Though his career was still in its early stages, Hastings’ accomplishments were extensive and significant. He’ll be forever remembered in the history books for bringing down a U.S. military general at the height of his power, as he did when President Obama fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal after Rolling Stone published an unflattering profile of the general Hastings wrote.
In an obituary posted to Rolling Stone‘s website tonight, the magazine’s Tim Dickinson wrote the following about his deceased colleague…
Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.
For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.
A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”
Hard-charging, unabashedly opinionated, Hastings was original and at times abrasive. He had little patience for flacks and spinmeisters and will be remembered for his enthusiastic breaches of the conventions of access journalism. In a memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Hastings’ aggressive line of questioning angered Reines. “Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?” Reines asked. “Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?” Hastings replied.
Additionally, Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said the following in a statement tonight…
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold.
Here’s a moving tribute to Hastings MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow did tonight on her show. Money quote: “A lot of people in the news business want to appear unafraid. Michael was actually unafraid.”
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Hastings, a former intern at Gawker, and can report that he was a kind and gracious and he was intelligent and dogged. He is survived by his wife, the writer Elise Jordan, and their beloved corgi, Bobby Sneakers. Michael Hastings was true thorn in the side of the powers-that-be, and he will be greatly missed.