To President-elect Donald Trump, Breitbart – the racist, sexist and all-around offensive website once overseen by his campaign chairman and designated White House chief strategist Steve Bannon – is “just a publication.”
Breitbart’s editors and writers, Trump told The New York Times, “cover stories like you cover stories.” Granted, Trump said, “they are certainly a much more conservative paper, to put it mildly, than The New York Times. But Breitbart really is a news organization that’s become quite successful, and it’s got readers and it does cover subjects that are on the right, but it covers subjects on the left also. I mean it’s a pretty big, it’s a pretty big thing. And he 1 / 8Bannon 3 / 8 helped build it into a pretty successful news organization.”
Referring to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Trump observed, “I mean, I could say that Arthur is alt-right because they covered an alt-right story.”
No, no, no. The notion that Breitbart is “just a publication,” like The New York Times but just several notches to the right, is untrue and unacceptable. There are any number of conservative publications and websites that would fit that description.
Breitbart is something different entirely. That Trump would put it in the same category exposes both his failure to understand the role of the media and his failure to recognize – or to care about – the offensiveness of what Breitbart, under the Bannon regime, represents.
We’re going to hear the word “normalize” a lot during the Trump administration, and the risk is going to be exactly that, underreacting. Trump says and does so many outrageous things that it will be tempting for us to tire of calling them, and him, out. The job of opinion writers – my job – is to not let Trump define outrageousness down.
So, Breitbart is racist. Two weeks after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans at a Charleston church – after Trump’s choice for U.N. ambassador, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, called for the Confederate flag’s removal from the statehouse grounds – Breitbart ran an article under the headline, “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.” The Confederacy, the article argued, “was not a callous conspiracy to enforce slavery, but a patriotic and idealistic cause for which 490,000 men were killed, wounded or taken captive.”
Breitbart is anti-Semitic. “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” blared a May headline about the conservative’s effort to launch a third-party candidate. A September article went out of its way to note the religious heritage of my colleague Anne Applebaum: “Hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”
Breitbart is anti-Muslim. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo inveighed in January against an “epidemic” of sexual assault by immigrants in Europe, which he blamed on “Islam’s rape culture” that “could be coming to a town near you all too soon.” Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has lamented “the devastation that the Muslim migrant influx is bringing to American communities.”
Breitbart is misogynist. “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” was the headline on an article last December by one of the site’s most offensive writers, Milo Yiannopoulos. And what should the pill be replaced with? “Nothing. We need the kids if we’re to breed enough to keep the Muslim invaders at bay.”
“The solution to online ‘harassment' is simple: women should log off,” Yiannopoulos advised in July. Women, he suggested, “could go back to bridge tournaments, or wellness workshops, or swapping apple crumble recipes, or whatever it is women do in their spare time.”
Breitbart is all-around offensive and irresponsible. As to offensive, consider last year’s “Gabby Giffords, the gun control movement’s human shield.” As to irresponsible, consider June’s “Roger Stone: Huma Abedin ‘Most Likely a Saudi Spy' with ‘Deep, Inarguable Connections’ to ‘Global Terrorist Entity.’” That piece about Hillary Clinton’s top aide stemmed from an interview that Stone, a Trump adviser, did with Bannon, not yet an official Trump adviser.
Trump assured the Times that he condemns white supremacist Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute, which greeted the election with cheers of “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Breitbart has mildly described Spencer as one of the “intellectuals” of the alt-right movement and noted that his previous forum, alternativeright.com, was “accused of racism.” Accused of racism? This is a man who has advocated for creation of a “white ethno-state on the North American continent.”
Breitbart isn’t “just a publication.” It’s a pestilence – one whose repugnant views Trump has invited into his White House.