Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Breitbart slips ABC’s leash, snarls, walks away

If you went to ABC News last night expecting to see right-wing video fictionalist Andrew Breitbart, you were probably disappointed — by the fact that Breitbart didn’t show up. Turns out that Breitbart, the conservative online firebrand and inventor of the Shirley Sherrod racist narrative, was disinvited from ABC News’ election-night coverage on the eve of Tuesday’s vote, according to a story in Politico.

Politico reported that Andrew Morse, the head of ABC News Digital, sent Breitbart a letter saying that ABC thought it was “best” if he “not participate.” This came in the wake of a firestorm of criticism distilled by a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Color of Change, a grassroots progressive organization. The Morse letter’s tone is oddly accusatory, written as if Breitbart had somehow brought this on himself.

“We have spent the past several days trying to make clear to you your limited role as a participant in our digital town hall to be streamed on ABCNews.com and Facebook,” Morse wrote. “The post on your blog last Friday created a widespread impression that you would be analyzing the election on ABC News.”

“We made it as clear as possible as quickly as possible that you had been invited along with numerous others to participate in our digital town hall,” Morse said. “Instead of clarifying your role, you posted a blog on Sunday evening in which you continued to claim a bigger role in our coverage. As we are still unable to agree on your role, we feel it best for you not to participate.”

Breitbart went predictably ballistic, attacking ABC for “bowing to left-wing pressure” from Color of Change, Media Matters and other groups of progressive persuasion.

“This is about cowardice and caving into what was an overwhelming onslaught by Media Matters, The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos,” Breitbart said to Politico. “They know they can do it at any time and any place and ABC will bow to pressure.”

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What’s unsaid in Morse’s letter to Breitbart is exactly what it was that Breitbart was supposed to do with ABC in the first place. It talks about Breitbart’s “limited role as a participant” in some kind of election-related discussion. In an earlier letter to the media clarifying Breitbart’s role, Morse said flat-out that Breitbart was not being brought on for election analysis.

But political analysis, of a fashion, is what the man does for a living. Did ABC bring him on to keep the water glasses filled and help move the chairs?

We might have expected Breitbart’s reaction, what happens when a pit bull turns on a handler when the food the beast was expecting is suddenly taken away. But it may be a plus for Breitbart; with so many conditions being made on his appearance beforehand, and with the criticism that followed the announcement, Breitbart may have privately decided he’d be kept on too short a rhetorical leash anyway.

A win-win: ABC News, already sort of embarrassed, prevents what would likely have been a viral online train wreck with the company name all over it. Breitbart burnishes his bona fides as a maverick attack dog for the right, snarling at ABC as he walks away. Everyone back to starting positions, more or less.

Image credits: Breitbart: Fox News Channel. ABC logo: © 2010 ABC.

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