Yesterday, the Breitbart empire stepped up to the plate, called their shot, swung, missed, hit themselves in the face with the bat, then took a triumphant trot around the bases as spectators looked on with piteous and mocking wonder.
Hug-gate, as it quickly came to be called, was the big story the Breitbart people had been teasing for weeks now -- a videotaped hug between then-Harvard Law student Barack Obama and the late Harvard professor Derrick Bell at a 1991 protest supporting Bell's push to have a woman of color offered tenure at the school. Why the controversy? Because Bell, per the Breitbart indictment, is a dangerous radical who, in the act of pressing his body to the young Obama's, imparted to him all the insane radicalism that now animates the moderate liberal currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
As Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro put it, in characteristically grandiose fashion: "This is just the beginning. And this video, in its entirety, is the smoking gun showing that Barack Obama not only associated with radicals but believed deeply in their principles - and wanted the rest of us to believe in them, too."
The problems with the story stack high. 1) The video has been online since 2008 and snippets of it were included in a PBS special on the '08 election; 2) David Remnick wrote specifically about Obama's speech about Bell in The Bridge and even noted on page 214 that "his speech concluded, he hugged [Bell] in front of a cheering crowd"; 3) The NY Times reported on Obama's praise for Bell at the rally in 2007; 4) Buzzfeed obtained the video and published it yesterday morning, squashing the Breitbart "scoop"; 5) Derrick Bell was a respected academic, an influential figure in the Civil Rights movement, and nowhere near the dangerous frothing radical the Breitbart team would have us believe; 6) Even if Bell were a dangerous radical, they present zero evidence whatsoever that Obama "believed deeply" in Bell's alleged radicalism; and 7) A hug? Seriously?
That's embarrassing enough, but remember: this is BIG Journalism. And when the journalism is this big, you have to go deeper.
Conservatives in the media have used the occasion of Rep. Barney Frank's retirement announcement to rehash old theories of how he, through his support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, caused the subprime bubble and subsequent meltdown. In fact, Wall Street -- not affordable housing programs -- was the primary cause of the financial crisis.