Conservative provocateur and right-wing media guru Andrew Breitbart’s new book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!, is out. The scandal-prone commentator spoke with The Daily Beast about that righteous indignation (he promises he’s usually quite laid back), the Shirley Sherrod episode, his picks for 2012, what he sees as the future of journalism, and his advice for Sarah Palin. He also goes after the media, Katie Couric, Tina Fey, John McCain, and surprisingly, Glenn Beck—although he says he doesn’t want Beck’s old job—all in the most colorful of terms. Breitbart may be indignant, but don’t call him angry. The interview has been condensed and edited for space.
Q: The book is one part memoir, one part history by Breitbart, and one part how-to manual. Do you expect young conservatives to pick up the book and use it as a guide?
A: I didn’t come up through the ranks of the conservative movement… I came to these revelations about my own personal politics in a realm in which those books, those ideas, the canon of conservatism, is nonexistent. And I had to writhe in pain wondering why I disagreed with the prevailing orthodoxy around me and why liberalism wasn’t a useful social tool—an intellectual tool… I felt that it was kind of like coming out of the closet as not just gay but as a flaming transvestite with a sparkler fetish and with chaps. Nothing could have been more awkward for me to even ask of my neighbors and my friends, ‘What do you think of these ideas that I now behold?’ And I think there are a lot of people that exist in blue-state environments, whether it be actors in Hollywood or directors or punk rockers that I’ve come to know or artists, that the more that I talk on TV, the more I talk on the radio, the more I write about this phenomenon, the more people come to me that you wouldn’t believe… The righteous indignation part of my thing is ironic given that anybody that knew me or knows me on a day-to-day basis is (aware) that I’m almost awkwardly light-hearted, too much… I make Holly Golightly look like an overly serious individual. And you really have to push me. You really have to do something Bruce Banner-like to me, to cause me to go into my righteous indignation mode.
Q: What did you mean in the book when you said, “There is a hell of a lot more to the Shirley Sherrod story than we’ve heard at this point?”
A: Well, you’re going to see it in the lawsuit. You’re going to see it in my response. You’re going to see that the mainstream media, in its attempts to destroy me, using the phrase “selectively edited,” selectively edited the reality of this. And they’re going to also realize that my motivations could not have been more clear. I have been fighting the battle on behalf of the Tea Party, the mainstream media’s desire to work with the Democratic Party and the NAACP and other liberal institutions to frame the Tea Party as racist. Everybody had been given the false narrative. Why? Because they wanted to draw attention away from the fact that Barack Obama not only fired her without her due process, but the president of the United States threw her under the bus.
“I make Holly Golightly look like an overly serious individual.”
Q: Do you really believe that the media wants to destroy you?
A: Yeah, I would say that the traditional media, those at ABC, CBS, NBC and The New York Times, are not happy that I exist, and don’t like what I do… Let’s just be honest about where we’re heading in this country, and I think it’s blissful. And that is we’re moving toward a more adult, realistic, British newspaper model. We know which newspapers lean right. We know which newspapers lean left. And it doesn’t mean that either position or the different newspapers are less trustworthy because they admit where they’re coming from ideologically. The press in this country has existed under a false notion that there is objective journalism and that journalists in New York City and Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., liberal enclaves, are equally fair to conservatives and that is laughable to the consumer.
• GOP Candidates Raised Taxes• Palin’s Ghostwriter• Howard Dean: Get Out of Afghanistan!Q: In the book you have some harsh words for Democrats and what you call the “Institutional Left.” Do you really believe they hate America, or is it just to rile people up?
A: I think that a good portion of the “Institutional Left” hates the building blocks of America. I think if you accept the left’s premise of a living Constitution, then you accept the left’s premise of a living America, meaning that they think that America’s history is rotten… I am allowed to think that the cultural left, the books that I’ve read, the statements I’ve heard, the mind-set that would blame the Tea Party for wanting to return to constitutional values, and they call the Tea Party racist, sexist, and homophobes, absent evidence. Yet they’re the first people to defend radical Islamists. I do have a problem with that juxtaposition.
Q: Out of the current field and the people we expect to jump in for 2012, who are you most likely to support?
A: The idea of an Allen West/ Herman Cain all-black conservative ticket would titillate me to the point of secretions coming out of every orifice. It would so upset the politically correct, culturally Marxist paradigm in academia and they’d have to start attacking… And I think it would cause the American people to see how unserious the left is when it comes to issues of claiming to represent the best interests of minorities. They use minorities in order to divide and conquer in this country, and I would not just want an all-black ticket. I would like an all-minority, all-female; and let’s get rid of all the white eunuchs like John McCain that would craft an entire political career in the latter part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century trying to appease the media left.
A: I’m not going to state that. I’d like to see how they behave on the campaign trail and how they handle the trial by fire. I believe in redemption in this country.
Q: I saw in other interviews that you don’t think Sarah Palin should run.
A: I didn’t say that… I am the pop-culture guy who says that I believe that Oprah Winfrey has more power or had more power at the height of her fame than Barack Obama ever will have as president of the United States. So, I constantly talked about Sarah Palin in regards to how I thought if she could for eight years do an Oprah show where she upset the victimology narrative of most of those shows and talked about heroism and did pretty much a very similar mid-day show appealing to the same audience, she could be a kingmaker within the pop-culture world and then run for president. But if Sarah Palin were to run for office right now, to say I wouldn’t be against it is an understatement… her courage and her standing up against a villainous torrent of attacks makes me admire her as much as anybody in America right now.
Q: And if she asked you for advice?
A: I would tell her keep walking toward the fire, because even though Katie Couric is snide and Gawker is snarky and Tina Fey is rude, there are millions of Americans who resemble your world view and think that you’re mighty courageous to stand up to the collective whole of the institutional and cultural left… at a certain point, people like me and Sarah Palin stand up and say to hell with this. Why are we treated as second-class citizens? Why are we treated worse than the underwear bomber? Why are we always guilty and then not even given a platform to prove our innocence?... You start saying, ‘Hey look. If you’re not going to start playing more fair, we’re going to do everything in our power to neutralize this imbalance.’ It’s creating alternatives in the marketplace and it’s creating an exposure of how the sausage is made.
Q: Do you get sick of being this angry all the time and is your wife sick of it?
A: Gosh. Well, this conversation comes from a hostile point of view where I have to answer for my belief system. And so my wife, if you asked people about me, would say that I’m mostly jocular. But when confronted and called a liar, or when confronted and called a racist, I don’t know how to put a happy, tap-dancing face on that. And so all these questions, if I asked you questions about your entire life and you were skeptical of everything that’s coming out of my mouth, and that I’m somehow some type of a demon—
Q: Demon? I’m not demonizing you. Are you talking about me?
A: Well, where do you make the assumption that I’m always angry? I am pissed that every cultural environment that I spend time in, from Hollywood to academia to the newsroom, is a hostile environment for the point of view of what is arguably the majority in this country… I’m fighting as an idealist, and I don’t know anything between two modes, jocularity or righteous indignation. I wish I had that full spectrum of human emotions. That’s all I know.
Q: Do you want Glenn Beck’s job, now that it is free?
A: I have ADD. But I have it worse than anyone that I know. And so when I’m on a set, I feel like I’m utterly constrained and feel like I need like an ADD drug like Adderall or something… if television could conform to my creativity and my desire to be out there in the field and having fun then I would be for it. But it seems kind of expansive for the 5 o’clock hour on Fox News.
Q: On the topic, what are your thoughts on Glenn Beck?
A: In recent months he’s started to use a phrase called, “The truth has no agenda” and he’s used it to try and position himself against his conservative competitors to try and appease Media Matters and Voice of Change and his detractors, but if he’s going to become the arbiter of how journalism is going to be done then he’s opening himself to criticism… he was able to have a neverending stream of content over the last few years and there are a lot of bloggers and videographers who have been outraged by his methodology. I think he owes them an apology.
Q: What's your relationship like with Beck?
A: I asked him for the opportunity to go on his radio show or talk show to address the context of the [Shirley Sherrod] story and he didn’t [say yes] and that was after his using so much of the content from my site for so long and my defending him when he was attacked under false pretenses. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t just throwing me under the bus, but he did so within a month or so of going into business against me with the Blaze—an extraordinary break in what I thought was a good and honest working relationship… I did not understand how he could throw me under the bus and not give me a platform when he has three hours a day when I was the No. 1 topic. I begged for me to be able to go on his show to explain myself and he didn’t allow it and I thought that was very telling.
Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.