Why Is WP Listening to Andrew Breitbart?

Andrew Breitbart is the right-wing Internet provocateur behind the ACORN video hoaxes, which purported to show a pretend pimp-and-prostitute duo getting criminal advice from the community organizing group ACORN. That’s not what happened, but Breitbart’s inaccurate presentation was taken at face value.

Yet some in the media are still treating Breitbart seriously. Washington Post ombud Andrew Alexander wrote a column on April 11 taking his cue from Breitbart’s latest effort, which is to attempt to cast doubt on the widely reported racist incidents at Tea Party protests at the Capitol on March 20, the day of the final health reform vote. Two black Democratic representatives–Andre Carson and John Lewis–say they were called “nigger.” Breitbart says they’re liars–it never happened. And he’s posted videos of the protests with no audible racist invective.

There’s just one problem; as Associated Press reporter Jesse Washington pointed out (4/13/10),the videos Breitbart is touting were shot after the incidents took place.

So a guy who pulled off one very successful media hoax is trying to pull off another one. You’d think that after being burned on the ACORN story, journalists wouldn’t pay much attention to Breitbart. But not Andrew Alexander, who closed his column noting that Breitbart’s efforts

may be publicity-seeking theater. But it’s part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including the Post, swallowed a huge fabrication. The incidents are weeks old, but it’s worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth. After all, a civil rights legend is being called a liar.

There are lots of things reporters should be looking into. This is not one of them. Especially considering that the guy leading this campaign pulled off a “huge fabrication” of his own–which was “swallowed” whole by outlets like the Washington Post. Alexander’s right that Lewis, a civil rights legend, is being called a liar. But the charge is coming from a liar. If Alexander is truly concerned that his paper has published fabrications, he could start by calling for an investigation of the paper’s coverage of Breitbart’s ACORN hoax– especially since Alexander criticized the Post for not covering the ACORN story enough.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.