Tensions were high at CPAC on Saturday when a shouting match broke out between Ari Rabin-Havt, host of the Agenda on SiriusXM Left and a senior advisor to Media Matters, and Joel Pollack, Breitbart News’ editor in chief.
Pollack demanded an apology from Rabin-Havt for previously claiming that Pollack was a birther conspiracy theorist.
"'Sorry' better be the next word out of your mouth," Pollack exclaimed, pointing across the room at Rabin-Havt.
As the exchange progressed, the crowd also chimed in with sporadic heckling in Rabin-Havt's direction. "I don’t think you are a birther, but I think you did further birther conspiracies,” Rabin-Havt ultimately told Pollack.
Rabin-Havt was also joined on the panel by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, whose undercover and selectively edited videos have had various degrees of success in undermining progressive organizations, most notably with his assault on ACORN, which no longer exists largely thanks to O'Keefe. Rabin-Havt argued that conservative followers of Breitbart and O'Keefe had taken the wrong lesson from their ACORN success, and that their commitment to misleading stunts had undermined their movement.
"I’m of two minds [on the Breitbart legacy.] As a progressive, I actually feel gratitude for it. The lessons the conservative media has taken from Breitbart, frankly doom your movement and your ideas to failure," he said amid catcalls, which the moderator attempted to suppress, encouraging the audience to allow Rabin-Havt to express himself freely. "As an American who fundamentally believes that debate is critical to the survival of our republic. On that it's pretty depressing, because this legacy fundamentally destroys that," Rabin-Havt went on.
"My favorite comedian was the late George Carlin, whose humor was grounded in attacks on the powerful on behalf of the powerless. James, the main problem I have with your videos is they tend to do the opposite," he said. "You attack low-level employees, stretch incompetence into corruption."
"I pondered a progressive version of James' video," Rabin-Havt went on. "Perhaps I could, with hidden cameras, go into a Stainmaster carpet store and ask what color and what carpet coult most easily be cleaned up after a dog fight...The salesmen, who probably is making commission and wants to sell me the carpet, says, 'Here's the carpet you can buy.' I can then produce a series of videos claiming David and Charles Koch are complicit in a nationwide ring of dog fights. that would be absurd, just as absurd as yours."
Watch the heated exchange above. For more of the panel highlights, watch the discussion below.