not confirm that Boehlert was the victim, the agency reported a passenger train struck and killed a cyclist at about 9:40 p.m. on Monday near Watchung Avenue station in Montclair. No other injuries were reported.

Breslin told the Record on Wednesday that she didn’t know specifics about her husband’s accident but said Boehlert often biked at night around Montclair, with lights and protective clothing.

She added that Boehlert was active in community organizations and “loved living in Montclair,” a town about 20 miles outside of New York City. “This was his spot,” she said.

The N.J. Transit Police Department is leading the investigation, which is ongoing.

This article has been updated to reflect comments from Boehlert’s family and friends and investigating authorities.