For those who are unfamiliar with its name, The Drudge Report is a website that posts links to a wide range of news, with political news receiving particular focus. It leans right in a political sense, though its founder has claimed on a previous occasion that he is both a conservative and a populist but more a populist than a conservative. With that said, while most of its content consists of links, it has been known to host its own news stories as well.
Regardless, the website is a significant presence in right-wing media. For proof, look no further that the fact that it can claim millions and millions of visits on a daily basis, which says much about the size of its user base. Moreover, it is important to note that it has been prominent for a very long time, meaning that in a very real sense, it has had an influential role in shaping the U.S. Political landscape of the present.
How Did It Rise to Prominence?
In short, the website was founded in 1995. However, it failed to receive widespread attention until 1998, which was when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke up. In short, what happened was that President Bill Clinton had sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky when she was working at the White House. Later, Lewinsky confided in a civil servant named Linda Tripp about the sexual encounters, who began recording their conversations in secret when she was recommended to do so by a literary agent named Lucianne Goldberg. Eventually, Goldberg began speaking about the recorded conversations to various reporters, one of whom was working at Newsweek. The website became famous because it was the first to report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Moreover, it accused Newsweek of sitting on the story about the sexual encounters, which made the whole thing much more interesting to its user base.
Since that time, the website has become notable for its involvement in various other stories as well. Moreover, it has remained consistent in that it tends to be rather sensationalistic in nature, so much so that a judge has outright described its founder as a “purveyor of gossip” rather than a journalist, which is something that said individual has acknowledged.
For example, the website published a photo of Barack Obama in African tribal dress, which it posted under the headline “Clinton Staffers Circulate ‘Dress’ Obama.” Something that provoked a short exchange of words between the two nominees’ respective campaigns.
Likewise, there was the time when the website published news that Prince Harry of the United Kingdom was serving with his unit in Afghanistan in 2008. This had been known by the UK press for some time, but said publications refused to write about the story because it might’ve encouraged the Taliban to launch more attacks than normal on Prince Harry and the rest of the unit in an attempt to kill him. Two non-UK publications released articles about Prince Harry’s deployment, but in the end, it was the supposed “exclusive” that brought the whole matter to the public’s notice. Something that prompted the British military to pull Prince Harry out to prevent the Taliban from launching suicide attacks.
With that said, considering the website’s sensationalistic nature, it should come as no surprise to learn that its claims can be rather unreliable. In fact, a media magazine called Brill’s Content studied its content in 1998 before concluding that a mere 61 percent of the stories that it examined in a selected period of nine months were actually exclusive instead of just being labelled as exclusives. Even worse, a full 32 percent of the exclusives were untrue while another 32 percent of them were debatable, meaning that no more than 36 percent of the exclusives could be considered true.
As a result, it is no wonder that the website has released numerous stories that have been either mistaken or flat-out untrue. For example, there was the time in 1997 when it claimed that a White House assistant named Sidney Blumenthal was beating his wife, which resulted in it being sued for libel. Nothing ever came of it because Blumenthal gave up after having spent tens of thousands of dollars after four years, while his opponent faced no such financial pressures because its legal fees were covered by the right-wing organization Individual Rights Foundation. Speaking of which, there was the time in 1999 when the website claimed that there was a videotaped confession from a former prostitute who claimed that her son had been fathered by Bill Clinton. Something that turned out to be a hoax in the end.
Besides these stories, there have been various other incidents. One example is when the website claimed that Oprah staffers were divided about whether to bring Sarah Palin onto her show or not, which resulted in a response from Oprah that there was never such a discussion because she made a decision that she wasn’t going to use her show as a platform for political candidates when she made the choice to back a presidential candidate in public. Other examples have ranged from the website using a picture of Syrian children with toy guns to suggest that the children separated from their parents by the Trump administration were violent criminals to its promotion of everything from Birther conspiracy theories to conspiracy theories about Pizzagate and the Las Vegas massacre that happened in 2017.
Summed up, the website become prominent because people love gossip, having been helped by its breaking of an important political event that provided it with a much-needed early boost. However, it started out as being sensationalistic in nature and has remained sensationalistic in nature ever since. Something that hasn’t been helped by how it has both shaped red-wing media and been shaped by red-wing media to a considerable extent over the course of its existence. Regardless, it seems certain that the website will continue to play an important role in the red-wing media for years and years to come, though it will be interesting to see how it will change over that time.