One of Vermont’s — and the nation’s — most talented and provocative young journalists died in a Los Angeles car crash early Tuesday morning, BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone reported Tuesday evening.
Michael Hastings, who moved to Vermont at age 16 and graduated from Rice Memorial High School in 1998, was just 33 years old.
Hastings was best known for a June 2010 Rolling Stone cover story that quoted aides to Gen. Stanley McChrystal criticizing Vice President Joe Biden and other White House officials. After Hastings' story broke, McChrystal was immediately summoned back to Washington, D.C., and stripped of his command of American forces in Afghanistan.
He was no stranger to dangerous assignments. After volunteering to serve as an Iraq war correspondent for Newsweek at age 25, his fiancé, Andi Parhamovich, was killed when a convoy in which she was riding was ambushed. Hastings wrote about her death in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad.
A contributor to BuzzFeed and Gentleman’s Quarterly and contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings shifted his focus in recent years to domestic politics, where he made quite a stir.
When he pressed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s spokesman on the Benghazi attacks last September, the aide memorably told him to “fuck off.” Later that fall, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel grabbed him during an interview, Hastings wrote, "clearly trying to intimidate me with a threat of physical violence."
Though Hastings lived in New York City with his wife Elise Jordan, he told Vermont Life earlier this year that he continued to consider Vermont his “spiritual home.” That Vermont Lifestory — and a cover photo of Hastings on the Burlington waterfront — remains on newsstands today.
Earlier this year, Seven Days included Hastings in a roundup of national journalists who hail from the state. He spoke with VPR's Neal Charnoff in this 2008 interview about his first book and to WCAX-TV's Keith McGilvery about the McChrystal story in this 2012 profile.
In one of the most entertaining local stories about the reporter, Rice student Alta Viscomi chronicled a March 2012 speech at his alma mater, during which Hastings recounted being stripped of the senior class presidency after using the term "shagadelic" during announcements. He also, allegedly, compared his high school principal to Jabba the Hutt.
In a statement, Hastings' editor at BuzzFeed called him "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."