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Orthodox and Outspoken

Shimmy Blum

He’s a conservative political commentator who’s appeared on just about every national news network. He’s also the author of four books. And he’s just 29. Benjamin Shapiro, living life in the fast lane for three decades, says his black crocheted yarmulke is a welcome companion to his work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It was January 10th, less than a minute into a debate over the hot-button issue of gun control. Already it was clear that CNN host Piers Morgan, the outraged speaker of those three words, was fighting a steep uphill battle. Morgan, a tall, sophisticated, 47-year-old Briton and fierce critic of America’s gun culture, seemed stumped when his studio guest accused him of being “a bully … standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook” for invoking the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, to denounce critics of certain gun control proposals.

Morgan continued debating the constitutional merits and crime-fighting effectiveness of gun bans for another 13 minutes, but he never seemed to be able to get the last word on any argument. When he implied that America need not fear a tyrannical regime rising in its midst and citizens don’t need guns to protect against that, Shapiro immediately retorted, “The fact that my grandparents and great-grandparents didn’t fear that in Europe is why they’re now ashes.”

After all was said and done, noted media critic Erik Wemple of the Washington Post explained that Morgan, a seasoned journalist, had “struggled to find the appropriate strategy” in the debate against a “foe of extraordinary polemical agility.”

A few weeks after this marquee debate that had conservatives cheering, liberals jeering, and pundits of all stripes taking note, it was my turn to speak to Morgan’s sparring partner: Ben Shapiro, a Los Angeles resident and Orthodox Jew who had just recently celebrated his 29th birthday yet is already a successful attorney, widely featured political commentator, and accomplished author.

Shapiro’s most prominent political role comes in his capacity as editor-at-large of Breitbart.com, a top conservative news and opinion portal. The site was founded by trailblazingCaliforniajournalist Andrew Breitbart, whose aggressive tactics uncovered several prominent scandals, including the one that led to the resignation of formerNew Yorkcongressman Anthony Weiner.

I met Shapiro at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in midtownManhattanduring his brief hopscotch through theNew Yorkarea following a weekend inWashington,D.C.In an extensive conversation that included some confrontational questions, the boyish-looking, modestly built conservative media icon, who himself has a reputation for employing aggressive tactics, was cordial and polite; he never raised his voice or lost his cool. He did often flash a mild grin — perhaps that’s what Piers Morgan considered to be a smirk — and had a smooth answer at the tip of his tongue to every question, as if he had spent his entire morning preparing for them.

 

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