Andew Breitbart of course marched to his own drummer. And he isn’t someone with whom I ever expected to be “friends.” I never wanted to write one of those stories where I relay my experiences about someone who suddenly dies. But here I am.
“Sorry you’re under fire,” Breitbart wrote me last week after I was attacked online for writing a short piece about some female journos’ choice in avatars. No one knew better than him what it felt like to endure a public stoning and the one I went through was ant-sized compared to what he experienced daily. It meant a lot to get his note. “I’ve only half thought thru how I handle it. It takes a huge toll. Its gotten to be performance art for me. Don’t make a habit of it.”
Months ago I fought with Andrew over Twitter over — well, it doesn’t matter over what right now, does it? It wasn’t a horrible fight. Just garden variety online arguing that eventually deescalated and moved into more playful online banter. At the time I told him I respected his success even if I didn’t agree with his opinion on the matter — and I meant it. You don’t have to agree with everything a person says or does to respect and admire their success or be open to their ideas.
I met Andrew during CPAC. Much to my surprise I was invited to a book party at “The Embassy” which is Breitbart’s “office” here in Washington on Capitol Hill. It’s a masculine townhouse where conservatives have gathered for parties, a haven of sorts. Andrew had no idea I would be attending the party and I’m not convinced he would have allowed it had he known. We had never met face to face and I was nervous. Would he throw me out, cause a scene? I’d heard he had a penchant for causing scenes.
In the kitchen, he greeted me (still not knowing who I was), smiled warmly and welcomed me to his home. Oh no, I cringed to myself. This could get ugly when he finds out. Shortly thereafter, I began interviewing the book author. About 15 minutes into it Andrew peered his head into the parlor, pointed at me and said, “It’s YOU!” He seemed amused. Soon he came in, sat down and we chatted for more than two hours. He was nothing I expected him to be. He had me in stitches laughing for hours as he shared stories about his life, himself, and his feelings about the media.
I wrote a lengthy profile on him and soon the hate mail poured in from those who felt I shouldn’t be talking to him, much less writing about him. They called him “Breitbarf.” Even today, I received this: “Britebarf was a vile, odious piece of crap. Good riddance.” My feeling was and still is fuck them.
Once he returned to Los Angeles, our friendship continued. Last week he asked me to be the trusted “broker” in a fight he was having with Current TV’s David Shuster. I obliged and for a day tried to get Breitbart and Shuster to agree on a bet. If Shuster lost, which Andrew seemed to know he would considering information he had, he wanted Shuster to host a seminar for “aspiring maggots” on why he was fired from both Fox News and MSNBC. He phoned early in the morning and hilariously went off on Shuster. He called me mid-morning, again to unload more. I tried hard to convince him to go on a radio show with Shuster — he declined, but instead invited Shuster on the Dennis Miller show last Thursday as he was filling in. Shuster refused. Again, I implored Andrew to go on with Shuster, who was subbing for Bill Press. I ran an item on it, complete with side-by-side pictures of him and Shuster. Andrew wrote me rather quickly, saying, “Worst most overused angry Andrew pic ever.” Ultimately I couldn’t get the pair to agree on anything, but it was fun as hell trying.
Another shock came that morning when Andrew direct messaged me and wrote, “Call in yourself. Now!” So I went on the Dennis Miller radio show and he asked me to discuss the demonized perception of him in Washington. We chatted about how interesting it was to meet one another in person after arguing online, how contentious and surreal the online world can be, and how everything is different when you meet someone in person.
An excerpt from the show: “We’ve been at war over a lot over the last couple of months and then we got to meet each other in DC and started to realize that when you put a face with these battles, sometimes those battles get alleviated. I see how the left wants to frame me as angry. But, when I’m in a crowded hotel and people point at me and start screaming ‘Racist! Racist! Racist!’ And they think that I’m crazy because I respond in kind. I’m 99% a lighthearted person, but that 1%, I will fight back.”
During the recent online uprising against me, Andrew wrote and offered to review the story and give me his thoughts. And this is what he had to say:
“I see why they are pissed! But I’m not offended in the slightest. They are not inappropriate to me, but they do enter that ‘come hither’ avatar look. Given our past back and forth on Michelle Fields… think about this: you now have a burden, ironically, the ‘sexist’ template. After Sherrod and Acorn, but 2 of countless stories we’ve done… we became bogged down on issue of ‘race’. I’d literally pray that tips coming in be of Caucasian subjects. One time we had to pass on to competitor a great pictorial of John Conyers reading Playboy while flying coach from D.C. to Detroit. Funny pic. Had to pass. Didn’t want to walk into a race trap that Media Matters would happily play up. Avoid these types of stories for a while.”
I was very much looking forward to my newfound friendship with Andrew. Even in his last days, he was a source of comfort to me and I won’t forget it. In his honor, I am using the least angry picture of Andrew I could find.
Politico‘s V.P. and Associate Publisher Mike McGrath died this morning after a lengthy struggle with lung cancer. He was part of the publication’s executive team since 2007. Before Politico he worked in ad sales at TWT and had some 20 years of experience before arriving at the Rossyln outlet. He wrote a final email to Executive Editor Jim VandeHei on Friday in which he shared news of a birthday sleepover party for his daughter.
McGrath grew up in Greensburg, Pa. and graduated from Towson State University. He survived by his wife, Tricia, of 16 years, and two daughters. The family resides in Annapolis, Md.
Our condolences. Read the note dubbed “Sad news…” after the jump from Robert Allbritton, Fred Ryan, VandeHarris, Roy Schwartz and Kim Kingsley…
Author and historian David McCullough is speaking at memorial service for Harry McPherson at 10:30 a.m. on March 2 at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, followed by reception at Hay Adams. McPherson served as special counsel to President Lyndon Johnson.
L to R: McCullough and McPherson
Other than Tim Pawlenty, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was the only one who never got the fleeting surge in poll numbers all of the other contenders received. He wasn’t a particularly exciting candidate even though he did some exciting things. He was a Motocross rider. He liked to play rock music. And he was the other Mormon in the race, which was kind of cool. And then, of course, there were those press darling daughters.
Huntsman suspended his campaign on Monday and immediately endorsed Mitt Romney for the nomination. Though he’s out of the race, his campaign left a (mostly) lasting impression among the Washington press corps. Some opened up to FBDC and shared their favorite memories of his failed candidacy.
Reuters‘ Sam Youngman– “The way he smelled like teen spirit.”
The Daily Caller‘s Jeff Poor– “The easy answer is ‘his daughters.’ But I think I’m going to miss waking up to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski every morning telling their viewers how wonderful he is and how dumb Republican voters are for not embracing him.”
Guns & Patriots‘ Neil McCabe– “Making snarky replies to his daughters’ insipid Tweets.” McCabe is referring, of course, to Huntsman’s daughters’ joint Twitter account from which they made a sport out of tweeting about the campaign.
Host of SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S Julie Mason– “Jon Huntsman was campaigning? Totally missed it”
Politico‘s Patrick Gavin– “The opportunity to have the first Eagle Scout in the Oval Office since Gerald Ford. Policymakers should also have to earn merit badges.”
WaPo‘s Aaron Blake– “He taught me so much about [the late musician] Captain Beefheart and riding motorcycles through the desert. I can never truly repay him.” (Beefheart pictured at right.)
Human Events‘ Tony Lee– “What I will miss: His decency and authenticity. What I won’t miss: His attempts to be hip and snarky. And H-Jams.” For anyone who doesn’t know “H-Jams” were daily songs Huntsman’s press secretary would send out to reporters in email briefings.
RIP Huntsman campaign. I’d say we barely knew you but I think we did.
While many reporters offered their personal thoughts and feelings about Vanity Fair‘s Christopher Hitchens after his death, WaPo‘s Gene Weingarten took a few moments this week during a web chat largely on fecal humor to share his feelings through poetry. A reader wrote in and asked if he had any commentary on Hitchens’ death and his thoughts about him as a writer. He replied, “As soon as I learned of Hitchens’s death, I twote this”:
Christopher Hitchens ceases to be –
A remarkable life he led
He isn’t in heaven; he isn’t in hell,
He is simply, emphatically, dead.
Subject: Tony Blankley, RIP
Tony died this morning after a long, painful struggle with cancer.
He was a great champion of The Washington Times and the best friend our opinion pages had. He is one of those rare irreplaceables, especially to me.
His wife Lynda told me today that Tony was so proud of the work all of you do and that he said on Friday how the section was the best it’s ever been.
Please pray for Tony and his family.
Various news outlets are reporting the sad news that Ex-TWT Editorial Page Editor Tony Blankley died over the weekend. He had stomach cancer. He was 63. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Lynda Davis, and three children.
TWT wrote that Blankley leaves “a legacy of significant analysis that bridged politics and culture with finesse, optimism and a sense of history.”
Blankley wore a variety of hats around Washington. He was Executive V.P. of Edelman public relations and a syndicated columnist and commentator for CNN, NPR and NBC. He was also GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich‘s former press secretary.
An excerpt from TWT:
Born in London, Mr. Blankley became a naturalized American citizen after his parents moved to California after World War II. As a child, he acted in such television shows as “Lassie,”“Highway Patrol” and “Make Room for Daddy,” and appeared in movies with such stars as Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger. He met Ronald Reagan at a 1950s-era USO performance and later volunteered to work on all of Reagan’s campaigns for governor and president.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) ended her presidential campaign Wednesday morning following a dismal finish in the Iowa Caucuses. Countless journalists will miss seeing her throughout the rest of the primary. She was fun, feisty and fabulous, if at times factually challenged — she did confuse John Wayne for John Wayne Gacey — but who cares? It was part of her charm. Still, her memory lives on.
We posed the question to Washington journalists — what will you miss most about covering Bachmann? Here’s what they had to say.
Chris Geidner, Metro Weekly‘s senior political writer, told FBDC in an email he appreciated the national discussion Michele and her husband Marcus raised concerning his work with a Christian clinic, which reportedly practices reparative therapy for gays. As for a report from WaPo Thursday speculating that Michele may retire from the House, Geidner said, “We’ll have to wait and see (her on Fox News).”
And WaPo‘s Aaron Blake, who hails from Minnesota remarked, “Hearing that lovely Minnesota accent, dontcha know. Now I’ll have to watch ‘Fargo’ or worse, call my relatives, to revisit my roots.”
TWT columnist Emily Miller pointed us to a piece she wrote Wednesday: “It’s certainly a relief that the debate stage will be less crowded,” she wrote, “but it’s worth noting what has been lost: the Tea Party’s highest-profile opponent of Obamacare.”
In late December, Bachmann ran a campaign blitz through Iowa, stopping in each of the state’s 99 counties within 11 days. Human Events‘ Tony Lee told us he’ll miss that energy. “Sometimes, I could not help but wonder if she had more body doubles than children when looking at her schedule of events,” he said.
But Bachmann’s flamboyant doggy sunglasses shopping hubby may be missed just as much as the candidate. “Marcus.” That’s the only word The Daily Caller‘s Alex Pappas responded with when we asked what he’d miss most about Bachmann’s campaign.
Pappas’ colleague Jeff Poor said he’ll miss watching MSNBC’s Chris Matthews‘ analysis of Bachmann now that she’s out of the race. “It was like a boy pulling a girl’s pigtails, but instead with an overweight aging male,” said Poor.
Sean Bugg, also of Metro Weekly, was hoping Marcus could bring that sense of style to the White House. “What I’ll miss most is Marcus, especially now that we know what his eye for accessorizing would have brought to the White House. It would have been just like another Jackie Kennedy,” he said.
RCP‘s Erin McPike: “Eyelashes?”
Agence France-Press‘ Olivier Knox: “She is truly one of the most impressive ‘retail’ politicians I’ve ever seen, who worked to build a rapport with every voter at her meet-and-greet events in Iowa. Also? The Christmas carols she played from her bus’s loud speakers.”
Townhall.com and BigGov Columnist Derek Hunter: “Her earnest delivery of every line, her Biden-like verbal flubs, and Marcus, sweet, sweet Marcus. But what I will miss most is the staring contest she had with the nation during every debate… Those eyes were hungry, and the only meal that could satiate that hunger was the White House. Now those eyes will be forever hungry, forever yearning.”
The Hill‘s Alex Bolton: “I’ll miss all the traffic she drives to The Hill’s website, which keeps my editors in a good mood.”
Anne Schroeder Mullins, media consultant and formerly with Politico: “Won’t we all miss Marcus the most?”
TPM‘s Evan McMorris-Santoro: “Who’s gonna say ‘Anderson’ now?!” (Santoro is referring to the countless times Bachmann tried grabbing the attention of CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a GOP debate back in October.)
Julie Mason, host of SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S: “I will dearly miss her soothing, mellifluous elocutions — like a soft, wet ear-kiss.”
TWT‘s Anneke Green: “The shot at having a First Gentleman.”
RIP for now, Bachmann campaign. Gone but not forgotten.
With the passing of Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Christopher Hitchens came an outpouring of personal stories by journalists about their relationship with their friend, their mentor, their hero and in one case, someone they had met just once. We rounded them up for you here with a poignant line or excerpt.
Portrait by Patrick Ryan.
The Weekly Standard/Daily Caller’s Matt Labash writes for Slate on traveling with Hitchens in Iraq. “After a protracted tussle in which Yacoub demanded Hitchens’ press badges, then after a cooling off in which he gave them back, then after a resumption of hostilities when Hitchens decided he didn’t want his Kuwaiti press badge back as the Kuwaitis were proving themselves the tramplers of liberty, Yacoub screamed that Hitchens would ‘leave Kuwait tonight!’ It’s pretty hard to get kicked out of a war. But Hitchens almost managed.”
Washington Photographer Patrick Ryan once spent a morning smoking and drinking with the great writer. “He came over to greet me wearing socks and we immediately started talking as though we’d known each other for years.”
Townhall columnist and WMAL’s Derek Hunter writes about the pitfalls of Hitchens’ literal interpretation of everything. Like vodka for instance. Or toads. “Speaking of emails, I remember one that he signed, ‘Wishing you well in this toad-filled season.’ I thought, ‘What the Hell does that mean?’ I Googled it, I asked everyone. I found nothing to explain it. Finally I asked Grover if he knew what it meant, because I didn’t want to ask Hitchens and risk looking stupid. Grover looked up from his desk and said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe he’s just some place with a lot of toads.’”
WaPo syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker wrote about how she “devoured” Hitchens’ writing. Eventually she met him one day in the makeup room of NBC. “To say I was a friend of Hitchens would be an exaggeration, though I did enjoy the pleasure of his company on several occasions. But one needn’t have known a writer to mourn his passing or to feel profound sadness about all the silent days to come. No matter what the topic, I always wanted to know what Hitchens thought about it and, lucky for the world, he seemed always willing to end the suspense.”
Christopher Buckley‘s was fittingly among the first eulogies to emerge on Hitchens in The New Yorker. He starts out, “We were friends for more than thirty years, which is a long time but, now that he is gone, seems not nearly long enough.”