NEW YORK -- On Monday afternoon, in the Sheraton Hotel's New York West ballroom, it felt, at times, like there were two press conferences happening at once. One featured the spectacle of a teary-eyed and emotionally wrenched Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) apologizing for his online indiscretions. The other showcased a combative Andrew Breitbart doing his best to hijack the moment.
The conservative media provocateur spoke before, after and during Rep. Weiner's admission of sending sexually charged emails to six different women.
It was supposed to be Weiner's press conference -- so why was Breitbart on the stage? He had decided to attend, he told the scores of assembled press corps members, partly because his hotel was "coincidentally" located three blocks away.
But, Breitbart also noted, "I'm here to watch myself be vindicated." He attempted to turn Weiner's press conference into a battle in his ongoing war against the so-called mainstream media, criticizing outlets that included Salon and The Daily Kos.
No one from Weiner's office pre-screened the press at the sometimes-chaotic news conference, which was held with about an hour's advance notice. At one point, before Weiner had taken the stage, someone from the crowd -- it was difficult to tell if they were a member of the media or just an onlooker -- asked Breitbart to break from a press huddle he was holding on the side of the ballroom and walk up to the podium at the front of the room set aside for Weiner.
"If he's paying for this I find this to be a tad rude," Breitbart said, and then went ahead, at 3:58 p.m.
Weiner had scheduled his conference to start at 4 p.m. When people tuned in, though, they saw not the Congressman, but Breitbart, who took questions for approximately 13 minutes before leaving the podium. Fox News reported that Weiner's aides ran down the hall to inform him that Breitbart was there.
Video by Hunter Stuart and Annie Carroll
Breitbart defended Big Government's reporting on Weiner, as well as on past stories, saying his website "didn't get into conjecture."
He expressed particular ire toward the online magazine Salon, and claimed that Weiner was "complicit" in a media campaign blaming Breitbart for the whole debacle -- and thus owed the media entrepreneur an apology.
"Given the fact that Congressman Weiner made much of last week about trying to blame me, and much of the left-wing media tried to make last week about blaming me, including claiming that I outed the name of the girl in Seattle that he sent the tweet to, which is false, and also claiming that I was the hacker, I felt that I needed to set the record straight," he told Fox News in a phone interview.
Aside from personal vindication, Breitbart said on the stage, "I'm doing this to save his family, okay? And if this guy wants to start fighting with me again, I have this photo."
Breitbart was referring to an X-rated photo of Weiner that he purportedly has in his possession yet refrained from publishing Monday. Someone from the gaggle asked Breitbart if he was extorting the congressman, and he denied that he was.
After a few more minutes, Breitbart left the podium. He filtered into and out of the ballroom, taking calls and talking to a number of media outlets.
Once Weiner had taken the stage, he was soon asked whether he owed Breitbart an apology. "I'm right here," Breitbart said, and shortly thereafter, Weiner did apologize.
By then, Breitbart had walked to the back of the room for more interviews. He was still standing there, speaking with "Inside Edition," as Weiner choked up again, toward the end of his press conference, over the pain he had caused his wife and family.