An ugly on-air spat between conservative Web journalist Andrew Breitbart and MSNBC host David Shuster capped a bizarre episode which saw a seemingly embarrassed Breitbart covering his tail on his blog and Shuster face a reprimand from MSNBC.
During the seven-minute interview, broadcast Thursday, Breitbart repeatedly dodged Shuster’s questions about his financial links to James O’Keefe, the so-called “ACORN pimp” who was arrested earlier this week trying to tamper with the phone lines at the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Breitbart had previously admitted paying O’Keefe.
Breitbart attacked MSNBC for initially reporting that O’Keefe had been charged with wiretapping, and demanded a retraction. “You tainted the jury of his peers,” he told Shuster.
“Andrew, you want things to be framed on your terms, and here you are talking about journalism ethics when you guys have just demonstrated over and over … that you have no concern for the facts,” Shuster said after several minutes of loud arguing. “You are so quick to make allegations about other people, and yet when one one of your own is charged by a federal prosecutor and the FBI, you want everybody to hold off and wait.”
Hours after the interview, seemingly embarrassed Breitbart came out fighting, blogging that “Shuster lied to get me to appear on MSNBC.” He posted a letter from Shuster to Breitbart in which Shuster declared that “I don’t have a horse in this race.”
But earlier that day, Breitbart had tweeted that he expected a “Shuster ambush” on air, suggesting may have known beforehand that he believed Shuster did, indeed, have “a horse in this race.”
Breitbart then posted a series of tweets from Shuster in which the MSNBC host took a less-than-judicious approach to the arrest of James O’Keefe.
“Wingnut who did that sting of ACORN has been arrested for trying to bug Senator Landrieu’s phone lines,” Shuster tweeted on Tuesday.
And in another tweet later that day, Shuster addressed O’Keefe directly and said, “a) you are not a journalist b) the truth is you intended to tap her phones c) it’s a felony d) you will go to prison.”
That brought a rebuke from MSNBC on Thursday, with a network spokesperson telling Politico that “the comments were inappropriate,” and that “[w]e have talked to David about them.”
O’Keefe and three associates have been charged with “entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony,” according to the FBI. Under the terms of his bail, the 25-year-old O’Keefe has been ordered to live with his parents.
This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast Jan. 28, 2010.