Furious troll Donald Trump’s only sympathetic publication is now, fittingly, a heap of anonymous, furious trolls.
Since the moment Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields claimed that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had physically assaulted her, the conservative news organization has had a major crisis of conscience: could the publication, which so routinely mistrusts women and the general idea of assault, which has made it its own recent mission to provide a sympathetic platform for a violence-baiting outdated clown, actually believe one of its own reporters? If anything was going to trump Trump, would this particular, unfortunately left-leaning situation be it?
No! Hell no!
The alleged assault occurred at a campaign event on Tuesday evening. By Thursday, Breitbart reporter Patrick Howley had unleashed and deleted a tweet storm accusing Fields of inventing the story (despite Fields’ posting a photograph of her bruises). He has since been fired.
That day, the Trump campaign wholeheartedly denied the accusation.
By Friday, Fields had filed criminal charges against Lewandowski, who cited a Breitbart article, this one by Joel B. Pollak, which argued that the incident couldn’t possibly have occurred the way that Fields said it had. That afternoon, the publication’s spokesperson Kurt Bardella had resigned. In an interview with BuzzFeed, he said that he wouldn’t say it was because of the organization’s handling of Fields’ claims, but “it would be fair of you to say that.”
That day, Breitbart News Network CEO and President Larry Solov released a statement in support of Fields, although it did not call for any explanation or apology from the Trump campaign, or offer any consolation to Fields:
Breitbart News stands behind Michelle Fields. Even Donald Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson said Thursday that “someone probably did grab her,” i.e. Fields, though she claimed it could not have been Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump’s suggestion that Fields made up the incident Tuesday evening contradicts the evidence, including her own injuries, an account from Washington Post reporter, and audio recorded at the scene.
One day later, internal company slack chats revealed that Pollak had repeatedly instructed Breitbart employees to PLEASE, PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT MICHELLE FIELDS!
“EVERYONE. STOP tweeting about the story. Stop speculating about the story. Stop answering queries about the story. Stop retweeting other people’s comments about the story. You were given explicit instructions,” Pollak told employees, in messages obtained by BuzzFeed.
“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. That is why we have to be patient, and coordinate our responses.”
When staffer Brandon Darby pushed back, saying, “This is a declaration of war. Silence is abandoning our team member,” Pollak responded: “In war, we wait for orders that are based on a careful plan.”
Pollak also said, “Note Lewandowski’s tweets but ignore them. This is straight up ‘War on Women’ material for Hillary Clinton in the general—dumbest move ever.”
Such strategic political maneuvering is now unsurprising. On Sunday, BuzzFeed reported that Pollak had once crossed over the line from would-be journalist to would-be operative when he asked a former staffer whether Trump might need a speechwriter.
“I know he speaks off the cuff, etc.,” he wrote in an email on January 17 of this year. “But maybe someone to review talking points and so on.”
“He wouldn’t do it,” the contact replied.
In a comment provided to BuzzFeed, Pollak said that he had also reached out to the Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina campaigns about jobs, which is odd, because Perry had long since dropped out of the race.
By Monday morning, both Fields and Ben Shapiro, a high-profile uber-conservative and Trump critic, had both resigned from the company.
“I don’t think they took my side,” Fields told the Washington Post. “They were protecting Trump more than me.”
“Breitbart has unfortunately become Trump’s Pravda,” Shapiro said of his own decision. “No media outlet worth its salt would throw over their own reporter and bad-mouth her on their front page in order to protect the candidate.”
Breitbart responded to Shapiro’s resignation with a bananas blog post entitled, “Ben Shapiro Betrays Loyal Breitbart Readers in Pursuit of Fox News Contributorship,” written by someone named William Bigelow.
The post, which has since been deleted, led with:
Former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro announced via left-wing Buzzfeed that he is abandoning Andrew Breitbart’s lifelong best friend, widow, hand-picked management team and friends in pursuit of an elusive contributorship at the Fox News Channel.
Friends of Hamas could not be found for comment.
The entire cached version is available here. Politico reports that the post was written pseudonymously, and, worse: “William Bigelow” is the pseudonym used by Ben Shapiro’s father David, which comes with its own sock-puppet Twitter account and a long, long posting history. Ben Shapiro told Politico that “his father was hired under the pseudonym to protect his safety since the younger Shapiro said he received so many death threats for his writings.” OK! And now, as of Sunday, David Shapiro has resigned from Breitbart, too. (Ben Shapiro has not found a job at Fox News, and told Politico that he is not looking for one)
Michelle Fields told the Washington Post, “I would have liked for them to believe me, believe the eyewitness. I think they were more concerned about preserving their access to Trump than they were about finding out the truth.”
She also told Megyn Kelly on Friday, “They have basically done a character assassination on me.”
I would note that Andrew Breitbart would be ashamed of what his publication has devolved into, but he’d probably be really, really proud.
Update (12:20 p.m.): Patrick Howley tweeted on Monday that he had been re-hired at the website.
Update (2:50 p.m.): Two more staffers have resigned.
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