Fact Check: Six of the Dumbest Claims Journalists Made About Breitbart and Stephen K. Bannon

The most eye-opening part of working for an anti-establishment news site like Breitbart is how quickly you lose all respect for the “professionals” in the business.

You know how when you read a news story that touches on your profession, you notice the writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about and makes embarrassing factual errors? Try moving on from that when your profession is journalism!

This phenomenon is even more cringey when you or your company are the subject of a story. And boy, were we ever yesterday.

Just as every reporter became an expert on Turkey during the coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a lot of Breitbart experts materialized Wednesday as our Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon left his position to become CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

We watched dumbfounded as people who are supposedly the best at the news business got basic facts wrong or printed wild, unverified speculation from anonymous sources — all the sins we stand accused of by the Clinton campaign!

Yesterday’s feeding frenzy revealed a lot of journalists as being sloppy, stupid, and dishonest as they say we are. These are some of the worst examples we saw:

DERP:

The “pros” reported that Breitbart is a birther site.

As seen from Media Matters and Talking Points Memo’s Katherine Krueger.

ACTUALLY,:

We’ve always maintained that Obama was born in America and Hillary was the “Original Birther”… until we found out Obama was the original birther!

And as for getting basic facts wrong, Krueger writes: “As far back as 2009, [Breitbart] ran posts praising Trump for his handling of “Celebrity Apprentice” and lauding him as a hero for demanding President Barack Obama release his long form birth certificate.”

First of all, she insinuates Trump and Breitbart pushed Birtherism back in 2009; a cursory Google search would remind her that Trump didn’t bring up the subject until 2011. If you actually click the second link, the author praised Trump for fighting left-wing journalists and not backing down when they tried to gang-tackle and shame him: “I’m no Birther, never was. But doesn’t mean I didn’t see how the MSM and White House were using this issue to their political advantage.” Earlier in the article, he described the refusal to release the document — thus allowing the conspiracy theories to fester — as “a cynical political weapon in order to label everyday Americans as racist.”

DERP:

The “pros” reported that more Breitbart employees are on their way to Trump’s campaign.

As reported by Erick Erickson and McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed.

ACTUALLY,:

Erickson rolled with a tweet claiming our DC Bureau Chief Matthew Boyle would join Trump’s campaign, citing an anonymous GOP source. The rumor got shut down quickly by journalists who confirmed there was no truth to the claim:

Coppins also cited an anonymous Republican source, then trolled two former Breitbart employees with the question of who is “the most likely Breitbart staffer to join the campaign.” One of them (is that you, Ben? Come home!) pointed to Breitbart California Editor and general workhorse Joel Pollak, claiming he is not a “traffic-getter.” And that was good enough for Coppins to print. We don’t share metrics on individual authors, but a quick look at comment counts and Facebook shares on his stories the past couple weeks would beg to differ.

DERP:

The “pros” reported that we presented a subject’s transgenderism as a scoop.

Dave Weigel at the Washington Post wrote this about Breitbart Tech and Milo Yiannopoulos:

The biggest individual star at Breitbart may be Milo Yiannopoulos, a British journalist and pundit who became the site’s “technology editor” in 2015. Telegenic, quotable and proudly gay, Yiannopoulos rose to prominence in America with coverage of the “Gamergate” saga, which began as a dispute between a jilted-feeling game designer and his ex and mushroomed into a battle against “social justice warriors.”

Yiannopoulos and some researchers covered and advanced the story, reporting, for example, on the fact that one anti-Gamergate critic had transitioned from male to female.

ACTUALLY,:

Note the lack of a link or citation — a tell that Weigel knows he’s being dishonest and doesn’t want anyone to check his work. Had he done so, anyone reading would see that the headline centered on old chat logs where the subject, Sarah Nyberg, claimed to be a pedophile. Nyberg later verified the authenticity of those chat logs and disavowed them.

DERP:

The “pros” reported that we have pushed “conspiracy theories” about Hillary Clinton’s health.

CNN’s media critic Brian Stelter wrote yesterday: “Breitbart has also touted conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health and published dozens of stories about Bill Clinton’s alleged treatment of women, with headlines like ‘The Secret Sex Abuse Victims of Bill Clinton.'”

ACTUALLY:

Note the lack of link or citation when Stelter says we “touted conspiracy theories.” We have aggregated a wide range of voices (including Stelter) weighing in on Hillary’s health, either arguing she’s sick or she’s healthy, but our own reporting on the subject has centered on physicians speaking on the record:

Neurologist Dr. Daniel Kassicieh, D.O.

Dr. Nicholas C. Bambakidis, director of cerebrovascular and skull base surgery, and the program director of neurological surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and a professor of neurosurgery and radiology at the CWRU School of Medicine in Cleveland

Dr. Drew Pinsky (also here and here)

Also note the juxtaposition of “conspiracy theories” next to “dozens of stories about Bill Clinton’s alleged treatment of women,” which he cannot honestly give the same label — as they, too, are all on-the-record accounts from his accusers or, in the story he singled out, aggregations of other authors: “The Washington Post’s Roger Morris, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff (now with NBC), and former Clinton Military Aide Buzz Patterson,” to name a few.

The bottom line here: Stelter didn’t do his research. Maybe he skimmed our site a little, but he probably just drafted this dismissal of our news coverage based on memories of the DC-NY-LA sewing circle mocking us on Twitter. He’s the face of media-on-media coverage for CNN, and he’s half-assing his job.

DERP:

The “pros” reported that Trump paid for Breitbart hotel rooms at the RNC.

As reported (again!) by McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed, based on an anonymous source who claims he heard Boyle saying so.

ACTUALLY,:

Hadas Gold announced that Politico had the same SCOOP! last month but showed enough restraint to vet it before publishing.

BONUS:

The Government Accountability Institute (GAI) forced Coppins to issue a correction in his Breitbart hit piece yesterday. He falsely reported that Steve wasn’t leaving his position at GAI while he served on Trump’s campaign; the organization sent out a statement to the contrary hours before BuzzFeed went to print.

DERP:

Basically everything out of Glenn Beck’s mouth.

Steve Bannon is the “CEO of Breitbart.”

“He is not leaving Breitbart.”

And, strap yourselves in for this one.

This is a guy who uses the Dark Web. If you don’t know what the Dark Web is, good for you. Dark Web is where you can hire assassins — oh, it’s frightening. It is frightening. It’s where you get child porn, you can buy sex slaves, it’s horrible. This guy uses the Dark Web to find people to do investigations and whatever else he would like to do. The person that we wanted to get on to talk about him, because I’ve talked to them several times in the past, and knows him inside and out, is now too afraid to come on because he’s using the Dark Web against this individual and they’re afraid. They do not want to say anything more about him.

ACTUALLY,:

Where to begin?

Steve is the Executive Chairman of Breitbart, and Andrew’s childhood friend and business partner Larry Solov is the CEO. Steve is temporarily leaving his position and is not a part of operations at Breitbart until the end of Election Day.

As for the “Dark Web” rant, compare that pitch for an Oliver Stone movie to this description from Bloomberg, which for all we know could be Beck’s source for the claim:

When Clinton became secretary of state, the foundation signed an agreement with the White House to disclose all of its contributors. It didn’t follow through. So GAI researchers plumbed tax filings, flight logs, and foreign government documents to turn up what the foundation withheld. Their most effective method was mining the so-called Deep Web, the 97 percent or so of information on the Internet that isn’t indexed for search engines such as Google and therefore is difficult to find.

“Welcome to The Matrix,” says Tony, GAI’s data scientist, as he maps out the Deep Web for me on a whiteboard (we agreed I wouldn’t publish his last name). A presentation on the hidden recesses of the Web follows. “The Deep Web,” he explains, “consists of a lot of useless or depreciated information, stuff in foreign languages, and so on. But a whole bunch of it is very useful, if you can find it.” Tony specializes in finding the good stuff, which he does by writing software protocols that spider through the Deep Web. Since this requires heavy computing power, Tony struck a deal to use the services of a large European provider during off-peak hours. “We’ve got $1.3 billion of equipment I’m using at almost full capacity,” he says. This effort yielded a slew of unreported foundation donors who appear to have benefited financially from their relationship with the Clintons, including the uranium mining executives cited by the New York Times (who showed up on an unindexed Canadian government website). These donations illustrate a pattern of commingling private money and government policy that disturbed even many Democrats.

The South Dakota tech firm BrightPlanet shows Beck doesn’t even get the category right. “The Deep Web is anything that a search engine can’t find… The Dark Web then is classified as a small portion of the Deep Web that has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through standard web browsers,” their explainer page says. Not even Bloomberg reported that Bannon himself participated in Deep Web research but that he managed those who did. For Beck to take this fact and end up with murder for hire is actual lunacy.

Granted, Beck is not a journalist but a commentator. But he is one of the loudest voices in the Never Trump movement, made up mostly of Twitter pundit conservatives who think we’re just the worst at everything, so we always make time to point out the nuttiest things he has to say.


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