Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Breitbart, and the Making of a Non-Story

Categories: Media, Politics
andrewbreitbart1.jpg
Andrew Breitbart: crank source?
Newsrooms across the country went on red alert yesterday as the conservative website BigGovernment.com -- a URL one can reliably say was never destined for non-ironic use -- posted what appeared to be quite a scoop. In an exclusive interview, Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, said her mother wanted to retire.

The younger Pelosi was quoted as saying that her 71-year-old mom was only holding on to her House seat at the request of unnamed "donors." With these meager ingredients -- the Right's favorite septuagenarian West Coast Liberal punching bag, a telephone interview, and the barest whiff of campaign-finance-related corruption -- a story to dominate the news cycle was born.

But was it really a story? Was it anything, beyond a vague quote repurposed for conservative and sensationalist ends?

Let's take a look at what Alexandra Pelosi actually said:

She would retire right now, if the donors she has didn't want her to stay so badly. They know she wants to leave, though. They think she's destined for the wilderness. She has very few days left. She's 71, she wants to have a life, she's done. It's obligation, that's all I'm saying.
Now amend that: Alexandra Pelosi apparently texted BigGovernment.com after the story went live to correct a misquote -- she had said donors believed her mother was destined for "greatness," not "wilderness." (With the correction, her quote makes a hell of a lot more sense. Donors would presumably want to keep Pelosi in office because of her potential for greatness, not her future wanderings in the "wilderness," whatever that means.)

Pelosi's office, when the grown-up news outlets chased this story, predictably denied that the House Minority Leader is thinking about retirement. What are we to make of all this?

Let's be clear: Alexandra Pelosi's comments were certainly catalyst enough for a news story. With that interview in hand, a good journalist could have explored the not-at-all surprising possibility that a 71-year-old career politician who has likely reached and passed the pinnacle of her legislative career in the past few years -- Pelosi cemented her legacy by repeatedly herding Democrats into line to support President Obama's major domestic initiatives -- might think about bowing out. (She certainly doesn't have to worry about her San Francisco seat being lost to the GOP.)

Calls to her aides, those close to her, including the aforementioned "donors," once identified, would have been in order. Instead, we had a string of headlines either parroting the premise of the BigGovernment.com story or rejecting it based on the disavowals of Pelosi's spokespeople. This isn't journalism, since no effort was made to discern which side was lying; it isn't even stenography, since the exact meaning of Alexandra Pelosi's original words was far from clear.

The ultimately mild fallout from the Pelosi Fake Retirement story follows a similar pattern to other media controversies manufactured by Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of BigGovernment.com. Isolated facts or quotes are pushed forward in the form of print or video, the rest of the media hastens to catch up -- in the process giving undue legitimacy to the original report -- and in the end no new information has been added to our understanding of the topic at hand. Nothing has been learned.

Reporters would do better to treat the likes of BigGovernment.com not as a competing news organization, but as that figure known perenially to real journalists, in real cities: the unreliable crank source, the guy who shows up in the office lobby in a worn houndstooth jacket, meticulously arranged file folders in hand, pestering the receptionist to speak to a reporter. The information he presents might be factually accurate, and it might even lead, eventually, to a news story. Far more often, alas, it is a thin factual underlay for a theory that falls obviously short of the truth.

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28 comments
im happy
im happy

There are a surprise visit to YouTube, please be sure to ihavealreadycom

im happy
im happy

There are a surprise visit to YouTube, please be sure to ihavealreadycom

GayMedia
GayMedia

It doesn't even matter what NP's daughter says, I hate Nancy Pelosi with a purple passion. She is an elititist 1%er if ever there was one, and any liberals who support corrupt, arrogant, let-them-eat-cake "haves" like Pelosi, are elitists themselves. I hate everything she stands for and cannot wait to get a government in that is not corrupt like her and all of her money-making buddies in Washington. She hates to be challenged and SF Weekly is just supporting her because they hate Breitbart.

iMacDaddy
iMacDaddy

Some idealists from SF went off to start their own Socialist utopia in the 70's.  Their leader was well-received in SF: Mayor George Moscone even appointed the Reverend Jim Jones to a seat on the SF Housing Authority Commission.  Anyone recall how that Socialist utopia at Jonestown turned out?  Ask Congresswoman Jackie Speier about that utopia - she witnessed it firsthand.

Steve Czaja
Steve Czaja

Gran Nan with no plan. DLTDHYSAOTWO!

Joe W.
Joe W.

As a critical player in the Obama Family, Nancy Pelosi will be remembered and be reviled by history and the Nation as a corrupt, bought and paid for wretch, who profited handsomely at the suffering of her constituents and the Country at large.  She should occupy a cell along with the rest of her gang of thieves and thugs.

TexGEOas
TexGEOas

Yeah... when the comments don't go your way... just censor them. That's where mine seems to have gone. Move along folks. Nothing here worthwhile.

Caind60
Caind60

So we're supposed to believe you? Nancy Pelosi is destined to be known for her crooked politics,nothing else.She fights for the "little man"? At $10k a night hotels.If ObamaCare is so great why did they start handing out exemptions,and why did a number of those end up with Pelosi's rich business owner friends? San Francisco is full of complete morons.

TexGEOas
TexGEOas

"Greatness" makes no more sense than "wilderness". The reporter reported what she ACTUALLY SAID. Why is it you liberals always want to lend your own interpretation to make it come out to fit your agenda. Don't you trust the public to sort anything out? Oh... and btw... BigGovernment.com does better reporting than any ten of your guys! This is a non-story and Big Government is certainly not the focus of it. They REPORTED. You got a problem with that? Obviously you do.

Rose
Rose

It's not at all surprising that Nancy Pelosi would be ready to retire. A few years in the unrelenting fishbowl that is public life would be enough to do anyone in. I for one will not miss her and her extreme vicious partisanship. Partisanship like that will be the ruination of this nation, and both she and Barbara Boxer are its extreme practitioners. 

Many have noted how telling it is that she suffers on for the sake of her DONORS, not her CONSTITUENTS. But that's not surprising either, coming from a woman who believes half her constituents are enemies, and who cries fake tears over peaceful Tea Partiers, yet lauds the craven and despicable #Occupoopers.

Her daughter is a breath of fresh air, and while it may seem to some akin to Martha Stewart's daughter's revelations, it's nice to know she's there, and not playing the enemies game.

Bless Breitbart and the new media. Without them, we wouldn't even need a memory hole, so much stuff never even makes the press.

sybilll
sybilll

Nancy hon, insider trading has served you well, but I think your boss was right:  "At some point, you've made enough money".

Felicia☺
Felicia☺

Wow, you know, I watched the news today and they said "wilderness" as well...But you're right, let's blame ONE person for this! Sounds like typical liberal behavior to me. Shame on you. 

P
P

Leftist fish-wrapper.

andrewbreitbart
andrewbreitbart

Our reporter Jeffrey Scott Shapiro stands by the story, by the quote. Alexandra Pelosi said 'wilderness' - read the context! 'Greatness' doesn't even make sense in the corrected quote's langauge! We indulged Alexandra Pelosi's request for an update, but it was clear that she was trying to walk back what she said, likely per her mother's request. Clearly, this is Pelosi damage control. This article by the Weekly shows how easily led by the nose it is by Team Pelosi. What sad alt.weekly sycophants.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Why give this retard a platform at all?  You should be better than this, SF Weekly.

LN_Smithee
LN_Smithee

An eyewitness to the corruption of the election of Moscone as SF mayor and his and Willie Brown's involvement of Jim Jones in his GOTV effort was then-Examiner reporter Lester Kinsolving, currently the WorldNetDaily.com White House correspondent.  The MSM guys love to laugh at Les because he asks the questions they're afraid to address. 

sfc415
sfc415

Did he record the interview? Like most "journalists" do when on a "story" of such purported import?

For that matter, did he "ask" a "follow-up" along the lines of, "So is she retiring or not?"

This is empty vagaries dressed up as news at best and hyped-up nonsense at worst.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Go back under the bridge, troll.

Tara Crosby
Tara Crosby

Breitbart, don't get all pissy when someone actually tells the truth. You seem to be in denial, thinking that you're a "good" journalist. You are what is wrong with the media today, sir. Bravo to you, SF weekly, for giving the facts. 

Mary
Mary

SFWeekly's interested in covering for the corrupt Nancy Pelosi, you know, the elected official, who profits from displacing US citizens from their jobs, and dropping $10k a night on luxury hotels in Hawaii.

LN_Smithee
LN_Smithee

Oh, what rapier wit. Touche.

Seriously, do you honestly believe that inserting the word "greatness" in that quote makes any sense whatsoever?  If one were to be inclined to believe that Pelosi was "great," she wouldn't be "destined for" it, she would have already achieved it!

Come on, Eric. Have the courage to be honest with yourself, no matter how much it hurts.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Care to cite sources on that $10k/night number?  People keep posting it, but I haven't seen a shred of evidence to back it up.

LN_Smithee
LN_Smithee

("Family Feud" clap) Good answer!  Good answer!

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Wow, you've really been brainwashed.

LN_Smithee
LN_Smithee

HA! I *knew* you'd be back. :) 

You've got a problem, Eric, because you want to say that you can't believe @AndrewBreitbart's account of the A. Pelosi quote because he's Breitbart.  That's irrational, especially when you try to make sense of the sentence in question inserting the word "greatness" where she was quoted as saying "the wilderness."  Why would anyone say that N. Pelosi, deposed as Speaker after her moment of glory in shoehorning ObamaCare down America's collective throat (momentarily), was "destined for greatness" that's in her rear-view mirror?

If you knew anything about Breitbart's site BigJournalism, you would know that as well as demanding retractions of demonstrably false MSM accounts, they issue what is known as "Credit Where It's Due" announcements.  That's because they don't take your "I wouldn't believe the sky was blue if he told me" stance.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right?

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

No, all it "proves" is that you're trying very hard to pick a fight, yet deep down you also know that Brietbart is a worthless idiot so you have nothing to say.

Oh, and that whole "last word" thing? That's another way of admitting that you've lost as you try to save face in a pathetic last attempt.  Nobody in their right mind would defend a hack like him and you know it.

LN_Smithee
LN_Smithee

Actually, you did think @AndrewBreitbart was worthy enough of your time to respond.  You mistakenly think that fact is mitigated by the fact your response wasn't serious.

That applies to your response to me as well.  You've got time for both of us.  And if you don't allow me the last word, you'll prove me right again. :)

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Did you honestly think I'd respond to some worthless opportunist like Brietbart as though I gave the slightest shit as to what he had to say?

If wanna-be pundits are worth of your time, I feel sorry for you.

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