Once again proving the bigger bully, Donald Trump may have caused the wingnut media site Breitbart News to self-destruct, after his campaign manager assaulted one of the site’s reporters.
It all started at a Trump press conference in Jupiter, Florida, when Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields tried asking Trump a question as he left, and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “forcibly grabbed” her, “moving her out of the way and nearly bringing her to the ground.” Washington Post reporter Ben Terries witness the incident, and wrote an account in his column, which closely matched Fields’ version of events. Politico posted audio and a transcript of the incident. Daily Caller* editor, and Fields’ boyfriend, Jaime Weinstein also identified Lewandowski as the culprit. Fields posted a photo of the finger-shaped bruises that Terris reported having seen appear on her arm after the incident. The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove wrote an article which said the “Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields.”
What should have happened next seems pretty cut-and-dried. Any political campaign with an ounce of integrity would have fired Lewandowski and denounced his actions. But Trump’s campaign isn’t like that, anymore than Trump is like any candidate in modern political history.
The Trump campaign went on the attack almost immediately, smearing Fields and defending Lewandowski — who has a history of bullying, intimidation, and misogyny. The Trump campaign issued a statement labeling Fields as a lying “attention seeker,” and denied that the incident ever happened. Trump himself told CNN, “Perhaps she made the story up. I think that’s what happened,” despite eyewitness accounts, audio evidence, and photographs of Field’s bruises.
Again, what should have happened next seems pretty clear. Any decent news organization would have risen to the defense of it’s reporter, denounced the attack, and demanded that the campaign fire Lewandowski.
Instead, management at Breitbart News sought to exploit the incident to gain more access to Trump, and ordered employees to stop defending their colleague.
- Leaked internal messages showed that Editor-at-large Joel Pollack immediately ordered editors and writers not to “retweet or respond” to Fields tweet of her bruises.
- When writers protested Pollack’s policy of silence, he warned that even supportive statements about Fields “will be used against us,” and says that the whole situation is “the Trump campaign’s problem.”
- Breitbart published a story written by Pollack suggesting that the person who assaulted Fields was not Lewandowski, despite the evidence identifying Lewandowski.
- In a Fox News interview with Megyn Kelly, Fields said that after the assault Breitbart News wanted to use the attack to get more access to Trump. “So they knew the truth, my company knew the truth, and they’re siding with Donald Trump,” Fields said.
- Both Fields and longtime writer and editor Ben Shapiro resigned from the site. Fields cited the company’s lack of support over the past week, in her statement.
- Shapiro said the company behaved in a “disgusting” manner that betrayed the legacy of its founder.
- Breitbart responded to Shapiro’s resignation with a mocking column that Pollack claimed to have written, and which “was posted under the pseudonym” Shapiro’s father used when he wrote for the site. Shapiro’s father also resigned from the site.
- Publicist Kurt Bardella also resigned over the handling of the Fields’ assault, and publicly accused the site’s editors of lying about what happened.
- National security correspondent Jordan Schachtel and associate editor Jarrett Stephan also resigned.
This wouldn’t happen at a normal news organization. But Breitbart has never been a normal news organization, or even a real news organization. Founded by and named for the late right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, the site pretty much continued his own brand of absurd smears and malicious lies pursued without much thought for the truth. From its launch with an exclusive of right-wing videographer James O’Keefe’s hoax “investigation of ACORN,” Breitbart was instrumental in perfecting the right-wing tactic of using smear campaigns based on lies to bring down progressive individuals and institutions.
Andrew Breitbart claimed his mission was to “fight the bullies” on the left, instead he employed classic bullying strategies in attempts to bring down innocent and undeserving targets, like Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. So, it seems entirely appropriate and in character than when confronted by a right-wing bully, leadership at Breitbart News knuckled under.
Here’s best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:
- Donald Trump warned of “riots” if he’s blocked from being nominated at the Republican convention. “I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”
- Naturally, Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing if it means it’s because [Trump supporters are] fighting the fact that our establishment Republican Party has gone corrupt and decided to ignore the voice of the people and ignore the process.”
- Fox News pundit Todd Starnes posted a video of his most recent column blaming President Obama for the violence at Donald Trump’s rallies.
- Rep. Chris Rollins (R-N.Y.) told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Hillary Clinton is paying protesters to disrupt Donald Trumps rallies, and may even be paying protesters to disrupt her own events.
- Fox News host Andrea Tantaros looks forward to an all out gender war, if Trump gets the GOP nomination.
- In an appearance on MSNBC, television host Jerry Springer, compared the Republican debates to his talk show, saying “If they’re going to do my show, they should start paying me.”
- Whoops. Racist voters may have cost Donald Trump a few delegates in Illinois. Apparently, Trump supporters gave fewer votes to the delegates with “foreign-sounding” names.
- Somehow PBS aired a segment with a Trump supporter sporting tattoos associated with white supremacy, and managed not to notice it.
- Defending Trump, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones warns of “an alien force not of this world attacking humanity.”
- Kevin Swanson, a minister aligned with Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, said that Girl Scout leaders should be executed for “promoting homosexuality.”
- Jones also explained his high-decibel approach, telling listeners why he screams in people’s faces. “I’m in their face because I love them! Don’t you get that?” Jones shouted. “We’ve been screwed over! We’ve got anger for a reason!” he continued.
- Trump supporter and former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon David Duke told his listeners that comparisons between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler might help rehabilitate Hitler’s image.
- The Tennessee School Board responded to resistance to a new Gay/Straight Alliance at a Winchester high school by considering placing restrictions on all student groups, like requiring parental permission to join.
- The Kentucky state senate narrowly approved a bill giving business owners the right to reject LGBT clients because of religious beliefs.
- Georgia lawmakers passed their own anti-gay “religious freedom” bill, despite opposition from Republican governor Nathan Deal, and businesses that have said they will abandon or avoid the state if the bill passes.
- Pat Robertson praised the Senate blockade on the Supreme Court, telling viewers that the Court “ripped up the fabric of American life,” with rulings on abortion, homosexuality, marriage, schools, prayer, etc.
- Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) the “Darth Vader of the financial services world,” and said that banks had to find a way to “neuter” the female senator.
- Alabama’s Republican governor Robert Bentley signed a bill last month prohibiting Alabama cities from raising their minimum wages at all. Bentley then gave four of his cabinet members $73,405 raises — an 80 percent increase on the $91,000 a year they already earned.
- Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle said, “The Irish got over,” discrimination and degradation. “They don’t run around going ‘Irish Lives Matter.’” That, of course, is because the Irish — along with the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish, and every other group of European emigres — “became white” within a few generations. Not everyone has that luxury.