As seen in the above photo of Breitbart Washington political editor Matthew Boyle fondly posing with Donald Trump, for whom he has been something of a personal concierge at the website, the relationship between candidate and outlet has been close and warm.
But now it all seems to be coming apart in the wake of charges that Trump’s campaign manager assaulted a Breitbart reporter. Michelle Fields, the injured party, resigned from Breitbart News last night, issuing a terse statement.
Today I informed the management at Breitbart News of my immediate resignation. I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways.
Fields alleges that Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her arm and pulled her away roughly when she tried to ask the reality show star a question at his primary election victory party last Tuesday night.
Journalists who were present for the event back up her story with video, audio, and eyewitness accounts. Fields has also tweeted photos of the bruises on her arm and filed a criminal complaint against Lewandowski.
But Trump’s campaign still disputes the evidence, calling Fields “delusional” and an attention-seeker. In a pattern familiar to anyone who followed the story of Nadia Naffe, Fields’s career and personal life have now become fodder for smears and propaganda to punish and silence her.
Trump reportedly has a payola arrangement with Breitbart, and executive director Stephen K. Bannon seems to value Trump’s money over his duty to his own employees. The editorial direction of the site has been confused by these contradictory imperatives, dividing the Breitbart News ‘family.’
In the last six days, Breitbart has briefly posted, then deleted an article calling Fields’s account into question; writer Patrick Howley has been suspended for attacking Fields on Twitter; and editor-at-large Joel Pollack has tried to keep a lid on the controversy by telling staff to stop defending Fields against attacks. According to leaked internal messages, Pollack’s gag order drew fire from a number of staff, including Brandon Darby and Lee Stranahan.
BuzzFeed reports that people are threatening to quit Breitbart unless Bannon resigns. Resumés now circulate as people look to jump ship, and resignations are already beginning to pile up. Spokesman Kurt Bardella left on Friday, citing an “escalating cycle of behavior” at Trump events as well as conflicts of interest on the part of management. Issuing a statement of his own, editor-at-large Ben Shapiro also resigned with Fields last night.
Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: fight the bullies. But Andrew’s life mission has been betrayed. Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle. I spoke with Michelle the night after the incident. She told me her story. That story was backed by audiotape, eyewitness testimony from The Washington Post’s Ben Terris, physical bruises, and video tape.
Both Lewandowski and Trump maligned Michelle in the most repulsive fashion. Meanwhile, Breitbart News not only stood by and did nothing outside of tepidly asking for an apology, they then attempted to abandon Michelle by silencing staff from tweeting or talking about the issue. Finally, in the ultimate indignity, they undermined Michelle completely by running a poorly-evidenced conspiracy theory as their lead story in which Michelle and Terris had somehow misidentified Lewandowski.
This is disgusting. Andrew never would have stood for it. No news outlet would stand for it.
The irony is deep here: dozens of rage-filled sock puppets stopped tweeting abuse at Nadia Naffe in the very moment that Andrew Breitbart’s cell phone fell from his dead hand. Of course, everyone remembers him screaming “Stop raping people!” at an Occupy encampment. And Brietbart’s widow eventually had to settle a libel suit by Shirley Sherrod because he failed at due diligence and used a video clip out of context to smear her.
Shapiro, who was always eager to destroy and defund “the left” with the “rough, personal tactics” of Team Breitbart, speaks this way because he knows exactly what kind of personal destruction his now ex-employers are capable of doing.
Just this morning, Breitbart writer William Bigelow posted, then later deleted an article attacking Shapiro for “betraying” the website and supposedly violating the terms of his employment contract.
In fact, Breitbart News has some of the most infamous and draconian talent contracts in the business. Dana Loesch had to sue the website when management chose to sideline her voice and then prevent her from finding a new job.
With both Trump and Ted Cruz allegedly tied to payola schemes and an IRS audit of their shady finances behind them, this was supposed to be a banner year for Breitbart News as it sought to leave the shadow of its founder’s legend. Instead, 2016 may very well end with the website being much diminished by its ‘success.’
BU will stay on top of this story.
UPDATE: ‘William Bigelow’ turns out to be a pseudonymous account created by Shapiro’s father and used by Joel Pollack.