Reporter Michelle Fields resigned over Breitbart News' response to alleged assault
Kurt Bardella: Breitbart's ties to Donald Trump have created massive conflict of interest
Editor’s Note: Kurt Bardella is the president and CEO of Endeavor Strategies, a communications firm that until last week represented Breitbart News. You can follow him @KurtBardella. The views expressed are his own.
In recent days, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have used words such as “brave” and “courageous” on social media and in private correspondence to express their support for my decision to part ways with Breitbart News as a client and to speak out against the destructive tone and tenor embraced by Donald Trump.
Candidly, the influx of support made me feel a little uncomfortable, because the truth is I sat on the sidelines for a long time, took its money and stayed silent. Indeed, I would suggest that there is actually a certain amount of dishonor in what I have done – going on national television and calling the very organization I represented when the day began “liars.”
These are not the actions of someone who is courageous or brave.
So why did I do it?
There are really two reasons why I felt I could no longer represent Breitbart News to the best of my ability.
First and foremost, I didn’t sign up to work for Trump’s de facto super PAC. Those close to me know that for weeks, I have been considering ending my relationship with Breitbart because of how uncomfortable its support of Trump’s presidential campaign made me.
The second reason was the treatment of its now former reporter Michelle Fields, who resigned after she accused Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of manhandling her after a news conference.
Now let me be clear about something, I don’t know Fields all that well. I have had few interactions with her before last week. I know as much about what happened Wednesday night as everyone else who has followed this story, and I wasn’t present when the alleged incident took place.
What doesn’t sit well with me is the fact that the organization for which she worked hasn’t had her back.
Loyalty is a two-way street. No one would begrudge Breitbart for standing behind its reporter. Even if the entire incident unfolded as a misunderstanding, there would be zero blowback from anyone in the press for Breitbart taking a position supporting one of its own.
So why didn’t Breitbart?
Because its alignment with Trump has created a massive conflict of interest that has finally erupted into the public view.
As published by Breitbart News, political editor Matthew Boyle exchanged a few text messages with Lewandowski in the immediate aftermath of the Fields incident where Boyle himself reveals a bias toward the Trump campaign, writing, “K I wanna make sure that this doesn’t turn into a big story. It sounds to me like it was a misunderstanding.”
That is the lens with which Breitbart has viewed this incident from the very beginning, and underscores the inherent doubt it had for Fields’ account. It clearly very much wanted Lewandowski to be exonerated and for Fields to be guilty of making up some perverse hoax.
As I said on CNN with Don Lemon, the idea that Breitbart fully supported Fields is a lie. It just isn’t true.
As the story unfolded, Breitbart became obsessed with uncovering any type of “evidence” that could disprove Fields’ account, or at the very least, create a certain amount of reasonable doubt.
A news organization was working to undermine one of its own reporters. For me, this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Breitbart had abandoned its own reporter and did so with the objective to protect Trump’s campaign.
In recent months, we’ve seen the entire discourse of the political process erode into what I believe is an incredibly dangerous state of play.
Trump campaign events feel like they risk turning into violent riots, and they have become a social gathering for bigots. Their fearless leader has in turn acted as a coward by refusing to condemn violence persistently and unequivocally.
Make no mistake about it, people are going to keep getting hurt. The sickening thing is that this is exactly what Trump propagandists want to happen. (And it’s not going to help that there most certainly will be an effort by the organized left to bait Trump supporters into conflict.)
I think it’s worth sharing that there is a number of people at Breitbart News who vehemently disagree with the direction the company has taken. Unfortunately, not all its employees have the luxury or financial flexibility to simply walk away. People have families and obligations of which they need to be mindful. In many ways, most of the people there are trapped.
Even within the upper management structure at Breitbart News, two of the three most senior staff – Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow and CEO Larry Solov (whose wishy-washy call for an apology “if” Lewandowski was responsible was far from adequate) – are bound to the organization through loyalty to their close friend and mentor, the late Andrew Breitbart.
My own observation is the legacy that Andrew Breitbart had hoped for is on life support. Unless a significant change is made in leadership, the Breitbart News that he had started, that Marlow and Solov believe in, will soon be unrecognizable.
Breitbart News has gone all in behind a Trojan horse. A bully whose only ideology is hatred and fear. Who champions a vision for America that is built on conflict and controversy. On divisiveness that leads to violence.
They are on the wrong side of history, and for their sake and their conscience, I hope they realize it before it’s too late.