Under pressure from groups like Media Matters and Color of Change, ABC News first scaled back, and then canceled, Andrew Breitbart‘s planned participation in its Election Day coverage. Rather than admit they were responding to pressure, however, they decided to blame Breitbart, claiming that he had exaggerated his role in their coverage, essentially firing him for promoting their broadcast.
Mediaite spoke with Breitbart Tuesday night, as he returned from Phoenix to vote, and while clearly stung by ABC’s treatment, he is stinging back.
Breitbart said he spoke with ABC Executive Producer Andrew Morse Saturday morning, “after he released the incredible damaging and patronizing statement from ABC, after their PR flack Ford said they would have a Politifact fact-checker there to monitor what I had to say, after ABC’s decision to attack me,” he was “not particularly pleased.”
Breitbart: “You have damaged me, you have damaged my brand, and I’m asking you to walk this lie back. I never exaggerated, I never lied, I never played my role up.”
However, in his first conversation with Morse, Breitbart says he was calm. “Do you understand that you invited me to be a participant in this, and because of pressure from the predictable (George) Soros, Huffington, Talking Points Memo, John Podesta activist left, to shut up other voices that they disagree with, a la Juan Williams, of course you would have to react.”
“But to react by throwing your invitee under the bus, and humiliating him in the process? Do you think that that sends the right message to your audience, and to the people out there who think that I am a credible news source, that I offer a valuable opinion as the primary defender of the Tea Party movement against merciless attacks by this very same mainstream media?”
“You have damaged me, you have damaged my brand, and I’m asking you to walk this lie back. I never exaggerated, I never lied, I never played my role up. The decision to create a ‘digital Elba’ was an attempt to placate the left, which they took as a victory. This is a clear ‘screw you!’ to me, and my readers.”
He offered ABC 24 hours to walk back their statements, or he would publish the emails from ABC that support Breitbart’s version of events. Andrew Morse’s portion of the conversation was off the record, but no walk-back occurred, and Breitbart did publish the exculpatory email.
Breitbart also says that he repeatedly asked ABC what clarification they would have liked him to make, but they never gave him the opportunity to do so. Tuesday afternoon, ABC News released a letter announcing the cancellation of Breitbart’s appearance.
Breitbart recounted the moment he saw the handwriting on the wall. With a bitter edge in his voice, he said “I knew my fate was sealed the moment George Stephanopoulos tweeted, and he’s not a frequenteur of the Twitter realm, ‘Breitbart NOT part of broadcast,’ putting his imprimatur on the situation, essentially saying ‘I ain’t having that guy on the broadcast,’ it was at that point, even though I decided to go to Phoenix, and try to take the high road every step of the way.”
I asked Breitbart what happens next. Is he considering legal action against ABC? “I will be looking into all possible ways to remedy this injustice.”
If it does come to that, Breitbart will have an unexpected helper in making his case against the network. In their zeal to pressure ABC, Media Matters did an extremely thorough job cataloging ABC’s shifting positions, but providing Breitbart with ammunition in the bargain. Their timeline makes clear that Breitbart was clearly intended to be a part of the broadcast, and that he did not exaggerate his role. As Breitbart notes, “Clearly, I was being asked to give analysis – or, was ABC News paying for me to fly to Arizona and to foot my hotel bill so that I could perform avant-garde interpretative dance?”
For the record, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Andrew’s terpsichorean take on the score from Saving Private Ryan.
Finally, Breitbart congratulated CNN for not bowing to similar pressure. “They tried (to pressure CNN) when I was on CNN, but CNN did not capitulate when I was invited to be on Parker/Spitzer.”
Whatever you think of the merits of Media Matters’ complaints against Andrew Breitbart, it is a breathtaking irony that they would do such a thorough job of documenting ABC’s hypocrisy, then congratulate them for using it to protect their journalistic brand. If fairness is to mean anything, it ought to apply to everyone.
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