PAGLIA: It’s so true. The Drudge Report has dramatized the process of censorship that’s going on, the filtering of the news by established news organizations. I used to think, at the beginning of the ’90s, that we had a relatively free press and that people were out to make their reputations in the Woodward-Bernstein model. But I no longer think that. Most of the reporters on the networks and in main northeastern newspapers are company men—shmoozing careerists who are desperately afraid to rock the boat.
DRUDGE: Well, these media machers, people like Peter Bart of Daily Variety, Len Downie at the Washington Post, Lachlan Murdoch at the New York Post, for all their –power, are an extremely unimaginative bunch. None of them has the freedom that I do. But there is an organized attempt now to put an end to that. The major labels and the studios, and the MPAA, have to gang up on the Internet, to not allow individuals to move and share freely.
PAGLIA: In your remarks about government regulation you seem like a libertarian, and yet you freely admit that you are a registered Republican. But you fiercely criticize the Department of Justice run by John Ashcroft.
DRUDGE: Have I said I’m a registered Republican?
PAGLIA: Yes, you did—at my university! You don’t want us to say that? [Laughs]
DRUDGE: I don’t think I’ve said that publicly before.
PAGLIA: Well, you must have been moved to candor!
DRUDGE: Well, in any case, I think it’s my job to be critical of whoever is in power. But the Internet restrictions make me particularly crazy. Hands off my downloads, Hilary Rosen! Get out of my hard drive, Mr. Ashcroft! It’s none of their business. And, ironically, Ashcroft argued as a senator that there should be no Big Brother police state on e-mails, even with the most heinous crimes. So to hide behind the World Trade Center to start going into our hard drives is a complete folly, and the Bush administration will pay the price with votes.
PAGLIA: But on the whole you’ve seemed to favor the Iraq war.
DRUDGE: I was actually very on the fence on the war. It put me in a difficult position. If you’ve noticed, I thought I did a pretty clever job of at least sharing with readers what the U.K. Mirror, the Independent, all these antiwar outlets were doing. Probably it was perceived as just mischief-making, but it reflected my own lack of clarity about the war issue. I don’t have to be clear, though. I’m not a politician.
Paglia: We need more mischief-making. The American media is too bland and cautious about the government. It’s refreshing to hear someone being rude and raucous. It’s great.
DRUDGE: A lot of that is me saying, “Look, Ma, I can sing. Look, I can dance. I mean, I can tell you what’ll be on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow, and it hasn’t even been published yet.” A lot of that is me making mischief at the expense of Howell Raines. Hopefully, he understands there is a sense of humor to it.
ROSHAN: Matt, you say that you know what will be on the Times’s front page tomorrow. How can you know unless you’re a psychic, or you can hack into their site?
DRUDGE: Jeannette Walls, in all her glory, once accused me of hacking into Newsweek, which is a crime. Lucky for her I never sued for that. Hacking is a criminal offense. And under Ashcroft it would probably land me in Guantánamo. But just think about this: How many people work at the New York Times? The place is just full of leaks, full of sources. And it’s not only the Times. People offer me an endless flow of leads and sneak peeks. Not all for crass publicity reasons, like the Vanity Fair woman calling and saying, “We have this really hot story coming, Drudge. Do you want it first?” It may be that some of the sneaks are unauthorized and bootlegged. But I’m not ready to concede that I’m committing a crime and hacking into the Times.
PAGLIA: You’re antiestablishment down the line, except when it comes to your politics. Do you really consider yourself a conservative?
DRUDGE: Oh, yeah. I’m a prolife conservative who doesn’t want the government to tax me. There are issues that I’m so frightened of—1.2 million abortions a year scares the hell out of me. Oftentimes when I see these superstorms forming, you know, sometimes—I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t think it was retribution. I also am opposed to big government. Now, you would argue: Well, how could you support a government interfering with the rights of a woman over her own body? But I would argue: No. That all life is sacred. Abortion is the issue that really motivates me.
PAGLIA: Do you come from a religious background?
DRUDGE: No, not at all. I have very liberal parents.
PAGLIA: You’re more conservative than they?
DRUDGE: Oh, much more so. But I follow my own instincts rather than any political agenda. It’s not wise for me to be too overtly political, believe it or not, because I have so many readers from so many different points of view. If I go too hardcore partisan I’ll lose them.
PAGLIA: Expanding on the subject of sex and morality, what’s your attitude toward outing?
DRUDGE: I have never done it myself. I certainly could, but I prefer to leave that to Maer. I don’t do a lot of sex stuff—and I know that sounds ironic in light of my most famous story, of Blumenthal beating his wife, allegedly—but it happens to be true. I tend to stay away from all that, because I don’t know where it will end. I was even uncomfortable with the story about Bill Bennett’s gambling, because he’s a private citizen going to a casino. I’m trying to maintain a site that is going for action and intrigue, but if I just start printing who’s gay, who’s straight, or who did a mound of coke last night, it all goes downhill very quickly.