As NewsBusters' Lachlan Markay pointed out, the Weinergate scandal showcased a variety of liberal media conspiracy theories. One of the most prevalent theories focused on besmirching conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who broke the story wide open Monday with a series of posts on BigGovernment.com featuring lewd photos of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
"Look, Breitbart is a proven liar, okay?" bellowed MSNBC anchor Cenk Uygur on June 1. "He doctored the Shirley Sherrod tapes. He's done this over and over again. Why would anybody take this fool seriously?"
Uygur was far from the only media figure to assault Breitbart's credibility to defend Weiner:
In an exchange with Howard Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources," CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes blamed Breitbart's "history of taking Democrats out of context and smearing people" for her network's reluctance to cover the Weiner story. “That was a reason that people were going slow on this story,” Cordes confessed. “We were wary.”
On the May 31 edition of "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN's Jeffrey Toobin suggested Weinergate would “fall apart” because it originated with the unreliable Breitbart: "In his defense, I think we do need to point out that the person behind this is Andrew Breitbart, who has made a practice of targeting Democrats – Shirley Sherrod most notoriously of all. And his stories tend to fall apart on close inspection."
The next night, CNN's Paul Begala took a similiar tack: "It is a right-wing blogger who was pushing this, and a pretty unreliable one at that, which mama always said, consider the source."
Salon.com's Joan Walsh chimed in on the June 1 "Hardball" to take her pound of flesh: "My position from the beginning has been, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt because this originated with Andrew Breitbart, who released the selective – deceptively edited ACORN tapes."
Noting that Gawker's Maureen O'Connor scolded Cordes on "Reliable Sources" for failing to cover Weinergate, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard framed the reflexive criticism of Breitbart as a clash between old and new media.
At his contrite press conference on Monday, Weiner apologized to Breitbart. How many of these newspeople have issued similiar mea culpas?
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.