Sunday, August 14, 2011

Confronting Breitbart In St. Louis (VIDEO)

Several weeks ago, when I heard Andrew Breitbart was going to be in town for a conservative conference, I challenged him to finally have an honest discussion about his smear campaigns against two St. Louis institutions: UMSL and our local SEIU. I have to admit, this is a little personal for me, since Breitbart shamelessly tried to destroy people I know and institutions that do a lot of good for the city, but I also think there are pretty strong objective reasons why Breitbart should have this discussion with me if he wants to maintain his constructed image of someone who's willing to "take on all-comers" (see below).

Despite the fact that I personally tweeted Breitbart at least 20 times over several days, that dozens of other people also asked him to accept the challange over Twitter (see examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), including people Breitbart obsessively follows on Twitter like Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, Karoli of Crooks and Liars, and Joan Walsh of Salon, and that many other people sent Breitbart Facebook messages asking him to accept the debate challenge, Breitbart not only did not accept the invitation, but was too cowardly to even respond. So when I saw he was going to be in St. Louis again I thought I would take the conversation to the guy who's been running away from real debate on the two topics for a lot longer than just the three weeks I've been asking him to debate.

Breitbart was speaking at a black conservative conference in St. Louis, and my friend Brian Matthews and I had no interest in interfering with any of the conference, so we patiently waited in the lobby for Breitbart to come out. Several conference attendees recognized us, and we had nice conversations with them, including one of the conference organizers Chris Arps (former staffer of Jim Talent). Though the conversations were friendly, several people went back into the room to report that we were outside. Other people left the room and scoped out the layout of the building, and soon Breitbart along with Dana and Chris Loesch were power-walking towards an obscure side-entrance in order to avoid Brian and myself. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with them before the getaway was complete, and so was finally able to confront him with my camera rolling about his dishonest smear campaigns against St. Louis institutions.

Since fully understanding the conversation requires some background knowledge, I'm going to follow the same format as I did with my run-in with Dana Loesch at the Tea Party Rally, posting links and info to help explain some of the points and in particular why Breitbart is full of it. I'll try to put most of the info after the videos, but there are a few points I'd like to make in advance since the conversation is initially a little hard to follow thanks to Breitbart's incoherent ranting:
  • Breitbart starts of by saying he's here to represent the rights of kitties and to talk about electrocuted cats. I originally had no idea what he was talking about but eventually figured it out. He was referring to some of the video he posted of a labor studies course where a professor describes a tactic unions used in Peru where it was illegal for utility workers to strike. The professor describes the workers releasing cats in powerhouses where the cats would be electrocuted and short out the system. The workers' behavior is pretty morally abhorrent in my opinion, but the professor was not making a moral argument that you should engage in this behavior; rather, she was describing tactics which had previously been used. So this claim by Breitbart has absolutely no relevance to the criticism that his website published deliberately distorted quotes from the professors.
  • Yes, that is CNN contributor Dana Loesch desperately trying to get attention while I'm speaking with Breitbart. More on her absurd claims below.
  • The one comment I regret making was joking about Loesch preventing Breitbart's ability to "defend his manhood" after one of the times Breitbart humorously had to tell Loesch to stop interrupting the conversation. Anyone who knows me would know that I don't take the concepts of "manhood" or "machoness" seriously at all, and mostly just think it's funny that anyone cares about them (this is not to say that I have anything against people who find these qualities sexy or admirable or whatever; just that I personally think they're funny). But I realize that something that might be funny among friends can be off-putting when said to strangers, so I regret using that term to make a joke.
  • At one point in the video, I say that I know more about these cases than Eric Boehlert. By this I certainly didn't intend any disrespect. My only point was that because I'm covering this from St. Louis I personally know many of the people and institutions involved and thus had access to information and context that Boehlert did not. Boehlert did an excellent job covering these events, and I have great respect for him as a writer and a thinker.
  • There's so much more nonsense and falsehoods from Breitbart (and Loesch) to discuss, but for now I'll post the video and save the further observations and links to the facts below: (apologies for the fact that my phone camera is turned sideways in the middle of the discussion)

    OK, so with that, here are some observations about the "discussion:"
  • Breitbart claims that Kenneth Gladney was called the n-word by Elston McCowan. At best this claim is disputed and I would argue the evidence against it is stronger than the evidence for it. At the trial, which I attended unlike anyone from the tea party, the three defense witnesses all were consistent in saying that what Elston McCowan, a black Baptist Minister, said was the word "negro" rather than The N-word. On the other hand, out of the three witnesses from the prosecution, one said that McCowan used the bizarre expression "son of an n-word," one said he used the expression "n-word" but didn't hear anything about a "son of a..", and Kenneth Gladney, after two years of saying that only Elston McCowan used the n-word, all-of-a-sudden changed his story to now claim that both McCowan and co-defendent Perry Molens called him the n-word. The inconsistencies between the prosecution's witnesses and the fact that Gladney changed his story no doubt counted strongly against the prosecution's case, as the jury took only 40 minutes to reach a "non-guilty" verdict for the SEIU defendants.
  • Breitbart repeated his absurd conspiracy theory that the White House sent a signal for "union thugs" to beat up innocent tea partiers at the town halls. He implicated the deputy White House Chief of Staff, the head of the AFL-CIO John Sweeney, and the SEIU in his grand conspiracy. Though the claim is clearly absurd that there was some massive government conspiracy coming from the White House to beat up a random guy selling buttons at a townhall, Breitbart actually showed remarkable constraint, at least considering that his sites and the tea party have collectively implicated all of the following groups and entities in their conspiracy theories about that night:
    the president of SEIU, the president of the AFL-CIO, the President of the United States, Congressman Russ Carnahan, Carnahan’s spokesperson Sara Howard, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, former OFA Missouri Coordinator Buffy Wicks, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Field Director of Health Care for America Now Margarida Jorge, Prosecutor Bob McCullough, St. Louis County Counselor Patricia Reddington, County Executive Charlie Dooley, the NAACP, the ACLU, the head of the St. Louis County Dept. of Health, and even the local animal control department.
    If you believe that all of these entities were involved in a massive conspiracy to beat up a random guy in St. Louis, I don't even know what to tell you.
  • Some people might object to me saying that I thought some of the claims about Sarah Palin's targets causing violence were ridiculous. I don't mind there being a calm discussion about whether the use of such imagery is irresponsible, but I think claiming that it "caused" some particular act of violence is, in general, pretty silly. Considering that Breitbart clearly claims that comments from the White House caused the alleged attack on Gladney, his claims are also absurd.
  • Breitbart asks, "how many times have I met you?" I respond, "zero." he says, "No. One! You can't even get that right!" Pretty hilarious! I expected better from him.
  • It's also pretty hilarious that Breitbart continuously demands that I allow him to repeat his same old tired talking points that I've read 100 times. Notice how much of an opportunity I had to speak during the entire conversation? Yet he has the audacity to claim that I won't allow the truth to come out.
  • Breitbart claims that only Carnahan supporters were allowed in the townhall. This is not true. In fact, Dana Loesch and many tea partiers were in the townhall, as she admits. The claim is based on the fact that in addition to the main entrance there was a side door where some but not all people were being allowed in. My guess is that the door was being used to allow people in who had volunteered to help, but I honestly don't know the exact circumstances. Regardless, it doesn't have much relevance for the question of who started the altercation between McCowan and Gladney.
  • Regarding Breitbart's claim that he wasn't going out a side door to avoid Brian and myself. There's a pretty obvious main entrance to the building, and he did go out the side door. He first claims that he was going out the side door because that's where they were parked. Hilariously, he then starts to go back into the building and when I ask him why he says it's because he doesn't want Brian and I to see the car. And then he gets picked up in the car! Pretty funny. As noted above, he has clearly been avoiding this conversation for weeks.
  • He says that he offered to debate "anyone" on the Gladney case for $10,000 donated to charity. I've certainly never seen that offer to "anyone," though I've seen Breitbart routinely offer to debate Eric Boehlert since he knows that Boehlert has good reasons to not want to be put in a situation where the media could sloppily categorize him as "the liberal counterpart of Breitbart." What Boehlert does is far more respectable than what Breitbart does, and a debate would have the potential to cloud that fact. Anyway, I personally am happy to debate Breitbart on the subject, as I've made clear many times. If he's going to continue slandering innocent people, he should take me up on the offer.
  • Comedy gold: Breitbart said he wouldn't debate me because my tactics are "unfair." When I asked him what's unfair, he replies "you only care about your side." Classic!
  • As I've described previously, the witnesses for the prosecution that Breitbart cites are not credible. Two witnesses, Harris and Sandra Himes, originally suggested in the police report that they saw how the fight started. Later, Harris Himes said in an interview that his wife did not see how the fight started and that he had been walking away. Harris Himes also has a history of extreme right-wing politics. The other witness, John Mirelli, is seen on video earlier in the evening having to be held back from getting in an altercation with an SEIU member.
  • To try to get out of the discussion, Breitbart and Loesch demand that I debate a black conservative about Gladney. I told the guy demanding that I debate him, Martin Baker, that I would be happy to debate him later but I was here to talk to Breitbart since Breitbart led the smear campaign. As soon as Breitbart left I found Baker and told him I'd be happy to talk about it. I have video of the discussion that I'll be posting later.
  • Breitbart ridiculously suggests that you need to watch 31 hours of footage from a labor studies course to see if his web site deliberately distorted the quotes of two professors. Needless to say, you don't need to review every word ever spoken to know that omitting the fact that Judy Ancel was quoting someone else and cutting out the middle of Don Giljim's comments is a deliberate misrepresentation of what they said. I am glad, however, that Breitbart and Loesch admitted that they saw the full footage before it was posted on the site and Breitbart said he "stands by the video." Now they have no excuse for their dishonesty.
  • Breitbart's argument that UMSL should post the full 31 hours of video is a red herring. UMSL is prohibited by law from releasing the personal information of students, and for good reason. Academic freedom is, in part, based on the idea that students should be allowed to explore academic ideas in a classroom without fear of retribution or persecution. Breitbart's decision to post video of the students' comments on a public website is despicable. As for his suggestion that UMSL publish a transcript of the entire class with student names blocked out, I suspect that the reason they're not doing that is the same reason that he won't do it: it would be an absurdly time-intensive project.
  • Loesch's ridiculous comments deserve their own section:
  • At the beginning of the video Loesch asks "Does Washington University know that it's employee is here using its resources to smear private citizens?" It's true that I'm a graduate student at Washington University, but why Loesch thinks that I'm "using university resources" by engaging in a non-academic discussion on a Saturday afternoon in the summer is beyond me. Seems a little anti-free speech, doesn't it?
  • Loesch claims, and has been claiming for a year, that I'm an "SEIU blogger." I've never been paid anything by SEIU and have no idea why anyone would call me that. Loesch claims that someone referred to me as an "SEIU blogger" on a video, and suggests that someone from SEIU made that claim at an NAACP press conference. I'm skeptical that anyone from SEIU said that since I don't think anyone from the group was even at the press conference she mentioned, but whomever said it would be wrong.
  • Loesch also claims that I "laughed" at the same NAACP press conference when someone called Gladney an "Uncle Tom." It's true that I was at the event, but I'm sure I didn't laugh. I remember feeling uncomfortable with the comments. Another manufactured smear.
  • Finally, Loesch disgustingly claimed that I was "stalking her children," another tea party conspiracy theory I've heard before. I previously had no idea what the claim was referring to, but Loesch explained that it was in reference to the fact that, "you clicked the website where my children are on." In other words, despite the fact that I have never, ever, said anything about her children in any context nor do I know anything about them or want to, she's claiming that I "stalk her children" because one time I linked to a post on her Mom Blog that she had referenced from her political Twitter account. That's pretty despicable behavior from a CNN analyst, or from anyone for that matter.
  • So there you have it: more than you ever wanted to know about the dishonesty of Andrew Breitbart and Dana Loesch. It's no wonder that Breitbart is so afraid to have a real debate on these topics where both sides can be presented in full.


    1. LOL One of the dudes filming you leaves the lens cap on the entire time.

    2. I think Breitbart's new website will explain a lot"

    3. Wonder how well the footage taken by Breitbart's camera guy with the lens cover on came out.

    4. Thanks for posting this Adam. You're doing admirable work combating people who seem to care little for facts and focus their energies on promoting insidiously slanted propaganda.

      (ps. I believe there's a function in iMovie that will allow you to rotate video footage by ninety degrees.)

    5. Good knock down drag out. lol The guy is a worm. Wait, let me apologize to worms everywhere.

    6. This is valuable footage and should be forwarded to any MSM outlet (especially CNN) that allow either of these well-trained attack dogs to appear as talking heads on their networks.

    7. Hmm... Are dissenting views allowed on this 'progressive' site?

    8. Wow. Seriously... what you have been doing here is truly amazing and I commend you for dealing with these immoral jerks. I talk the talk, but you walk the walk.

    9. Blogagog, I'm happy to allow "dissenting views" so long as they include substance, such as arguments about particular points. But no, I don't publish the standard "yOuRz a loung-hare hippyzzzzz" fare from right-wing poo-flingers.

    10. I'd love to debate the both them. It be awesome. Here's some facts I'd add to the areas being addressed:

      Why was Dana or any tea party representaives at the town hall which was supposed to be about medicare and to answer questions medicare recipients had to changes. The answer to that is they were there to harass Carnahan and they succeeded in creating a three ring circus. Imagine how you would feel if you were a "private citizen" who had attended to learn more about your Medicare plan and what you got was the ridiculousness that ensued? If anyone instigated the scuffle Gladney was involved in it was the presence of the Tea Party and their inflamatory, volatile behavior.

      Point #2 - we've all seen the video. Gladney was not beaten or attacked. He had words with some people which resulted in a small scuffle where he lost his balance and fell down. The one SEIU guy even tried to catch him to keep him from falling down, and was probably charged with assault because of it. I didn't have to be there to know what happened. The video was very clear.

      Next, what business is it of Loesch or Briebart of the Tea Party what is being taught in a classroom at UMSL???? It's not their business. If a student or students had a concern with content taught in a class there is a procedure that student can go through to report the concerns. Trying to get people fired because you disagree with them is the most immature, scum-sucking, inexcusable thing I've seen these people do.

      So seriously. Bring it on! I'd love to debate them both!

    11. jeeze, loesch really is a whiny little lapdog to dimbart isn't she? I have to commend you Adam because i would have told that dimwit to get lost.

      She sounds like hannity jr. which isnt surprising because her whole routine is built on copying from people that are national hosts...

      Good work on catching them though, and i think BunnieG is right, this should be forwarded to some people at cnn so they can see what their "contributor" is really like

    12. Breitbart is someone who, when you object to the fact that dissenters are being rounded up and taken to the soccer stadium, will lecture you for ten minutes on how soccer "is very important to their culture" and ask why you have a problem with that.

    13. You long-haired hippy, you needs to stop usin' them Wash U reesources 'cause they're making you too smart fer us! Plus you're spellin' too good, GET A JOB!


    14. Well done, Adam. See what I mean about Breitbart's arguing style?

      [laughing] Cats yet.

      As I said, Breitbart will drag it off into the weeds if given the chance, so tempting as it is to refuse to dignify with an answer the question of whether Electrolima employees sabotaged powerhouses with cats, as related in Judy Ancel's juicy tale on the linked video, which she got from an unnamed friend in the employ of the utility, I'm gonna do it anyway.

      Ahem: BULLSHIT.

      I'd rather not speculate on the motives of the gullible Judy Ancel here, other than that she's a sucker for a good story, but I will tell you this: you can't shut down a power system by throwing a cat in it; you'll just get a fried cat, and I promise you the lights won't even dim. This is forty years of AC experience talking, and yes, I've been bit a few times.

      Also, in the first sentence of Judy's tale, she says that the military is protecting facilites, but then goes on to state that the put-upon workers managed to slip cats in somehow. So, no soldier is no match for no cat, I guess, to paraphrase Sylvester.

      It's hard to search for contemporary accounts of this since Ancel specifies no time frame for it, but I do find it difficult to believe that such an occurence wouldn't merit some newspaper coverage, and sure enough, a good faith google produces nothing (except links to right wing sites citing the Breitbart piece approvingly).

      And of course, all this leaves aside the fact that cats famously can't be expected to do anything you want, and can in fact be reliably depended upon to do the opposite.

      So I'm just saying the story is apocryphal, unsourced, incredible, and not worth considering in any discussion-- of anything.

      In other words, right up Breitbart's alley.

    15. Adam, Don Giljum did say that violence was a possibly appropriate labor tactic in his unedited statement.

    16. I agree that the videos should never have been edited or sent around.

    17. You can see why Breitbart handpicked Loesch to be his lackey.

      It's hard to believe she's been at this now for two years, and still believes playing the "stalker, kid, woman" cards work with anyone.

    18. I can't even listen to Dana Loesch's radio show. The thought of a face to face discussion is dreadful. It brings to mind wandering in an amusement park House of Horrors but without the amusement, just the horrors.

    19. In Don Giljum's full unedited statement Bill Hannegan, Don says that such violent and destructive tactics are counterproductive in today's world. You've got it wrong. Study up. -SP

    20. OUTSTANDING........ as one of the students involved , you had the patience to deal with this sort of gimmick-talk & got your points presented to allow THE TRUTH... to shine . Thank You & keep the good fight going which is JUSTICE

    21. I was at the town hall meeting mentioned and can assure you there were many tea partiers inside. Their only intention was to disrupt the meeting and they did a good job of it.

    22. Hello Adam,

      Glenn Kage here. Great work as ususal. I'd like to interject something about the "side door". You are correct the side door was there for the volunteers. I was contacted by Jim McHugh and asked if I could round up some UAW members to help set up the table for the panel and chairs.

      We got there about half an hour before the event was to start and was working our way to the front door when Jim called and told us to come around to the side door. We went in and set up the auditorium as instructed. We did not recieve any pay other than having a row of seats provided.

      The audience seemed to be more anti Carnahan than not. Everytime he would try to speak the tea party would scream Liar liar drowning out nearly every word he would speak. They even shouted down everyone that tried to speak. It was embarassing to see a US Congressman treated that way.

      As I was leaving the event I came upon the fight as it was just breaking up. At the time I passed I was very angry at Perry and Elston for allowing themselves to get into a situation that would cast a bad light on organized labor. I later talked to Elston over dinner and apologized for wrongfully thinking that. He explained the whole event to me and I carry guilt even now for feeling the way I did towards both him and Perry.

      I am sickened to my stomach at how the tea party and Brietbart twist their lies and attack good hard working innocent people.

      Adam thank you for all you do. In Solidarity Glenn Kage Jr. Former President of the UAW CAP Council

    23. Excellent work!!!! CNN should be made aware of Dana's completely insane and unprofessional behavior.

      On a side note, it really intrigues me that Breitbart (or even CNN) remains so silent about the Phillip Hinkle/Criaglist rent-boy scandal.

      After the bizarre media feeding frenzy Breitbart unleashed on Anthony Weiner, and his claims that the his media circus had nothing to do with politics, but with decency, its odd that Breitbart is so unconcerned about Hinkle.

      I think he only addressed it briefly, when asked about it in a radio interview.

      Contrast that with the breathless, minute by minute side show that Breitbart staged around Weiner.

      Regardless of Weiners sexting, its cover up or what not, the event was for Breitbart, a sadistic exercise in slowly destroying a person through an excruciating execution by public humiliation.... and using every media vehicle in sight to do so.

      Breitbart clearly got off on the pain and humiliation that he knew he was causing to Weiners family... he relished it on national tv.... he coupled it with ostentatious and dishonest claims of wanting to "help" rep Weiners family, only to shower the air waves with every sort of nudey pic he could gather.

      The whole time Breitbart claimed it was only about the integrity of public office. He also claimed that the media unfairly targets conservatives in such affairs.

      But when it comes to an anti-Gay hypocrite like Hinkle trying to solicit sex from a guy young enough to be his son, where is the breathless media circus that we saw around Weiner, and which Breitbart managed in such a conniving way?

      I would expect a dishonest charlatan like Breitbart to be as dismissive of the Hinkle case as he has been.

      But what about the supposed "bias" that Breitbart and other conservatives constantly whine about-- that is, the false claim that Republicns are unfairly targetted in sex scandals by the "librul media", while democrats are not?

    24. Great job! I was just on and asked him if he might like to go after Breitbart like he did the Congressional Republicans in 1998 cause Breitbart is, no hyperbole an enemy of the American people.

      He destroyed Acorn, he's after SEIU, he even wrote some very silly piece about the Census last year after going "unvercover" he revealed that on training days they sometimes allow you to leave early and yet claim a full day on your time card! What a scandal. I know about this as I worked there myself last year.

      This is what his opposition to "Big Government" amounts to: oppostion to anything that serves the American people.

      Weiner deserved better, but kudos to Flynt he offered Weiner a job for more pay than at Congress.