I haven’t posted yet on the decision by ABC News to use Andrew Breitbart as some sort of analysis for their election night coverage. I didn’t think I really need to say how bad of a decision I thought this was, but now it’s getting beyond what I thought it would.
When ABC decided to clarify that Breitbart would only appear on their webcasts that was expected to temper down the backlash somewhat. Well it didn’t work and now the new firestorm ABC is facing comes from none other than Breitbart himself. From Greg Sargent:
You have to wonder if ABC News is regretting its decision to get within a thousand miles of Andrew Breitbart. The guy is now accusing the network of lying about whether they had tapped him to do on-air election night analysis.
ABC News, in a statement sent my way, adamantly denied Breitbart’s latest attack. But it appears he will still have some kind of role with ABC’s coverage.
This is worth noting, because it shows how insane it is for any serious news organization to play footsie with this guy. He’s a relentless self-promoter who’s clearly seizing on this standoff to turn himself into some kind of First Amendment martyr, even if it means dumping all over the organization that originally extended him the invite to participate.
As you recall, Breitbart recently announced that he would be “bringing analysis live from Arizona” as part of ABC’s “election night coverage.” After the ensuing outcry, ABC clarified that he was not offering any analysis and was not appearing on the air.
Now Breitbart has posted private emails from ABC that he says prove ABC did tap him for on air analysis. He also points out that an earlier statement from ABC suggested he would be appearing “on air.”
Did ABC engage in a John McCain style vetting process when deciding to use Breitbart? They picked a guy known nationally as a smear merchant and liar and said “hey – let’s give this guy a bigger stage in the national spotlight and try to give him some credibility”. How in the world did ABC ever think this was a good idea?
But here’s the real problem now. Put aside the fact that ABC looks like some partisan hack machine by choosing Breitbart and look at the bigger picture. The past actions of Breitbart have been a cancer on the new media. We have had to deal with him for years, but in the past several months his actions of distortion and lying have drawn a larger audience onto the bad parts of the new media. We really have no control over that though. The web is open to any person to post to and Andrew Breitbart is no exception.
While we in the new media are stuck with Breitbart, the traditional media could have easily avoided him. ABC took the wrong path here and instead of realizing what Breitbart really is, they decided to give the guy some validity and invite him to join their team. Now that decision is going to create a gaping wound for ABC and they have no one to blame but themselves.
If ABC wants to try and recover from this self-inflicted wound then they should announce that anyone involved in giving Breitbart the go ahead is terminated immediately. They should also put out a strong statement condemning the decision and stating that it goes against the journalistic integrity that ABC wants to uphold. Anything short of that and ABC will be tending to this wound for a long time to come.