Earlier today, Newsweek published a piece on the disarray and decay of the Breitbart empire as a “news” organization. The story, written by reporter Alexander Nazaryan, begins and ends with Lee Stranahan, largely painting him as the only hope for saving the failing far right website.
Nazaryan didn’t touch on any of the controversies swirling around Stranahan’s past as a pornographer, a pimp, a grifter and a thief as outlined thoroughly in the history of this very website, most recently at http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/2017/02/16/lee-stranahan-from-porn-to-press-corps/.
Nazaryan could be forgiven for not pointing out Stranahan’s checkered past to his readers if he was unaware of Stranny’s past controversies. Face it, other than in his own mind, Lee Stranahan is hardly a household name in the world of real journalism.
The problem here is, Nazaryan WAS aware of Stranahan’s past and chose to ignore it for the story.
In an e-mail to Breitbart Unmasked, the reporter said:
I don’t care about his personal life, or anyone else’s. The piece is about Breitbart News, not this or that personality. And as I said, I was aware of these accusations when I wrote the piece and did not feel they belonged in the piece. I feel exactly the same way right now.
Yes, the piece is about the downfall of Breitbart News. Lee Stranahan is anointed in this story as the only person who could possibly save the organization from the horrible, horrible mess it has always been.
Perhaps no man has a more complex relationship with Breitbart than Lee Stranahan, one of the most polarizing and unusual figures of the alt-right, which brims with unusual and polarizing figures. He has quit the site twice and been fired once, because of clashes with editors. But having been originally hired by Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart, Stranahan sees himself as a Breitbart purist, a “reader’s’ advocate” who will rescue the organization from its own trolliest impulses, returning it to its original mission, which was to…well, that’s actually not entirely clear.
“I take that legacy really seriously,” Stranahan tells me while talking about working for Breitbart, whose founder died in 2012, effectively leaving the site in the hands of Bannon, a slovenly, self-styled intellectual with a visceral feel for the kinds of stories that would animate the far right, the stories mainstream conservative publications like the National Review would never publish.
“It’s why I kept going back to Breitbart,” Stranahan says. (None of the several current Breitbart editors contacted for this story responded to a request for comment. Nor did Breitbart Chief Executive Larry Solov or the company’s spokesperson, Chad Wilkinson.)
Stranahan has long cloaked himself with the discarded, decomposing mantle of Andrew Breitbart’s logical successor. This Newsweek piece helps him by legitimizing Stranahan as an actual journalist.
These days, Stranahan hosts a radio show for the Sputnik news agency, the Kremlin-funded outlet that has been friendly to Trump. He also runs an online journalism school and The Populist, a news outlet. His sensibility remains edgy and outré, tending to be angry and suspicious. Those can be helpful qualities for a reporter, allowing Stranahan to spot big stories the mainstream media may have missed, most notably the Pigford farm loan scandal, which allowed some African-American farmers to collect $50,000 federal compensation payments after falsely claiming discrimination by the federal Farm Service Agency. But those same qualities could be ruinous if you’re trying to cozy up to the White House in hopes of getting first-rate access.
Stranahan is also adept at Periscope, the video-based social media platform owned by Twitter. After his latest departure from Breitbart in March, he posted a 23-minute video in which he called himself Breitbart’s “crying mom” and “stern dad,” saying the site was in need of “tough love.” Congressional Republicans were in the midst of their first, and unsuccessful, attempt to bring the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to a vote, in a push led by House Speaker Paul Ryan but supported by Trump. The bill, which would weaken President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act without abrogating it, was toxically unpopular with the American public, so Breitbart had deemed it Ryancare, thus implicitly absolving Trump of any responsibility.
So, Nazaryan did manage to paint Stranahan as the traitor he is, on the payroll of Vladimir Putin, existing to prop up Donald Trump.
Stranahan, himself a Trump supporter, would have none of it. “Donald Trump has been actively supporting this bill,” he said in the Periscope video, arguing that the responsibility for the AHCA ended with the president. Breitbart pretending otherwise would only mean disaster for Breitbart.
“You’re making yourself look bad to the outside world. You’re pandering to the worst elements of your readership, who will just go along in complete denial, in complete total denial, that Donald Trump might have actually made a mistake,” Stranahan said, his voice far closer to pain than bitterness.
(We wonder if Nazaryan needed to dab his eyes with a tissue as he wrote that last sentence.)
The story goes on, and on, and on with Stranny pointing out his reasons for the failure of the Breitbart empire. (Hint: It’s all them pesky kids what’s runnin’ the place.) Nazaryan writes about the various personality wars between Stranahan and Matt Boyle, Stranahan and Alex Marlow, Stranahan and, well, almost everyone.
The puff piece ends with Stranahan’s vision of the future for the once semi-mighty Breitbart empire.
Stranahan isn’t optimistic about the long-term success of this approach for Breitbart. “I would not be surprised if their readership goes down again,” he says of the site he once loved but no longer recognizes.
“It sounds douchey,” Stranahan tells me, “but I’m always right.”
(Gag. Pardon us. We threw up in our mouths just a little right there.)
It’s probably too much to ask today’s MSM reporters to at least do basic research on the people they choose to lionize. But the alleged fact that Nazaryan admits he KNEW about Stranahan’s past and still chose to write this piece of journalistic fellatio says as much about ethics and professionalism at Newsweek as it does about the lack of same at Breitbart.