You think you know Matt Drudge, but the truth is you really don’t. Conventional wisdom held that, as the 2020 campaigns heated up, the 53-year-old conservative-media titan and digital-news pioneer would be spotlighting pro–Trump stories on his fire hose of a website—he’d been close to Jared Kushner, and loved nothing more than to torment Hillary Clinton—while angling for a Republican victory and building his power base. Instead, the Drudge Report has covered the campaign like a can’t-look-away car crash, hammering the president on his dismal polling numbers and botched response to the COVID-19 crisis. One recent splash: “SHOCK POLL: TRUMP APPROVAL 36%; CAMPAIGN MANAGER REPLACED; COVID CASES RECORD HIGH.”
For all of the millions of people who click through the Drudge Report every day and all of his influence on modern media, Drudge is as much of a curiosity as ever—mysterious, reclusive, always lurking in the shadows, and yet continuing to wield huge power in politics and journalism. But later this month the curtain will be pulled back in a way that it never has been, with a new unauthorized biography hitting shelves and plans for a movie adaptation in the early stages of development. On July 28, journalist Matthew Lysiak and the independent publishing house BenBella Books will release The Drudge Revolution: The Untold Story of How Talk Radio, Fox News, and a Gift Shop Clerk With an Internet Connection Took Down the Mainstream Media. The film rights have been acquired by entertainment-honcho Jeff Kwatinetz, who has worked with everyone from the Backstreet Boys to Steve Bannon, and now runs a production company with Ice Cube called CubeVision. (The Drudge Revolution rights were optioned by Kwatinetz’s other production company, Prospect Park.) “This is really a story about how one man had an outsized impact on how news is uncovered, hidden, spun, reported, and what it means for the First Amendment,” Kwatinetz told me.
Lysiak, a former Daily News reporter who previously wrote a book about the Sandy Hook massacre for Simon & Schuster, interviewed nearly 200 sources. He went to Drudge’s hometown in Maryland and talked to former classmates, friends, and teachers. He door-knocked Drudge’s $2.2 million pad outside of Miami (no answer), as well as a house listed in Drudge’s name near Phoenix, where neighbors couldn’t recall ever seeing him. He got ahold of ancient family court documents, handwritten notes from high school (“Hey babe! I’m in the south of France—living my life…I dyed my hair blonde”), and myriad untold stories about Drudge’s younger years, like how he would travel to New York City to stake out music-industry luminaries, among them the former New Order producer Arthur Baker. (Apparently Drudge, according to Lysiak, was big into new wave and dance music.)
Drudge didn’t participate in the project (or respond to emails from me for comment), but Lysiak managed to convince a number of associates to talk about him on the record, like former Drudge Report morning editor Joseph Curl and former Hillary Clinton adviser Tracy Sefl. Other interviews include Linda Tripp (not long before she died), Arianna Huffington, Steve Bannon, Ben Shapiro, Michael Isikoff, and Sam Nunberg, who dished to Lysiak about Drudge’s relationship with the 2016 Trump campaign. “Jared [Kushner] had an instant pipeline to Drudge,” Nunberg told him. “Drudge gravitated toward Kushner because of his proximity to power.… Inside the campaign there was a nickname for Matt Drudge—we called him Lady Drudge.… Drudge essentially began acting as Jared’s publicist.”