Taibbi in Philadelphia in 2008
Matthew C. Taibbi
March 2, 1970
|Residence||Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|Alma mater||New York University|
Bard College (B.A.)
|Occupation||Journalist, political writer, columnist|
The Divide (2014)
Insane Clown President (2017)
I Can't Breathe (2017)
Hate Inc. (2019)
Matthew C. Taibbi (; born March 2, 1970) is an American author and journalist. He has reported on politics, media, finance, and sports. He is currently a contributing editor for Rolling Stone.
Taibbi began as a freelance reporter in the former Soviet Union, including a period in Uzbekistan, which he was deported from for criticizing President Islam Karimov. Taibbi later worked as a sports journalist for the English-language newspaper The Moscow Times. He also played professional baseball in Uzbekistan and Russia as well as professional basketball in Mongolia. Taibbi also worked for a short time as an investigator at a Boston-based private detective agency. In 1997, he moved back to Russia to edit the tabloid Living Here, but eventually left to co-edit rival tabloid The eXile. Taibbi returned to the United States in 2002 and founded the Buffalo-based newspaper The Beast. He left in 2003 to work as a columnist for the New York Press. In 2004, Taibbi began covering politics for Rolling Stone. In 2008, Taibbi won a National Magazine Award for three columns he wrote for Rolling Stone. In 2019, he launched the podcast Useful Idiots, which he co-hosts with Katie Halper.
Taibbi is known for his brazen style, having famously branded Goldman Sachs a "vampire squid" in a 2009 article. His work has often drawn comparisons to the gonzo style of writer Hunter S. Thompson, who also covered politics for Rolling Stone.
Taibbi was born in 1970 in New Brunswick, New Jersey to Mike Taibbi, an NBC television reporter, and his wife. According to Matt, his surname Taibbi is a Sicilian name of Lebanese/Arabic origin, but his father, who is partly of Filipino-Hawaiian descent, was adopted as a child by a Sicilian-American couple who possessed the surname. He grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts suburbs. He attended Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. He attended New York University but transferred after his freshman year to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and graduated in 1992. He spent a year abroad studying at Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University in Russia.
In the early 1990s, Taibbi moved from Saint Petersburg to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he began selling news articles more regularly. He was deported in 1992 for writing an article for the Associated Press that was critical of President Islam Karimov. At the time of his deportation, Taibbi was the starting left fielder for the Uzbek national baseball team.
Taibbi moved to Ulan Bator, Mongolia for a time in the mid-1990s, where he played professional basketball in the Mongolian Basketball Association (MBA), which, he says, is the only basketball league outside the US that uses the same rules as the NBA. Taibbi became known as "The Mongolian Rodman", was paid $100/month to play, and says he also hosted a radio show while there. He later contracted pneumonia and returned to Boston for surgery.
Taibbi moved to Russia in 1992. He lived and worked in Russia and the former USSR for more than six years. He joined Mark Ames in 1997 to co-edit the English-language Moscow-based, bi-weekly free newspaper, The eXile, which was written primarily for the city's expatriate community. The eXile's tone and content were highly controversial. To some, its commentary was brutally honest and gleefully tasteless; others considered it juvenile, misogynistic, and even cruel. In the U.S. media, Playboy magazine published pieces on Russia both by Taibbi and by Taibbi and Ames together during this time. In 2000, Taibbi published his first book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, co-authored with Ames. He later stated that he was addicted to heroin while he did this early writing.
Journalist Kathy Lally wrote in the Washington Post in December 2017 that she and other female journalists were subjected to misogynistic attacks by Taibbi and Ames while she was a correspondent in Moscow in the 1990s. Lally contacted Taibbi in 2017, and he told her, "I certainly would not go about things now the way I did back then," and "I apologize for the physical descriptions. That was gratuitous and uncalled for."
In 2017, Taibbi came under fire for excerpts from a chapter in the book written by Ames that described sexual harassment of employees at The eXile. In a 2017 Facebook post responding to the controversy, Taibbi apologized for the "cruel and misogynistic language" used in the book, but said the work was conceived as a satire of the "reprehensible" behavior of American expatriates in Russia and that the description of events in the chapter was "fictional and not true". Although the book includes a note saying that it is a work of non-fiction, the publisher, Grove Press, has since said that the "statement on the copyright page is incorrect. This book combines exaggerated, invented satire and nonfiction reporting and was categorized as nonfiction because there is no category for a book that is both." Women portrayed in the book have gone on record to defend Taibbi, stating that none of the sexual harassment portrayed in the book "ever happened."
In 2002, he returned to the U.S. to start the satirical bi-weekly The Beast in Buffalo, New York. He left that publication, saying that "Running a business and writing is too much." Taibbi continued as a freelancer for The Nation, Playboy, New York Press (where he wrote a regular political column for more than two years), Rolling Stone, and New York Sports Express (as Editor at Large).
In March 2005, Taibbi's satirical essay, "The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope", published in the New York Press, was denounced by Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Matt Drudge, Abe Foxman, and Anthony Weiner. He left the paper in August 2005, shortly after his editor Jeff Koyen was forced out over the article. Taibbi defended the piece as "off-the-cuff burlesque of truly tasteless jokes," written to give his readers a break from a long run of his "fulminating political essays". Taibbi also said he was surprised at the vehement reactions to what he wrote "in the waning hours of a Vicodin haze".
Taibbi became a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, writing feature-length articles on domestic and international affairs. He also wrote a weekly political online column, titled "The Low Post", for the magazine's website.
Taibbi covered the 2008 presidential campaign for Real Time with Bill Maher. He was invited as a guest on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show and other MSNBC programs. He has also appeared on Democracy Now! and Chapo Trap House, and served as a contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Taibbi is an occasional guest on the Thom Hartmann radio and TV shows. He was a regular contributor/guest on the Imus in the Morning Show on the Fox Business network.
Journalist James Verini said that while interviewing Taibbi in a Manhattan restaurant for Vanity Fair, Taibbi cursed and threw a coffee at him, then accosted him as he tried to get away, all in response to Verini's volunteered opinion that Taibbi's book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, was "redundant and discursive". The interview took place in 2010, and Taibbi later described the incident as "an aberration from how I've behaved in the last six or seven years".
After the death of conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, in March 2012, Taibbi wrote an obituary in Rolling Stone, titled "Andrew Breitbart: Death of a Douche". Many conservatives were angered by the obituary, where Taibbi wrote, "Good! Fuck him. I couldn't be happier that he's dead.", though Taibbi claimed that it was "at least half an homage", claiming respect for aspects of Breitbart's style but also alluding to Breitbart's own derisive obituary of Ted Kennedy.
In 2018, Taibbi began publishing a novel, The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing: Adventures of the Unidentified Black Male, as a serialized subscription via email and a website with an anonymous partner. The novel is fictional with true-crime elements. In September 2018 he began writing another book, The Fairway, or Thirty Years After Manufacturing Consent, How Mass Media Still Keeps Thought Inbounds, also in a serialized form with a preface with Noam Chomsky, in reference to Edward Herman and Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, published in 1988.
In 2019, Taibbi further explained his manufacturing consent thesis. Soviet "bull-factories like Rossiskaya Gazeta and Leningradsaya Pravda were basically collections of dreary government news releases rewritten to sound like news reports. . . . We're headed to a similar place. The cable networks, along with the New York Times and Washington Post increasingly act like house organs of the government."
In 2019, Taibbi wrote a piece for his self-published book, Hate Inc., titled "It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD", which argues that in light of the Mueller Report's finding (only partially released at the time) that the investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities", much of what mainstream media reported was exaggerated or outright false.Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times criticized Taibbi's assertion that "the biggest thing [the investigation] has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star" as "silly."
In August 2019, Taibbi launched a political podcast co-hosted with Katie Halper titled Useful Idiots, released through Rolling Stone. The podcast has since featured interviews with Tulsi Gabbard, Jimmy Dore, Will Menaker, Bernie Sanders, Chris Hedges, Krystal Ball, and Nadya Tolokonnikova.
His July 2009 Rolling Stone article "The Great American Bubble Machine" described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money". In financial and political media the expression "Vampire Squids" has come to represent the perception of the financial and investment sector as entities that "sabotage production" and "sink the economy as they suck the life out of it in the form of rent".
Tackling the assistance to banks given in foreclosure courts, Taibbi traveled to Jacksonville, Florida to observe the "rocket docket." He concluded that it processed foreclosures without regard to the legality of the financial instruments being ruled upon, and sped up the process to enable quick resale of the properties, while obscuring the fraudulent and predatory nature of the loans.
Financial scandals were frequently headlines in 2012, and Taibbi's analyses of their machinations brought him invitations as an expert to discuss events on nationally broadcast television programs. In a discussion of the Libor revelations, Taibbi's coverage was singled out by Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, Inc., as most important on the topic and required reading.
In February 2014, Taibbi joined First Look Media to head a financial and political corruption-focused publication called Racket. However, after management disputes with First Look's leadership delayed its launch and led to its cancellation, Taibbi returned to Rolling Stone the following October.
In 2008, Taibbi was awarded the National Magazine Award in the category "Columns and Commentary" for his Rolling Stone columns. He won a Sidney Award in 2009 for his article "The Great American Bubble Machine".