As much as the late Andrew Breitbart was reviled by the left, I always found him to be an entertaining, if often inflammatory, media presence. Breitbart died Thursday of natural causes at the way-too-young age of 43, giving liberals everywhere less reason to assault their TV screens in apoplectic rage.
Breitbart's perhaps best known for breaking the so-called Weinergate scandal involving the inappropriate Twitter and sexting activities of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who was retired early from his political career due to Breitbart's fearless reporting and Weiner's own stupidity.
That's why I was a little surprised to read blogger Brandon Darby's February 29 entry on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, the same site that published the first Weiner pic, wherein Darby depicts my colleague Monica Alonzo's expose on Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu as a "media hit" that's failed.
In doing so, he incorrectly claims that Babeu's ex-Mexican lover Jose Orozco is a United States citizen.
"The Phoenix New Times decision to allow a spurned ex to make frivolous claims turned out to be just that," he insists. "The 'Mexican Ex' who Babeu had allegedly 'threatened with deportation' turned out to be a US citizen. One can only wonder why the staff of the Phoenix New Times couldn't catch that one."
Darby offers no source for this revelation, and it does not jibe with the facts of the case as we now understand them. In fact, though Babeu and Orozco and Orozco's lawyer have all claimed that Orozco is in the country legally, none of them have asserted that Orozco is a U.S. citizen.
Indeed, in an interview with CNN before his identity was revealed by other outlets, Orozco claimed that he had a 10-year multiple entry tourist visa. His lawyer Melissa Weiss-Riner told Alonzo that she had a copy of Orozco's visa on file, and Orozco, a Mexican national, also informed Alonzo that he was in the U.S. on a visa.
As I discuss at length in my column this week, and has been remarked upon by other media, if Orozco has a non-immigrant visa, like the one he describes, it would not allow him to take up residence or work in the U.S. In fact, though the visa is renewable, he would only have permission to be in the U.S. legally for six months at a time.
Immigration officials would likely regard Orozco as a removable alien, given the circumstances. So the alleged threat of deportation supposedly made by Babeu's lawyer Chris DeRose would carry some weight.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Department has an agreement with the feds allowing specially trained deputies to enforce immigration law. Babeu has high-level contacts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and with other law enforcement agencies. Dropping a dime on Orozco would have been easy as pie for Babeu.
I don't know where Darby, a controversial FBI informant and former leftist radical, got the notion that Orozco is a U.S. citizen. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have misread statements asserting that Orozco is in the country "legally," and somehow misconstrued that to mean that Orozco is a citizen.
Breitbart was known for decrying the double-standards of the mainstream media, which he regarded as liberal-leaning. But Darby employs a bit of a double-standard himself in his diatribe.
"He was 'outed' as gay by the left-of-center Phoenix New Times," writes Darby. "Not only was he outed in their effort to play upon homophobia, but he was also smeared with the insinuation of legal wrongdoing."
Again, as I noted in this week's column, Babeu outed himself by posting a shirtless snapshot of himself on a gay hookup site bestrewn with ads for gay porn. Also, he sexted a nude photo of his erect penis to man he did not know.
If GOPer Babeu had been a heterosexual or gay Democrat and pulled the same stunts, would right-wing bloggers like Darby be defending him?
The issue of "legal wrongdoing" by Babeu, such as abuse-of-power allegations, among others, involving the work Orozco did for Babeu's campaign, has been raised by both Republicans and Democrats in the wake of the scandal. Babeu himself called for the investigations now underway into his activities.
When Breitbart first broke the Weiner story, reposting a close-up photo of Weiner's bulge beneath his underwear that Weiner had posted to his Twitter account, Weiner initially claimed that he had been hacked, an illegal act. Some even suggested Breitbart had done the hacking.
This was, of course, totally bogus. Weiner posted the image himself, just as he had been sexting with several women around the country. The congressman was the agent of his own destruction.
Similarly, in his February 18 pity party press conference in Florence, Babeu took on the mantle of victim, claimed the photos we published were "personal and private," and that his websites and other media had been "hacked."
But Orozco did not need to hack. That's because Babeu had given his Mexican lover complete control over his campaign websites and social media. When Babeu's lawyer sent Orozco a cease-and-desist letter, he demanded all of Babeu's passwords and insisted Orozco help the sheriff gain control of his Twitter account, among other things.
Orozco complied with the cease-and-desist letter. And all might have been left at that if DeRose and Babeu had not continued to seek Orozco's signature on a non-disclosure agreement, as Orozco and Orozco's lawyer have stated.
The alleged deportation threat was supposedly made as leverage to get Orozco to sign on the line that is dotted, and to remain mum on Babeu's sexuality.
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Alonzo's story is not a political hit piece. Such activities by Pinal County's top cop, and a congressional candidate to boot, are a legitimate news story.
More legitimate than Weinergate, perhaps. Initially, that entire story was about how Weiner had posted a pic of his bulge. And though Weiner lied, I don't recall any abuse of power allegations in that scandal. Or any Mexican nationals of questionable status.
Listen, Breitbart had every right to go after liberal poster boy Weiner. And despite what Darby's written, if Weiner had been a congressman from Arizona, New Times would have pursued that story with the same gusto.
For Darby to suggest that there's no substance to the Babeu scandal is engaging in the same kind of hypocrisy that Breitbart loathed in the MSM. As for the contention that the scandal has not affected Babeu, falling poll numbers for Babeu as reported by the Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet indicate otherwise.