The late Andrew Breitbart built a reputation as a hard-charging journalist who was willing to break big stories and not fold under intense pressure. A new chapter in Breitbart's upcoming paperback edition of Righteous Indignation tells how he used his skills to uncover and break the story that led to former Congressman Anthony Weiner's downfall.
Breitbart, who died suddenly of natural causes a few weeks ago, used his Big Journalism website to unveil the initial tweet complete with a photo that was mistakenly sent by Weiner just before Memorial Day weekend of last year. The lewd photo was quickly deleted by Weiner, but still remained on the account of the 21-year-old woman who was on the receiving end.
A preview of the chapter was obtained by Politico and reveals how Breitbart decided to run with the story.
"I began multitasking, refreshing my Twitter stream on my iPad," wrote Breitbart, who described how the events unfolded while relaxing with his wife Susie that weekend.
"It was at that moment that the best-laid vacation plans of mice and men ended, and my recommitment to the story began four days ahead of schedule. Huh, I thought, what's this?"
"Someone, using the Twitter handle PatriotUSA76, had re-tweeted an alleged tweet of sitting congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York). The message included a link to an image, which I immediately clicked. While sipping wine, I looked at the image at first with mild confusion. What am I looking at? I wondered. I picked up the iPad and turned it in different directions to try to make out what the image was. It took about ten seconds for me to get it, at which point I had a mild 'Eureka' moment: Aha! I know exactly what that is! … The next twenty-four hours – even though it was Saturday of a Memorial Day weekend – were going to be critical."
"We knew that the organized left was going to wage war, and by the time I woke up the next day, after launching the story, I realized that the Democrat-Media Complex was playing for keeps. … In my own home, I was trying to tell my wife why I was singularly focused, and why this was not going to be an ordinary Memorial Day weekend. Susie asked if we could still travel to Palm Springs. Not wanting to disappoint everyone, I made hopeful assurances that the story would not interfere with family fun. The two-and-a-half hour drive on Sunday foretold the essence of the vacation: that's your daddy's body, but he is not here with us."
One of the more important decisions Breitbart had to make was how he could handle the photo of Weiner since it revealed the Congressman's private parts.
"As I searched for it on my BlackBerry, I reemphasized why I did not want the image to be made public, and I asked them to respect that wish. On tape – tape that I did not realize was rolling – they agreed not to reproduce or publish the photo. But shock jocks, apparently, do what shock jocks do, and en route to JFK, no more than a half hour after leaving the studio, I received a phone call from a reporter – from New York magazine, I believe – who asked about a photo that purported to be the prized Weiner 'dick pick' that had emanated from Opie and Anthony. … And I proceeded to call my business partner and best friend Larry Solov. 'I think we have a problem…'"
Breitbart also describes the Weiner fiasco as a story that could have received little press attention from the press on a slow, summer holiday weekend.
"When people compliment me for perfectly strategizing l'affaire Weiner, they fail to take into account that most of Weiner's wounds were self-inflicted. Had he owned up to his transgression on Memorial Day weekend, when the press was asleep, we would have had a minor story with, at worst, a congressman taking a few weeks off for 'sex rehab.'"
Weiner initially denied posting the photo of him in his underwear to his Twitter account and said he was pranked. He later confessed that he did send lewd photos to a woman in Washington State and lied about it. He resigned from Congress last June.
Breitbart's last paragraph discusses the advantages and disadvantages, the highs and lows of being a journalist who at times enjoys making enemies.
"I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and – famously – I enjoy making enemies.
"Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I've lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I've gained hundreds, thousands – who knows? – of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night."
The paperback edition of Breitbart's book, Righteous Indignation, goes on sale April 3.