Breitbart.com’s reaction to Corey Lewandowski’s assault of Michelle Fields seems out of character for the conservative site, at least out of character for the Breitbart.com where I used to write. When I was part of the team we would go out of our way to protect each other when attacked, something many of us still do when our former colleagues face unfair hit jobs.
But in this case, despite the fact that eyewitness accounts, audio, and video that back up her version of events Breitbart.com has not backed up its reporter, leading Ms. Fields to exclaim during a Kelly Files appearance:
“I think the facts show that this happened, and it’s a shame that my bosses have decided to come out against the facts.
On Friday Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella resigned from his position telling CNN’s Don Lemon that Breitbart was looking for “a reason to disprove something” and did not back its own reporter’s claims, despite “all the evidence” to the contrary, adding that, “there’s no reason to never support your own reporter,” he said.
When Don Lemon asked directly, “Are you saying they are lying?” Bardella’s answer was, “Yes, I am.” He added what many already suspected that Breitbart.com was in the tank for Trump, saying the site had “skin in the game” with regard to Trump, and it’s “very clear” that they are “very supportive of the Trump campaign.”
On Friday Morning Breitbart’s senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak, used a video taken just before the incident in a post where he claimed it was possible that Lewandowski could have been misidentified, and it might have been a security official who grabbed Fields.
“Fields was indeed hurt in the altercation, and published a photograph of her bruises [see photo on left] . Yet the available evidence from WPTV and ABC suggests that it was unlikely that Lewandowski was the person who caused her injuries
Given the similarity in appearance between Lewandowski and the security official, and given the fact that Lewandowski was walking on the other side of Trump from where Fields was at the time, the possibility of mistaken identity cannot be ruled out. Indeed, given Lewandowski’s adamant denials (coupled with statements inappropriately impugning Fields’s character), it is the likeliest explanation.”
To his credit when a video of the actual incident was published, Pollack updated his post saying that the new video showed it was Lewandowski not the security guy reaching toward Ms. Fields.
For those who haven’t seen the video, in the screen shot from the video below, we can see Lewandowski’s hand grabbing Ms. Fields.
On Saturday the story got even worse for Breitbart.com, Buzzfeed published a series of text conversations from the internal Breitbart message board, where Joel Pollak may or may not have told colleagues not to defend Ms. Fields on twitter.
“STOP tweeting about the story. Stop speculating about the story,” Pollak told staffers in one message, and reminded them that “you were given explicit instructions.”
“You may wish to defend your colleague, and that is commendable — but keep in mind that when you do so, you are also putting other colleagues under direct public pressure, so you are actually hurting some to help another,” Pollak said in one of the chats. “That is why we have to be patient, and coordinate our responses.”
Keep in mind that the snippet of dialog BuzzFeed posted was part of a much larger conversation and may be totally out of context. In fact another segment of the conversation BuzzFeed published shows Pollak saying they should wait until management comes up with a plan of attack.
In other words a reasonable explanation for Pollak’s direction to stop may very well have been that upper management (and the legal people) were working on a response and until there is an official company line, people should stop tweeting and wait.
Even if that is the case Pollak’s Friday morning post displayed a lack of support for the Breitbart reporter which is out of character for the organization (and for Joel).
While I can’t recall an incident where a Brietbart reporter was physically attacked, in cases where its reporters have been attacked verbally or on twitter, Brietbart.com and the Breitbart team has always backed up its reporters.
In 2012 Joel Pollak went on CNN’s Soledad O’Brien’s show and connected then-law student Barack Obama to radical Harvard professor Derrick Bell. O’ Brien and her panel attacked Pollak unfairly, disputing the truth that Bell was a racist radical whose “critical race theory” tried to divide rather than unite the races.
The worst attack came from guest Jay Thomas of Sirius radio who accused Pollak of being a racist who was frightened of Black people:
“Can I say something as a white person? What are you frightened of? Are you frightened that some black people are going to do something to you? You have a group of individuals – if you and I were black we would be madder than hell, but we’re not. And so, we are white people. There are more white people than black people. And so there’s a struggle that’s been going on and so in a struggle you talk about a lot of things. There’s anger. There’s resentment. And so, what are you frightened of? What do you think Barack Obama’s going to do? Is there a secret black movement that’s going to start killing white people? What are you talking about? As a white guy.”
Thomas’ attack was laughable as Joel’s wife is a black woman from South Africa, actually, and her mother was a political appointee of none other than Nelson Mandela.
Soon after Joel’s appearance the Breitbart team went on the attack. Hell hath no fury as the Breitbart team pissed off.
There were more articles doubling down on Bell’s radicalism and in one of my last posts for the site, using bell as a starting point to identifying other Obama friends as radicals and anti-Semites.
On twitter the Breitbart team and fans went after O’ Brien’s bias, as it was proved that she too was a long-time fan of Bell but never identified herself as one. As John Nolte reported at the time:
After this segment aired, something truly beautiful and American happened: New Media exploded. Not just blogs and talk radio, but also Twitter. Citizen Journalists from all walks of life spoke truth to the power that is CNN and Soledad O’Brien until she couldn’t take the heat anymore. Eventually, O’Brien would not only ask her viewers (customers) to stop tweeting her, but for a time she disappeared from Twitter altogether.
That is the Breitbart.com I remember
On Friday July 2, 2011 I posted an article in Big Journalism called “Obama Forming An ‘I Really Love Israel’ PR Squad To Try And Rescue Jewish Vote”about the President’s cynical attempt to use liberal Jews to convince people that he is really pro-Israel. The piece criticized “some low-level Jewish players have decided to seal their place in the progressive movement rather than act for the best interests of both the United States and its valuable Mid-East ally, Israel.”
As with every Saturday, I was off-line the next day until after sundown the end of the Jewish Sabbath. Upon turning on my computer I found my twitter box filled with hundreds of mentions. More than any single day before or since. During the day, Mr. Media Matters himself, Eric Boehlert read one the post, and declared me to be a Jew-Basher. Apparently my twitter name Yidwithlid, didn’t warn him that he was making an idiotic claim. The reason however, that my twitter feed was bursting with tweets was that Andrew Breitbart and the rest of the Breitbart team spent their day attacking Boehlert not only for his false claim, but for making it on a Saturday morning, when I would not be online to defend myself because of the Jewish Sabbath.
That is the Breitbart.com I remember:
People are always quick to pretend to know what Andrew Breitbart would do if he was around today. Sadly nobody really knows because Andrew has been gone for four years. All I can say is that when Andrew was around he instilled in us a sense of team, and a duty to protect the people who were in the “foxhole” with us. That is the Breitbart.com I remember. It’s not the Breitbart.com of today, which is not defending Michelle Fields the way it defended me, Joel Pollak, and many others.