Thursday, Mar 1, 2012, 12:36 pm
My Two Drunken Encounters With Andrew Breitbart (RIP)
Every part of me today wants to demonize Andrew Breitbart for the way he exploited poor white people, but I can’t because I ran into him twice while we were both drunk. And to be perfectly honest, I felt bad for the guy. He seemed so insecure, which probably drove him to do what he did for a living.
On Tax Day in 2010, my buddy Ryan and I decided to crash a fancy, exclusive Washington Life magazine party at the ritzy Washington Club. It was the type of affair that I would never be invited to or attend, but we were friends with the guys playing in the band there and heard there was free booze. My dashingly good-looking friend John, who played in the band, quickly found two women dressed in evening gowns to claim that my buddy Ryan and I, who were dressed in jeans, were their dates.
The party was by far one of the most decadent affairs I have ever attended in Washington. A woman dressed in a chic evening grown equipped with a TV crew was interviewing tuxedo-clad men and evening gown-clad women as they entered the party. Reggie Love, the president’s body man, was on the dance floor as women attempted to clip to him. In another corner was MSNBC host (and former In These Times Senior Editor) Chris Hayes chatting with a White House staffer. I even met a guy at this party who said he worked as a private wine collection consultant—it was the weirdest party I have ever been to in my life.
Then in the middle of the room, I spotted him—Andrew Breitbart. I couldn’t believe it.
He was chatting up some black woman, making her laugh, and I was in a state of shock. Here was this man who had done so much to flame racial hatred, hitting on a black woman. Not only did this Breitbart flame racial hatred, but a week earlier he had gone up to Harvard to confront AFL-CIO President Trumka after a speech and accused organized labor of being racist and inciting violence.
In sharp contrast, earlier in the day I had seen a bunch of poor Tea Party guys on the Metro heading to a Tax Day protester on the National Mall. I felt so bad for these kinds of guys. I grew up in Pittsburgh with guys like them who had been laid off a dozen times and found security in the worldview presented by Hollywood hucksters like Breitbart . And here Breitbart was hanging out with fancy liberals instead of poor, redneck Tea Party guys.
I was already making a scene with my flannel jean outfit in this room of fancy liberals, so I figured why not make even more of a scene—after all, I was wasted. So I went up to Breitbart and said, “Hey man that was one hell of a protest today. We really showed those tax-and-spend liberals today. How come you aren’t out with the other Tea Party guys partying at the Motel 6 in the suburbs?”
An upset Breibart just looked at me and said “Hey man, I am hanging out with my friends right now. Can you please leave me alone?”
So I lashed into him, “Oh I see how it is. You’re a big man whenever the camera is on, but when it’s not you don’t care for a fight. You wanna go up to Trumka at Harvard and call him a racist and say all kind of bullshit, but when a guy like me calls you out all you can say is ‘Leave me alone. I’m with my friends.’”
“Hey man I never called Trumka a racist. I didn’t do anything to Trumka. I said people in organized labor had done racist stuff. Leave me alone,” said Breitbart.
“Aww bullshit, the truth about a guy like you is deep down inside you’re just a scared little kid, who doesn’t know what to do with his emotions.” Then I told him to go fuck himself and walked away.
A year later, I was in Minneapolis at Netroots Nation drinking on a patio with some Steelworkers when a very long-haired Breitbart passed by in the street. I couldn’t resist.
“Hey Breitbart, you remember me? I confronted you that one time at that fancy Washington Club and chewed you out?” I said. Breitbart look confused. “I chewed you out about that shit you said to Trumka.”
“Oh yeah I remember you—that was weird,” Breitbart said.
“What are you doing out here man?” I asked.
“I’ve got a few friends in town and we’ve been out drinking. Dude I just drank like two bottles of wine. We’ve been having a good time,” Breitbart replied.
“Yeah man, me too. All this free booze will kill you,” I replied. “Hey, why don’t we have a debate on the merits of public-sector unions when we’re sober sometime? We could do it tomorrow at Netroots.”
“I dunno man. I’m really busy this weekend.”
“Oh come, we can have a real honest debate about unions. I’ll talk about how a lot of these labor leaders hurt their members with their big salaries and out-of-touch attitudes,” I replied.
“I dunno man, give me a call sometime,” he said, brushing me off.
“Oh OK then, what’s your number then?” I said.
Breitbart told me a number and I saved it in my phone by calling it and hanging up. I assumed naturally that the number was a fake or some number for a secretary at one of his offices. Why would Andrew Breitbart give me his number?
Then 20 minutes later, I get a phone call.
“Hey who is this? I just got a phone call from this number?” It was Breitbart on his cellphone. Holy shit.
“This is Mike Elk man. I just ran into you on the street. We talked about maybe setting up some kind of debate.”
“Oh yeah man, I remember that,” Breitbart said.
“Let’s debate this weekend man. Me and you. Name the place. Let’s have a debate on the merits of public-sector unions,” I said.
“Naw man, I can’t do it this weekend. I’m really busy this weekend.”
“Come on man, let’s do it. I’m not the typical liberal. I’m critical of labor leaders often. And to be honest, I thought that shit you did about Anthony Weiner was hysterical. I mean what a creepy dude. I heard that guy was a big asshole to his staffers, ” I said referring to when New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was forced to resign after he sent a college student a picture of his penis.
“Yeah man I can’t believe it either. Weiner is such a creep,” Breitbart laughed.
“Yeah, seriously crazy shit. Seriously man, come on, let’s have a debate this weekend—me and you. You choose the venue.”
“I dunno dude. I need time to prep up and I just can’t do it right now. I am really wasted right now dude. I gotta get some food. Call me some other time.” And with that, Breitbart hung up.
He got off the phone, and I laughed in disbelief. Here was this big evil guy just drunk off his ass not even sure of who he was calling. He was supposed to be this fearless guy who would take on any liberal. Instead he hung up so he could search for food.
To be honest, I felt kind of bad. He seemed like a confused guy. I never did wind up debating him, of course. When I heard that he had died, I kind of wish I had called up Breitbart and challenged him to a debate just so I could have gotten to know the man better.
It's really easy to hate Andrew Breitbart, but as Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I've got nothing but love in my heart for Breitbart. It’s the only way we are going to change the insecure Breitbart acolytes of the world. RIP.
Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.
More by Mike Elk
- Steve Early on Labor Reporting: ‘Unions Can Be Thin-Skinned About Criticism’
- Verizon Wireless Workers Make History in Brooklyn
- Emails Show Sen. Corker’s Chief of Staff Coordinated with Network of Anti-UAW Union Busters
- The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen
- Former Teamster Official Pushed Anti-UAW Message on Social Media