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Conservative Activist Ambushes Al Franken; Comes Off As Loser – Update

Conservative activist Jason Mattera, who created a stir at this year’s CPAC, has posted video of an ambush interview in which Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is driven to exclaim “You need to shut up right now!”

During the interview, Mattera constantly interrupts Franken, calls him “Senator Smalley,” and attacks provisions of health care reform that support funding for schools and breastfeeding. At least Mattera wasn’t wearing a costume. Check it out after the jump.

Here’s the exchange with Franken:


Now, I only use the term “ambush interview” because that’s what people call an unplanned, impromptu on-camera exchange. I have absolutely no problem with the so-called “ambush interview,” as I’ve said before. For a journalist with a smaller outlet, or no outlet, it can be the only way to get any interviews at all.

I also have no problem with interrupting a subject who is evading or deflecting my questions.

Mattera wastes a golden opportunity here, as Franken actually sticks around and tries to answer Mattera. The problem is that Mattera’s not at all interested in getting answers to his questions, because his questions are complete crap. He’s done this before. He will take a doltish misreading of some sliver of legislation, hassle some legislator on camera about it, then enjoy the high-fives and dull exclamations of “Heh-heh. You said Senator Smalley” from his toadies.

In this case, he’s talking about Section 4201 of the health care reform law, which provides funding for a host of worthy programs. Saying that this funding is for “jungle gyms” is like saying that, because there are Hershey bars in some military rations, a defense appropriations bill is to buy “candy bars.”

Unfortunately, the joke is probably on him. Aside from his ardent fans, I think most people will find his attack on funding for playgrounds pretty hollow, and his attack on breastfeeding just bizarre. If he’s lucky, maybe the New York Times will unfairly accuse him of race-baiting again, and distract from his hostility toward women and children.

This style of gonzo interviewing is doubtless entertaining for Mattera’s audience, but it offers little in the way of influencing anyone else. Consistently, Mattera’s interviews find him winning on class-clown charm, and being pummeled on the substance. When he lets Franken talk, Al exposes the problem with Mattera’s “reasoning” in 2 seconds.

In another recent clip, Mattera makes his frat brothers chuckle by asking Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if he ever “feels dirty” (no, Jason, that was Joe the Plumber), but Gibbs completely destroys him on the substance:


Mattera’s interview style is of a piece with fellow journalactivistist James O’Keefe. Like O’Keefe, Mattera uses deception, each time professing admiration for his subject. Rather than search for the truth, both Mattera and O’Keefe seek to create truth. As entertainment, their value is open for debate. As journalism? Not so much.

Update: Mattera responds with homophobic insults.

Update: Jason Mattera responded to this article by calling me a “girl scout.” The Girl Scouts of America is a fine organization that doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people and produces awesome cookies. While I’m not qualified for membership, as Andrew Breitbart notes, the comparison is flattering. Mattera’s other insults, though, are just homophobic and creepy.

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