By Kris Kitto - 12/08/08 05:46 PM EST
After playing supporting roles to big names in media and politics, Andrew Breitbart is poised to become the protagonist in his own story.
The publisher of the online news aggregator Breitbart.com helped launch and run two of today’s most influential media and political punditry websites, Arianna Huffington’s left-leaning The Huffington Post and Matt Drudge’s right-leaning Drudge Report. He offers little about his past with Drudge, where he was a part-time editor who once at a dinner party jokingly called himself “Matt Drudge’s bitch.” He compares the comment to President-elect Barack Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau groping the breast on a cardboard Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Of Drudge, Breitbart says only, “I don’t work there anymore.”
Now the politically conservative Breitbart, 39, will debut his own collection of original material in his Big Hollywood group blog, a new home for right-of-center voices that want to sound off on the interplay of popular culture and politics.
A Los Angeles native, longtime Hollywood observer and known political commentator, Breitbart might seem the natural choice to fill what he sees as a gaping hole in the country’s public discourse. His fascination with the relationship between entertainment and politics dates back to his high school years, when he enrolled in an American University summer program as an excuse to come to Washington for the hearings on the Iran-Contra affair.
“The only thing I remember is that Morgan Fairchild was in the front row,” he says.
Now, not only has the conservative movement given up interest in America’s arts and entertainment industry, he says, the liberals’ lock on Hollywood ideas has resulted in a single-minded atmosphere that has become “just flat-out boring.” He hopes to use the Big Hollywood blog, which will go live Jan. 6 and be housed on Breitbart.com, to bring the political right back into the pop-and-politics discussion.
“My primary goal is to diversify Hollywood,” says Breitbart, whose 2004 critique of liberal Tinseltown, Hollywood, Interrupted, made The New York Times best-seller list. “Those people [in Hollywood] who dissent are so summarily attacked and dismissed that they learn to just keep their mouths shut. And there’s nothing I like more than to have debate free and open in America.”
His strategy is to prod conservative Washington to start caring about Hollywood. Breitbart has already signed several big names, including House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), incoming Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.), to post entries on the site. He has also landed former senator and GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson, MSNBC correspondent Tucker Carlson and a slew of other conservative thinkers from the National Review, The Weekly Standard and Commentary magazine to contribute.
Breitbart is also eager to include commentary from Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives who have stirred up controversy in the past. “I don’t consider them controversial,” he says.
“I desperately want to change the environment here,” says Breitbart, who lives with his wife and four children in Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood. “And I can see no other way than for the Washington establishment and the conservative establishment to avert their eyes from policy for just a moment and focus their attention on Hollywood.”
And to jolt liberal Hollywood, Breitbart says he has wooed conservative screenwriters, comedy writers, classical musicians and alternative singer-songwriters to contribute to the blog. Celebrities who risk being blacklisted if they come out as conservative can write under pseudonyms, Breitbart says.
“I want it to be such a mixed group of people that people’s minds will be blown,” he says. “They’ll go, ‘This is not your mother’s conservative moment.’ ”
Contributors will not get paid for posting on Big Hollywood, which will be funded through Breitbart.com’s advertising revenue, Breitbart said. He said contributors will take on a variety of topics.
If Boehner, for instance, sees a movie, “I’d like for him … to do a movie review,” Breitbart says.
“Not everything is going to be a political dissertation,” he says.
In that vein, Cantor spokesman Rob Collins says he could see his boss writing a post on the television shows his three teenage children watch and how those programs affect them.
But not everyone’s on the same page about Big Hollywood’s mission. Though McCotter says he is happy to use the blog as another way for Republicans to communicate their message, writing pop-culture critiques isn’t exactly what he has in mind.
“I’m not going to be doing movie reviews,” he says.
McCotter recognizes the need for the site (“The only people lonelier than Washington Republicans are Hollywood Republicans right now,” he says), but isn’t looking for any personal gain. “I’m just writing for the blog. I’m not looking to get a toupee and go out to Hollywood,” he says.
For other people thinking Washington lawmakers and their influencers have better things to do, Breitbart thinks the contrary.
“I’m arguing that pop culture isn’t just superfluous,” Breitbart says. In the “stream of American popular culture,” he says, attitudes and behaviors portrayed in movies and other pop-culture outlets eventually become policy issues.
“The movies used to reinforce good behavior — that you should pay back your loans,” he says, using the country’s credit crisis as an example. “I think you’re going to get better-behaving Americans … you’re going to have a better society if you treat Hollywood like the important entity it is.”
Both Breitbart and John Nolte, a screenwriter whom Breitbart tapped as the blog’s editor in chief, say their goal isn’t to force their viewpoint down other people’s throats. They plan to offer countervailing points of view on the site, like that of liberal screenwriter John Ridley. Overall, they hope to broaden the pop-culture dialogue to include more conservative points of view and stop what they see as the demonization and misrepresentation of conservatives in Hollywood.
“We’re not bigoted, homophobic, racist, sexist monsters,” says Nolte, the creator of Dirty Harry's Place and former head writer at the now defunct Libertas, two conservative film blogs. Nolte also directed the yet-to-be-released feature film "Beautiful Loser."
“If we can have a conversation, we can move the ball a bit,” he said.
Others question whether Hollywood oppresses conservatives like Breitbart and Nolte say it does. Bill Triplett, former Washington bureau chief for the entertainment trade magazine Variety, says he has had no trouble finding conservatives in Hollywood.
“I never thought anybody [in Hollywood] was afraid to express that they had conservative values or politics,” he says. “I just question how big this repressed population is.”
Triplett does, however, see an opportunity for conservatives to become more involved in pop culture. “I think [Breitbart’s] right; you don’t hear much commentary on pop culture from hardcore conservatives, except usually in a critical sense,” he says.
Huffington, whose site is providing a rough model for Big Hollywood, says she “doesn’t know if there’s a lot of evidence” that Hollywood discriminates against conservatives. But she does note the talent of her former colleague Breitbart and says his new venture might provide the political right a springboard from which to regroup.
“I think this is actually a moment where the right has a lot of rethinking to do,” she says, adding that Breitbart could help facilitate that.
If Big Hollywood is successful, Breitbart says he would like to start other group blogs that focus on climate, human sexuality and race, and he’s open to blogging on other issues. But first, he just wants to get people in Hollywood talking again.
“There’s nothing I want more than for the tension in this town to go away,” he says. “People can agree to disagree.”