"The devil is here! The devil is here!" bellowed a voice in the distance at theConservative Political Action Conference in Washington last weekend.
Turning around I see that Andrew Breitbart -- the conservative activist who later would go outside and call Occupy protesters "filthy freaks" -- is pointing at me to a crowd of people. "The devil is here -- and he's wearing Prada!"
Breitbart then told the crowd, gathered around his producer's station on "radio" row at CPAC, my name and affiilations, and that it was the issue of “outing,” and my being at the center of it 20 years ago, that drove him from liberalism to joining the right-wing.
"It's all because of you!" his producer exclaimed to me.
My first reaction was to ask for an interview. What followed a while later was an impromptu public debate in the exhibit hall, with a crowd of people surrounding us (many with cameras and recorders), on the issue of outing.
For the record, my relationship with this issue goes back to 1990, when I reported on the homosexuality of the recently deceased multi-millionaire Malcolm Forbes -- a dead man -- which caused a media uproar. I believed that while Forbes was being held up as a great capitalist by William F. Buckley Jr. and other conservatives in eulogies, the public should also know he was gay and that he was not in a relationship with his good friend Elizabeth Taylor (which the media had insinuated for years). I simply saw it as proper journalism and rejected any other name for it, including "outing," which Time magazine dreamed up.
"I found it to be such a horrifying act," Breitbart said, thinking back to that time, when he was a "cultural liberal, a default liberal" living in Los Angeles. "[I remember thinking] this is an outrageous tactic, a dehumanizing tactic. It forces them out of their private realm and makes them public figures in order to enforce a political reality. I believed that in the United States of America, you have the right not only to be in the closet but you have the right be to be gay and believe in traditional marriage -- not to coerce people, using language of hate."
The irony is rich, and Breitbart rejects anyone pointing to examples of it like, oh, say, his calling Occupy protestors "filthy freaks"; or distorting the words of Agriculture Dept. official Shirley Sherrod to take her down and attack the president, inspiring a defamation lawsuit against him; or exposing Congressman Anthony Weiner for tweeting a lewd photo of himself -- one of which Breitbart even showed a couple of radio hosts on his phone, though he was "mortified" it leaked out -- and then hijacking Weiner's press conference; or being part of an attempt to take down ACORN with undercover videos edited to mislead.
"I don't write about the heterosexuality -- I don't out congressmen," he said, then shifting back to closeted gay officials. "If a person is married and he has a secret life, that's how he wants to live his life."
Breitbart even defended former Idaho GOP Senator Larry Craig -- not on breaking the law by having sex in a public bathroom (he thinks that should have been exposed) but by voting anti-gay while secretly having sex with men.
"I believe that you can be gay, a person of conscious and for traditional marriage," he said.
Of his leaving the board of the gay Republican group GOProud over the supposed outing of Rick Perry’s pollster Tony Fabrizio, Breitbart claimed that the reason he joined the board in the first place was to "create a fine line" on outing.
"I had told GOProud that my involvement with gay conservatives was based upon the outing situation," he said, "and that I felt there needs to be better leadership in the gay conservative movement to draw a fine line on tactics I've seen, not just on the gay left. All those tactics have penetrated mainstream political politics since the 1980s and I wanted to create a fine line and implored them that this was a matter to me of the utmost importance."
Defending his reporting on Anthony Weiner, he said he the congressman made a "public tweet," and he was simply then covering it. When it’s pointed out to him that if Tony Fabrizio (whom GOProud and others contend wasn't known to be "closeted") went into a gay bar and there are 600 people there, it’s certainly "public" too, he switches from the invasion of privacy issue over to the motives of those doing the reporting.
"My problem is that it was about the compliance of the radical gay agenda. My problem is that it's coercion," he says, as if his reporting on Weiner, Sherrod, ACORN and others was not driven by any agenda or motive, nor meant to do harm, politically or personally. "I'm not the National Enquirer. I don't engage in that type of journalism. It is meant to inflict a maximum amount of damage. It is an act of political and emotional terror."
Listen to the full interview with Breitbart below:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article's headline identified Breitbart as gay. He is not.