Last week, right-wing media tycoon Andrew Breitbart announced that he would be “bringing analysis live” on air for ABC News’ “election night coverage.” Media watchdogs were rightly outraged by ABC’s decision to host the smear merchant, and the attorney for Shirley Sherrod — who was ousted from her job at the USDA by a duplicitously edited Breitbart video — slammed the network, saying hosting Breitbart was “like rewarding a Klansman.”
However, ABC quickly clarified and distanced themselves from Breitbart, saying they had never asked him to appear on air, and had only asked him to participate in “an online-only discussion and debate.” This snub was too much for Breitbart, and in recent days he has directed a considerable portion of his formidable smear machine at ABC News for supposedly lying to him about his participation in the network’s coverage.
This afternoon, ABC News released a letter it sent to Breitbart disinviting him from any participation with the network’s election coverage, saying his immature reaction to not be allowed to go on TV made them “feel it best for you not to participate“:
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. 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. 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.
While it seems clear now that Breitbart greatly exaggerated what ABC had asked him to do, and then threw a tantrum and used is his vast media empire to concoct outlandish conspiracy theories to defend his shameless self-promotion, ABC probably should have steered clear of Breitbart in the first place. As the American Prospect’s Adam Serwer has explained, Breitbart “has contributed in very direct ways to the racialization of the conservative argument against Obama, and has helped amplify that argument” through his dishonest faux journalism, and ABC turning to him would only help “rehabilitate” the smear merchant.