Following the arrest of conservative activist James O'Keefe and three others allegedly attempting to "interfere with the telephone system" in the New Orleans offices of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, Andrew Breitbart, whose website hosted the selectively edited ACORN tapes that propelled O'Keefe to conservative stardom, issued a statement saying he had "no connection" to the incident:
We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O’Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office. We only just learned about the alleged incident this afternoon. We have no information other than what has been reported publicly by the press. Accordingly, we simply are not in a position to make any further comment.
AB: When the story came to us, what I wanted to do was to make sure that the ACORN story got as much widespread dissemination as humanly possible. The videos that he independently produced went on YouTube. And so Huffington Post, every single site put it out there, including my sites. What he does for the site exclusively is he tells his life rights, basically. So when he puts a story out there, it’s on the Brietbart sites, the Big sites, that he can tell people what transpired. So…
HH: Do you pay him for that?
HH: And are you free to tell me how much you pay him?
AB: I’ll…perhaps at another date, but he’s paid a fair salary.
So Breitbart was paying O'Keefe a salary to come up with sensational stories involving liberal targets. That's not "nothing." Moreover, it's worth noting that O'Keefe had already potentially broken laws in Maryland and California with his original ACORN scheme, so it's not as though Breitbart can say he was ignorant of O'Keefe's recklessness or lack of journalistic ethics. It seems more accurate to say that Breitbart was paying O'Keefe precisely to do this kind of kamikaze activism, without caring too much about the details until O'Keefe got hemmed up by federal agents. In the meantime, Breitbart is uncharacteristically encouraging everyone to "wait for the facts."
As a side-note, the reaction on other parts of the right has been pretty amusing. Daniel Foster at National Review writes:
Another of the suspects in the Landrieu wire-tapping case is affiliated with a self-styled spy school. You'd have to think its reputation just took a considerable hit.
That would be Stan Dai, who was apparently recognized as an "Undergraduate Fellow on Terrorism" at the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies. That would be the outfit headed by pro-torture National Review writer Cliff May, whose roster includes fellow NR writers Andrew McCarthy and Michael Ledeen. By Foster's standard, shouldn't that group's reputation be "taking a hit" too?
I'm really interested to see how conservatives, who have deployed guilt by association and insinuation so effectively, handle the potential downfall of four individuals who were so well tied into the conservative media infrastructure. Someone lend me Glenn Beck's chalkboard.
-- A. Serwer