Matt Drudge is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
Mr. Drudge, 53, has been painting his version of the world for more than 20 years, cherry-picking stories from various news agencies and posting the links on his website, the Drudge Report. But almost no one knows anything about him, so secretive is he.
That’s all about to change with the release of a new book, “The Drudge Revolution,” by journalist Matthew Lysiak. (For the record, the subtitle of the book, which hits book store shelves July 28, is: “The Untold Story Of How Talk Radio, Fox News, And A Gift Shop Clerk With An Internet Connection Took Down The Mainstream Media”).
“Matt Drudge’s impact on the past three decades of presidential campaigns has been well chronicled, no more so than the 2016 election in which many credited Drudge for having propelled Donald Trump through the primaries and into the White House,” Mr. Lysiak tells me.
“But now that the reclusive blogger has weaponized his powerful site against the president, what effect will it have over the millions of loyal Drudge Report readers who also make up the president’s base?” he asks.
And Mr. Drudge has done just that — “weaponized” his site.
The reclusive blogger has targeted President Trump of late, posting many stories from liberal sites (which hitherto got little play on his site). No one knows why. But even Mr. Trump has weighed in on the change: “I gave up on Drudge (a really nice guy) long ago, as have many others. People are dropping off like flies!” the president tweeted in April.
I know a thing or two about Mr. Drudge: I’ve known Matt (whom I call “Doc” because of his initials, MD) for more than 20 years and I ran the Drudge Report in the mornings for nearly four years. But even I hardly know the guy: I rarely saw him, and we talked on the phone only a few times a year (usually for hours, but not often).
So as a longtime fan of Mr. Drudge and his site, I read Mr. Lysiak’s new book with interest. The former investigative reporter with the New York Daily News conducted some 200 interviews and offers some insights into Drudge, including:
• Newly uncovered information about the relationship between Drudge and the Trump campaign, including Team Trump’s nickname for Mr. Drudge from former Trump aide Sam Nunberg.
“Inside the campaign there was a nickname for Matt Drudge — we called him Lady Drudge,” Mr. Nunberg told Mr. Lysiak.
• Newly uncovered details about Mr. Drudge’s deteriorating relationship with former longtime partner Andrew Breitbart, including how the Drudge Report was used by Breitbart for a “pay-to-play scheme” and “quid-pro-quos.”
“Breitbart had other revenue ideas. He entered into a pay-per-click financial arrangement with Reuters that further altered the page,” Mr. Lysiak writes. “The Drudge Report was almost like the mafia and would often be used as a henchman for the conservative side … there were absolute quid-pro-quos.”
• Newly uncovered information about Mr. Drudge’s turbulent early life, including exclusive interviews with friends, teachers, and classmates, along with information gleaned from court documents.
“Physically he’s in good shape, but emotionally he has problems and he’s getting treatment for that,” his mother Claire told a court, Mr. Lysiak writes.
• Exclusive new information about how, after breaking the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky story, friends first began to have concerns about Mr. Drudge’s mental state.
“Matt’s friends began to wonder if something was wrong. They worried that what used to be small glimpses of paranoia were taking a greater hold of Matt’s psyche,” Mr. Lysiak writes. “Matt began to think there were spies everywhere.”
• Newly uncovered insights on how Mr. Drudge turned the power of his website into political currency.
Tim Griffin, former head of research for the Republican National Committee, told Mr. Lysiak that “when they needed a story to get out into the mainstream, they would first go to a reporter from the Washington Post, under the condition that a teaser would first go to the Drudge Report. It was a win-win. Griffin would get his story amplified, the reporter would get more page views, and Matt would have his exclusive.”
• Exclusive interviews with former Hillary Clinton adviser Tracy Sefl reveal how the Clinton campaign attempted to use Drudge in the 2008 campaign for president.
“We had a very familiar and very regular relationship for a long time,” Mr. Sefl told Mr. Lysiak. “When he was about to post a story that wasn’t going in Hillary’s favor, I always got a heads up, and sometimes I was able to convince him to change something. Sometimes I wasn’t.”
There used to be a “Fight Club” rule about the mysterious blogger: “The first rule of knowing Drudge is you do not talk about Drudge.”
But that now seems as dead as Doc’s former conservative ways.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.