In the third episode of FX’s “Impeachment: American Crime Story”, we meet Billy Eichner’s Matt Drudge as he gives a moral lecture to tourists at the CBS gift shop in Washington, DC on the all-time greats of journalism.
Imagine the New York of the jazz era, a reporter in a trench coat and snap fedora, ready with a wisecrack and a hot crowd tip, plus a bit of a Broadway buzz , oh, and dirt on the Roosevelts too, “Drudge theatrically tells a visiting student in the store. “This is Walter Winchell, he did it all – with panache. The best that ever existed.”
“I just need a poster for the class,” the student replies selflessly, in one of the few moments of comedic relief in the black police drama.
Want a daily rundown of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
The character of Drudge is one of many iconic political and media figures introduced to the drama as it breathes new life into the intertwined stories of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, the women who were at the heart of Bill Clinton’s outrageous impeachment. in 1998 that shocked the world.
Drudge is, at this point in 1997, a reclusive political gossip blogger who searches for CBS secrets to broadcast the growing Drudge Report at night, and runs a gift shop by day.
Beyond the comedic beats of the open cold, however, our glimpses of Drudge’s life and character have been limited so far. But with the rather minimal scenes that Eichner appears in, he managed to steal the show, leaving audiences hungry for more information about Drudge’s role in getting Lewinsky’s story out to the public – and certainly more impressions. masterful works of Eichner.
After all, Clinton is known as the first “President of the Internet” for a reason, and Drudge and his website were instrumental in popularizing the Internet for news and blogging under Clinton’s presidency – preparing us. no doubt to today’s Twitter universe. Even before Drudge brought the news that broke the internet and cruelly helped make Lewinsky a household name against his will in 1998, he had mastered the art of clickbait, long before most blogs and platforms existed. social.
Drudge had achieved this feat by penetrating the narrow circles of elite media and conservative politicians, despite the lack of training in journalism or politics. With these inner scoops and the urgent, flashy headlines splashed across its webpage, the Drudge Report has shown Americans the power and accessibility of the internet age, pulling back the curtain on political scandals and gossip of the day. the most salacious and exclusive.
With the eventual disruption of Lewinsky’s story by Drudge to the world, an “Impeachment” development has yet to reach in its long timeline, Drudge has almost pioneered the early days of digital media – and media consumption. digital – as we know them now.
So far, at various points in “Impeachment,” we’ve had a glimpse of Drudge’s growing power and sometimes underhanded approaches. We’ve also had a lot of comedic relief from him, courtesy of Eichner, a trained comedian, as he digs through garbage for CBS-related scoops, and uses his dial-up internet to share his findings on his blog. – while putting on a fedora.
Later, we watch Eichner’s Drudge Networks with conservative brandons at a dinner at Laura Ingraham’s, always topped off with a felt tip pen. Among those brand names are Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) and George Conway (George Salazar), two lawyers who are throwing the Paula Jones harassment lawsuit against Clinton out of the limelight. Ingraham makes the introduction between Drudge, Coulter, and Conway, who know and are excited about his work, although Coulter expresses his confusion as to whether Drudge’s hat is being worn ironically.
Shame aside, they’re in awe of Drudge’s blog, with good reason. “Do you know how many people read the holy New York Times? A million,” Drudge tells them. “At the rate I’m going, I’ll be blowing this way next year. The print is dead!”
Drudge ends up using those ties to Ingraham’s party to break the story that White House employee Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser) accuses Bill Clinton of groping her – beating up an accusing Newsweek reporter Drudge for being just a “gossip” to the story he’s been following for weeks.
In “Impeachment,” Eichner brought Drudge’s mysterious politics and private, sinister energy to life, with the actor’s signature color and humor. Drudge’s story on the show has mostly served as a backdrop so far. But given his historic role in the events to come, including being the first to sever Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky and put his name in the world, “Impeachment” would be almost inconclusive without reverting to Drudge, and his role. uttered helping to drive the 1998 sexist media circus.
Drudge’s long-term political influence aside, Eichner’s charming performance on his own – both lonely and desperate for attention and relevance – is reason enough to aspire to more time at the screen for this gift shop manager-slash-wannabe-investigative-journalist and fedora enthusiast. Eichner almost visibly enjoys playing Drudge as much as we love watching him. by tapping Refresh on the Drudge Report web page.
But the ultimate attraction of watching Eichner’s Drudge is the light it shines on a man who shrouds himself in mystery to this day. Drudge never disclosed how he received the information he reported on the Lewinsky case, or a number of other key scoops. Meanwhile, his policies continue to baffle many, as the fiercely anti-Clinton conservative media darling appeared at one point to back Trump, only to backfire decisively.
The dramatized version of Drudge we see on “Impeachment” may well be one of the most revealing and evocative glimpses of his time-defining life and work that we have ever seen, or will possibly see. ever be, given its well-known and private nature. Drudge is the man who almost single-handedly sparked the advent of digital media as we know it today. He sidestepped the rigid traditions of most journalists and newspapers of his day to break up a story that changed a woman’s life, as well as the political fabric of our country. Yet its shocking and at times utterly bizarre origin story has rarely been told – before “Impeachment”, that is.
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.