"Hating Breitbart" a celebration of a controversial conservative's life

The film opens up with a montage of commentators on cable television like Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher and Anderson Cooper calling Tea Party activists "Tea Baggers," an example of how Breitbart and his supporters felt the media was provocatively unfair in their coverage of the Tea Party from the onset.

The film switches back from interviews with Breitbart on tour — often in hotel rooms where he's on the road to speak to various conservative audiences — to some of his most celebrated media battles, including: the infamous James O'Keefe/Hannah Giles sneak video on ACORN; the Shirley Sherrod episode; and his very righteous anger regarding a Tea Party rally in 2010, where black members of Congress alleged that they were spat upon and heard the n-word thrown at them.

"I love confrontation," said Breitbart at an address before the New Orleans Southern Republican Leadership Conference in the film. "And you should to. It's the only way we're going to win. We need to shove it in the mainstream media's face ... we have an obligation to fight back."

That was the man's credo, his call to arms.

Although Marcus is clearly a Breitbart supporter, he does an okay job of reporting on the Sherrod episode, which was not one of Breitbart's greatest moments. The incident began when Breitbart showed footage on his website of Sherrod, a black employee at the Department of Agriculture, seemingly boasting at an NAACP meeting about the fact that she wasn't going to help a white farmer. When news of that footage broke, Sherrod was told to resign by her boss, USDA head Tom Vilsack.

The next day, the rest of the footage was aired elsewhere, and although it showed that Sherrod said she was not going to help the white farmer (which elicited cheers from the NAACP crowd), later in the same speech she said her initial feeling was wrong (she ended up helping the farmer). The clip had been selectively edited, depicting a different scenario than what really happened between Sherrod and the farmer.

Breitbart was crucified in the press (including on the Glenn Beck backed site The Blaze), but in the film he insists that his original footage also showed her later comment. To verify Breitbart's account, Marcus shows a brief clip from Hardball with Chris Matthews, where the Hardball host blasts guest Howard Dean about whether Dean had seen the full clip. However, as I learned when looking this up, Matthews later admitted he was wrong in challenging Dean on that broadcast, and redid the segment two hours later, something that Mediaite reported Matthews rarely does.

The last half hour of the 90-minute documentary covers Breitbart's unwillingness to accept that black members of Congress like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver were subjected to racial epithets, which they claimed happened when they walked past a gauntlet of Tea Party activists back in 2010.

The film makes clear how Breitbart despised liberals for calling their critics (like the Tea Party) racist, and that's pretty much why he went over the top in saying those congressmen were liars. He put up financial rewards (originally $10,000, then $100,000) to anyone who could prove that the n-word was used.

Why was Breitbart, who didn't even attend the rally, convinced that no racial language was used? Because it wasn't recorded, he said. He insisted that in the age of the cellphone camera, if it wasn't recorded, it didn't exist. But that's like saying if it's not on the Internet, it didn't happen. There are a few things that get through, still.

Anyone familiar with Breitbart's biography knows that his father-in-law is actor Orson Bean. What I didn't know before watching Hating Breitbart is that according to Bean, Breitbart wasn't a conservative until he visited his father-in-law's house one day and picked up a Rush Limbaugh tome that seemed to convert him (Breitbart had spoken about being a reconstructed liberal). Also I didn't know that Breitbart was best friends with Max Bean (who in turn introduced him to his sister, Susannah, who later married him).

(I worked with Max Bean at an Internet advertising agency called Left Field back in San Francisco in the late 1990s. I didn't know him that well, but I do remember him telling me that he had a good friend who wrote for Arianna Huffington. This was years before the advent of the Huffington Post.)

Will this documentary convert the uninitiated to the cult of Andrew Breitbart and his conservative websites? Maybe to those whose politics are unformed. But in the culture war that permeates our national politics, this is a loving tribute to a cultural warrior on the right. It's only been a year, but nobody has picked up his mantle yet: That may be Breitbart's ultimate triumph — that nobody was ever quite like him.

Hating Breitbart opens this Friday at the AMC Veteran's 24, 9302 Anderson Rd., Tampa FL 33634.

Love him or loathe him, no one can deny that during his short time on the national scene, Andrew Breitbart was a force of nature. The conservative blogger/commentator/reporter/raconteur died of heart failure in March of 2012 at the age of 43 (though, naturally, some of his most intense enthusiasts say he was assassinated by liberals).

Though his legacy is still alive through his various websites — Breitbart.com, Big Government and Big Hollywood — it's bound to get another round of resurgence with this weekend's theatrical release of the documentary Hating Breitbart, which will show in 15 theaters across the country, including the Veterans 24 in Tampa.

In the documentary, Breitbart acknowledges that there are two sides to his persona: jocularity and righteous indignation, and credit must be given to director Andrew Marcus for showing both sides in the picture. However, it was Breitbart's fulsome anger/indignation toward the "liberal" mainstream media that defined him to his fans and foes, and probably could be his epitaph.

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