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Matt Drudge’s Impeachment: American Crime Story Debut and Strange Origin Story


Matt Drudge makes a dramatic debut in Impeachment: American Crime Story’s third episode, “Not to Be Believed,” which premieres Tuesday night on FX. The character does not get an introduction so much as a down-and-dirty origin story. In the episode’s opening scene, set in 1995, Drudge (played by Billy Eichner) manages the gift shop at CBS Studios. The character is lit and scripted like a screen villain—perhaps not surprising, given the show’s creators have said the true crime of Impeachment is the way Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and Paula Jones were maligned by media.

During the five-minute opening sequence, Drudge locks up the gift shop, throws on a trench coat, digs sensitive information out from a studio dumpster, and returns to his small, drab apartment to publish the biggest scoop of his career at that point: Jerry Seinfeld’s negotiations for $1 million per episode. Three years later, Drudge would eclipse that news story with a political bombshell—breaking news of Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.

Ahead, a closer look at Drudge’s real-life beginnings and his role in making Clinton and Lewinsky’s affair the scandal spectacular that it became.

Drudge’s Unremarkable Backstory

These days, Drudge is known for being a “mysterious media maven, conservative kingmaker, and arguably the most influential news aggregator in history,” according to a Vanity Fair feature last year. But in the early ’90s, his résumé was considerably less impressive.

Drudge grew up in the Maryland suburbs and graduated from high school 341st out of 355 students in 1984, according to Matthew Lysiak’s The Drudge Revolution. While many of his peers went to college, Drudge spent the following years drifting aimlessly between jobs like 7-Eleven night manager, telemarketer, and McDonald’s team member.

“Drudge’s father ultimately changed his life,” wrote New York magazine in 2007. “After high school, [Drudge] drifted to his father’s hometown, Los Angeles, where he worked for years in the gift shop at CBS studios. Worried about his son’s aimlessness, Bob Drudge insisted on buying him a Packard-Bell computer in 1994. The Drudge Report began as an e-mail sent out to a few friends.”

Yes, Drudge Really Dug Through Dumpsters

The Drudge Report started taking off in March 1995, and Drudge’s “first big break came straight out of the garbage” while he was working at CBS Studios, according to The Drudge Revolution:

Matt had been searching through the trash cans on the ground-floor Xerox room when he discovered the previous day’s Nielsen ratings, not yet released to the public, discarded below piles of trash.… For Matt, it was information gold, even if he didn’t exactly know what to do with the pilfered information.

Matt studied the schedule of the cleaning crew. He learned there was a short window of time in the morning after the Nielsen numbers were tossed into the garbage by the executive suits and before the crew would arrive to shred it.

Matt took his dumpster-diving routine elsewhere—including to Daily Variety. He began posting the Nielsen ratings and other tidbits of information he learned on various internet newsgroups, including pilfering Friday night’s box office take for newly released movies, which he would release the very next day, ahead of the studios.

Drudge’s Foray Into Washington, D.C. 

Tuesday’s episode also flashes back to a trip Drudge made to the capitol—which Jeffrey Toobin described in his book A Vast Conspiracy, on which Impeachment is based. The trip would include a fateful conversation with Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff (Danny A. Jacobs), who was on the Clinton sexual harassment beat. While Drudge had been digging scoops out of the trash, Isikoff was operating on the opposite end of the reporting-morality spectrum—vetting sources and declining access to illegally recorded audio. Toobin writes:



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