“Trump Pravda.””Pathetic and disgusting.” “Drooling Trump mouthpiece.”” Openly embraced the white-supremacist alt-right.” Yep, the criticism pelted down like an abrupt hailstorm when Donald Trump announced that Steve Bannon of the extreme-right media outlet Breitbart would become campaign CEO.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign said some pointy things too. But the above quotes were from Ben Shapiro, the former Breitbart editor-at-large who quit this spring.
To understand how sharp-right, how hardline this Trump pivot is — ha ha! not what we lamestream mediafolk expected! — it’s worth exploring Breitbart, the provocative-to-put-it-gently website that Bannon has led. It goes to places conservative behemoth Fox News dares not tread. The Canadian analogue would be if Ezra Levant took time off as The Rebel commander to run Jason Kenney’s Alberta PC leadership bid.
Trump has taken steady heat for repeating and retweeting fevered conspiracies and blatant falsehoods — often attributing them to “many people are saying.” Consistently, Breitbart has become one of those “many people” saying such things.
This pivotal megaphone in the Donald Trump echo chamber will now get to scream more directly in the Republican presidential nominee’s ear. That message could likely go beyond “let Trump be Trump” and into the “be Trumpier and Trumpiest” territory.
Here’s a sampling of headlines from Breitbart’s campaign for Trump’s campaign:
Hillary Clinton Received Secret Memo Stating Obama Admin ‘Support’ for ISIS (Jun 14, 2016)
Breitbart based this report on a 2012 U.S. intelligence document, released to a watchdog group, which lists Al Qaeda in Iraq (precursor of the Islamic State, or ISIS) as one of the elements opposed to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and also notes that the West and Gulf states support the opposition in Syria’s civil war while Russia and Iran were among backers of Assad. The way Breitbart connected dots in this benign-seeming bit of intelligence-speak, Obama backed ISIS and Clinton must have known. Trump tweeted this the day after Breitbart’s story was posted, in defense of his own dark suggestions Obama may have sinister allegiances in the struggle with the Islamic State. Politifact’s truth-o-meter registered this as a “pants on fire.”
Trump 100% Vindicated: CBS Reports ‘Swarm’ On Rooftops Celebrating 9/11 (2 Dec 2015)
“The DC Media has spent the last two weeks attempting to destroy Donald Trump with lies,” Breitbart’s John Nolte wrote, sounding like the nominee himself. “Outright lies, and they are doing so in order to protect a 14 year-old cover up.” Trump had gotten into deep non-factual doodoo by claiming he had seen coverage of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating on Sept. 11, 2001, in New Jersey. Breitbart had his back with this piece, in which a CBS correspondent cites a police anecdote of “eight men celebrating” on a rooftop. Breitbart’s writer focused on the correspondent’s term “swarm,” and extrapolated from eight.
Law Enforcement Officials, Medical Professionals: There’s Something Seriously Wrong With Hillary Clinton’s Health (6 Jan 2016)
To the lay observer, Hillary Clinton was late returning from a bathroom break during a Democratic primary debate. Or, in Breitbart’s view, this was a likely sign of “health issues stemming from a previous brain injury.” This report was based on an NYPD officer-turned-Florida radio host (with #NeverHillary in his Twitter profile) who claimed as his sources an unnamed federal agent and somebody who handled security at one Clinton event. A Trump associate was the story’s second interviewee, who himself cited “very prominent, well-known, wealthy New York Democrats.” Also quoted was a neurologist who had not handled the former Secretary of State’s 2012 concussion himself, but “reviewed news reports.” These aspersions came months before the more recent spate of hard-right news speculation about Clinton’s health.
Exclusive: 1974 Canadian Electors’ List Named Ted Cruz’s Parents (January 8, 2016)
Earlier this year, Maclean’s plumbed the details of Republican presidential candidate’s early childhood in Calgary, largely out of bemusement over Donald Trump’s latest bout of birtherism. Breitbart joined the hunt with more earnest. It became less of an all-conservative-lives-matter website after founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012, and has been aggressive against Tea Party darling Cruz. After the Texas senator refused to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention, another Breitbart “exclusive” had Sarah Palin attack Cruz.
Maher: Michelle Fields Has Lived Life of ‘Charmed, Lucky, Clueless White Girl’ (April 10, 2016)
Until this March, Fields wasn’t a Breitbart scorn target — she was a staff reporter assigned to the Trump campaign. She accused then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of aggressively grabbing her at a Florida event. As police investigated (they would later lay charges then drop them), The organization and Bannon were forced to choose between siding with their own reporter or with their preferred political candidate. Fields felt inadequately defended and resigned; as did Ben Shapiro, the above-mentioned former staffer who now publicly deplores Bannon.
Zogby Poll: Clinton Leads Trump by Two Points, ‘Back to a Close Race’ (August 16, 2016)
This bit of outlier optimism is from Breitbart yesterday. Trump tweeted about it too, the first non-dismal survey in a while he’s been able to herald. The RealClearPolitics.com poll average shows a six-point lead for Clinton. With Bannon at his campaign’s helm, his mind won’t often be polluted with such pesky facts anymore.