Politico editor stands by comparison of Huffington Post to Breitbart

In wake of Sherrod flap, Jim VandeHei argues that Huffington Post is like Breitbart

Topics: Andrew Breitbart, War Room, Huffington Post, Politico, Shirley Sherrod,

Politico editor stands by comparison of Huffington Post to BreitbartArianna Huffington and Andrew Breitbart

[UPDATED]Politico executive editor Jim VandeiHei said on the radio yesterday that the lesson of the Shirley Sherrod mess is that the “media-activist industrial complex” such as “Breitbart on the right or Huffington Post on the left” has “a huge incentive … to engage in real tough combat, and to overreact.”

That sounded a lot to us like VandeHei was equating Andrew Breitbart — who posted an incendiary edited video, without having even seen the original and any due diligence or attempt at reporting it out — and Huffington Post, which employs actual reporters who hew to journalistic standards. Yes, Huffington Post’s stories sometimes flow from liberal premises and its reporters tend to be open about their ideological leanings. But HuffPo is fundamentally different from Breitbart, a hyper-partisan flamethrower who, as far as we can tell, does not employ any actual reporters. For example, he posted the deceptively edited Sherrod clip under the headline, “Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010.” (And he has refused to issue a correction since the full video was released.)

Asked about this, VandeHei told Salon in an e-mail

As you can see from my remark, my point was clear: partisan media outlets are growing, some at very rapid rates. I am not equating the two other than to say both are ideological and both are growing at impressive clips. Huffington Post clearly leans left, Breitbart clearly leans right. I am not saying this is good or bad – just a fact.

We followed up to ask VandeHei if he would acknowledge that Huffington Post — which has respected beat reporters like Sam Stein and others — has considerably higher journalistic standards than Breitbart (who arguably is not a journalist at all). Here’s what he said:

I agree on Sam. I think he is a terrific reporter with very good sources, especially in Democratic circles. I also agree that Huffington Post has some reporters who are attacking stories much like we would: getting and reporting facts. We sometimes cite their work in Mike Allen’s Playbook or on our blogs. But, unlike us, HUFF has a number of people writing with partisan edge and an agenda, much like Breitbart does. I am not aware of any beat reporters working for Breitbart’s family of sites, though I could be wrong.

Bottom line: VandeHei can’t seem to fully shake the false equivalency between Breitbart and Huffington.

Here’s the full quote of what he said on the radio Wednesday (audio here):

 I think this one of those rare instances where everybody looks quite awful, to be honest — the media, activists, NAACP , Breitbart, the Agriculture department — everybody comes off looking bad, because there was an overreaction. I think it speaks to a much broader problem in the media-activist industrial complex, if you will, and I think it’s a problem that’s going to get worse: There’s been this proliferation of partisan media — whether it’s MSNBC and Fox at night, or it’s Breitbart on the right or Huffington Post on the left — there’s just a huge incentive for people to engage in real tough combat, and to overreact.

UPDATE: Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz sent over this statement disputing VandeHei’s “laughable” comparison in the strongest terms:

Vanderhei’s comparison is laughable. From releasing the “Bittergate” tape that nearly derailed Obama’s campaign, to the beyond left vs. right perspective we bring to covering issues such as the war in Afghanistan, Wall Street reform, and the influence of special interest money and lobbying on politicians on both sides of the aisle, it’s clear that HuffPost’s coverage is based on ferreting out the truth and a reverence for facts and fairness – not partisanship. This is yet another example of the kind of false equivalency so many in the media can’t seem to outgrow.

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.


    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."


    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>