When we first come upon Impeachment: American Crime Story’s Matt Drudge (played by Billy Eichner, who’s part of a cast that includes Sarah Paulson and Beanie Feldstein), he’s a know-it-all clerk working the CBS Studios’ gift shop, extolling the virtues of the late gossip columnist Walter Winchell. And Drudge himself isn’t above using Winchell-style tactics; after the CBS building empties out for the night, the aspiring journo lowers himself into a dumpster, searching for intel about company goings-on. Drudge, and his soon to be famous site Drudge Report, achieved the impossible in 1998 and stunned the world when he broke the news about President Clinton’s affair with an intern named Monica Lewinsky—a relationship that’s at the center of the new series, airing now on FX.
Revisiting the story through Ryan Murphy’s lens 23 years later, the shock of the events removed, it’s clear that this subplot to the scandal is the fact that it in many ways served as the birth of digital media. And with his site, all giant headlines and screaming sirens, Drudge created a model of what new media would become at a time when few in mainstream media saw it coming. “He was a pioneer in some ways because very early on he figured out click bait before there were clicks,” says former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.