The appeals to populist anger and racial resentment. The barefaced misogyny. The winks at anti-Semitism and white supremacy.
These are all attributes shared by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Breitbart News, making Breitbart chairman Stephen K. Bannon’s move to the Trump campaign, where he will serve as CEO, more understandable, as the GOP presidential nominee seeks to only ratchet up and intensify the nastiness and bigotry that have defined his run for the White House.
Besides its feverish promotion of Trump’s presidential bid , Breitbart News often promotes bogus, racist and conspiratorial claims, much like the candidate himself.
Here is a brief and far from exhaustive list of the many embarrassing, bogus stories that Breitbart has promoted:
1) Friends of Hamas
It started as a joke.
During the fight over former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, which included Republicans like Ted Cruz questioning the Purple Heart recipient’s patriotism, a New York Daily News reporter, Dan Friedman, joked with a GOP Senate aide about Hagel having ties to obviously nonexistent groups like “Friends of Hamas” and “Junior League of Hezbollah.”
“No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed—let alone that a former senator would speak to them,” Friedman said. “Or so I thought.”
Ben Shapiro of Breitbart, however, ran with it: “On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’”
Friends of Hamas doesn’t exist, but the rumor made its way through the conservative media , and Breitbart stood by the story, claiming that the onus was on Hagel to prove that he didn’t speak to a fictional group.
It was like a page out of the Donald Trump playbook.
2) Shirley Sherrod
Breitbart has become a go-to source for those who believe that whites in America are under attack by black people and their allies in the Obama administration—the “real racists.” In one case, Andrew Breitbart, the site’s late founder, claimed that a USDA official, a black woman named Shirley Sherrod, openly admitted to discriminating against a white farmer and that “Sherrod’s racist tale” was “received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement.” And he posted video to prove it.
Conservative media outlets heavily promoted Breitbart’s video and Sherrod was fired.
As it turned out, Breitbart had only posted a small clip of a longer speech that “showed that Sherrod was giving a cautionary tale about the evils of racial separation,” and the families of the white farmers she mentioned vigorously defended Sherrod. The part where Sherrod explained how she ended up fighting for white farmers and condemned racial prejudice were left out of Breitbart’s clip. Sherrod later sued Breitbart for defamation because it had posted clips that “made her sound like she was advocating denying services to white farmers when in fact she was making the opposite point” and later reached a settlement.
Naturally, Andrew Breitbart defended his smear with conspiracy theories and innuendo, suggesting that the farmers might be lying as part of a grand conspiracy to make him look bad.
3) The Other Loretta Lynch
When President Obama nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, Breitbart wondered why the biased liberal media refused to report Lynch’s involvement in the Whitewater case, a phony Clinton real estate scandal. But as Media Matters reported, Breitbart had the wrong Loretta Lynch:
According to a November 8 Breitbart.com article by Warner Todd Huston, "few are talking about" the fact nominee Lynch "was part of Bill Clinton's Whitewater probe defense team in 1992." Huston pointed to a March 1992 New York Times article that "reported that Lynch was one of the Clintons' Whitewater defense attorneys as well as a 'campaign aide.'" And in a November 9 article Huston's colleague, Breitbart.com Senior Editor-at Large Joel Pollak wrote, "The connection to Whitewater ought to provide additional fodder for Republicans during Lynch's confirmation hearings":
The connection to Whitewater ought to provide additional fodder for Republicans during Lynch's confirmation hearings. It is odd that Obama chose someone so close to the Clintons--or perhaps not, given the prominent role played by Clinton insider John Podesta in the second term of the Obama White House. Lynch has been rewarded throughout her career for her political loyalty--not an unusual path up the career ladder for federal prosecutors, but certainly one that will allow the GOP, as well as Obama, to raise the political stakes.
The Loretta Lynch referred to in the New York Times article is a California based attorney who has worked on several prominent political campaigns, not Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
Breitbart eventually posted a correction at the very bottom of the completely erroneous post, before eventually removing it from its website.
4) Skewed Polls
In 2012, Breitbart was at the forefront of a conservative attack on presidential election polls, alleging that the polls were deliberately “skewed” to hide Republican Mitt Romney’s lead over President Obama.
Breitbart’s Mike Flynn wrote:
I totally get that pollsters have to weight their samples to reflect their estimation of the electorate. But why is it that virtually every media poll this election weights their samples in a way that is beneficial for Democrats? Where is the poll that over-samples GOP voters? That every media poll errs in the same direction is what, in poker, we call a “tell”.
This poll, and many others like it, are simply propaganda. They are meant to reinforce the idea that Obama’s and the media’s attacks on Mitt Romney are working. They are meant to reverse the growing belief that Obama’s reelection is in serious jeopardy. But, the days of the media controlling the campaign narrative are over.
Flynn mocked one Colorado poll showing Obama leading Romney 50-46 in Colorado, saying it was like “unicorns and pixie dust.”
Of course, Obama ended up winning re-election by about the margin predicted by the supposedly “skewed” polls, and won Colorado by five points.
While Breitbart should have been embarrassed after assuring readers that the polls were all skewed by the media when they turned out to be quite accurate, the group stuck with the theme.
This month, the outlet decided to sponsor its own presidential poll, saying that mainstream polls had been “manipulated” by the liberal media—the same message pushed by Trump.
Breitbart’s own poll, however, like nearly all the other polls, showed Trump losing to Clinton.
The site also championed the campaign of Paul Nehlen, a GOP primary challenger to Speaker Paul Ryan who ran as a candidate who would reflexively support Trump and consider deporting all Muslims from America. Nehlen appeared on Breitbart’s Sirius XM radio program and received fawning coverage. While polls showed Ryan holding a commanding lead, Breitbart ran stories about how Nehlen was making Ryan run scared with headlines like, “Good for the Soul: Paul Ryan Bows Down to Nationalist Populism as His Career Flashes Before His Eyes.”
Ryan crushed Nehlen 84-16.
5) Obama Founded ISIS
While Trump drew criticism for his claim that Obama founded ISIS, a comment that he later claimed was sarcastic “but not that sarcastic,” Breitbart rushed to his defense. Trump happily tweeted a link to a story in the ultraconservative outlet that purportedly backed up Trump’s claim that Obama supported the terrorist group. According to the site, “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”
The intelligence report Breitbart cited did not say that the Obama administration supported Al Qaeda or any terrorist group. It only stated that many terrorist groups, including AQI, which later became ISIS, have entered the Syrian conflict. The U.S. has supported opposition groups fighting both Assad and ISIS, and nowhere in the memo does it claim that the U.S. backs Al Qaeda.
Experts on the Syrian Civil War told PolitiFact that the Breitbart article was a clear misreading of the memo:
"The United States has never backed AQI and has never backed ISIS," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "It was never part of the opposition that the United States supported, full stop."
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, agreed. "It has never been the policy or stated goal of the Obama administration to arm or assist al-Qaida," he said.
"I would say it's another unsupportable conspiracy theory," said John Limbert, an international affairs professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who previously served as a foreign service officer in post-war Iraq and as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department.
John Pike, the director of globalsecurity.org, said it would be putting it "mildly" to call it a conspiracy theory. And Gartenstein-Ross also used that term, tweeting that Trump’s effort to make this argument was a "transparently fallacious conspiracy theory."
Not that Breitbart has backed down from its story.