A British Member of Parliament has used Parliamentary privilege to accuse the Breitbart News Network of anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism, and misogyny.
At Foreign Secretary’s questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday 10th Liz McInnes, the Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton, quizzed Boris Johnson on his recent meetings with members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
She asked Johnson: “On Sunday, the Foreign Secretary met Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, a man whose website is synonymous with anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, the hero worship of Vladimir Putin and the promotion of extremist far-right movements across the world.”
Mr. Johnson did not address Ms. McInnes’s accusations, merely describing the conversation he had with Mr. Bannon as “genuinely extremely productive”.
Breitbart London’s Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam has dismissed Ms. McInnes’s comments as “grotesque, out of step with reality, and supremely hypocritical”.
Kassam said of the claims: “Liz McInnes seems to be blissfully unaware of the overwhelming Jew-hatred in her own political party, including that of her boss Jeremy Corbyn.
Her grotesque statements about Breitbart News — which employs a Muslim-born immigrant as its London editor, a homosexual man as its tech editor, whose CEO is Jewish, and whose Jerusalem vertical is perhaps the most pro-Israel outlet in the world — shows just how out of step with reality she is.
“While her accusations are unsubstantiated, the same can not be said for challenges against her own party, which has been shown to have long-standing problems with discrimination, and supports the oppression of women through its segregated Muslim meetings. She is perhaps the most supremely hypocritical person I’ve ever had the pleasure of not meeting”.
– Anti-Semitism and racism –
Accusations of endemic anti-Semitism have dogged the Labour Party for years, especially since the leadership campaign held in the summer of 2015. During that campaign, the eventual winner, Jeremy Corbyn, was revealed to have called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”. Both are dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
Under Corbyn’s leadership, dozens of members including MP Naz Shah and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, have been suspended from the party over charges of anti-Semitism and racism; charges which Mr. Corbyn seems to be mostly unconcerned about.
Astonishingly, the party even managed to prompt fresh allegations of anti-Semitism at a press conference called to announce that an inquiry into anti-Semitism within the party had determined that the party is “not over-run” by anti-Semitism.
Days later, the Campaign Against Antisemitism warned that British Jews will continue to “worry” about their future in Britain, following Corbyn’s appearance in front of a Parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism in which he refused to denounce anti-Semitic attacks against his own Jewish MPs.
McInnes, however, appears unconcerned with Labour’s anti-Semitism problem. In an article she penned last July, ahead of a leadership challenge against Corbyn by rival Owen Smith, McInnes set out a number of reasons she couldn’t support Corbyn in the leadership role. The rise of anti-Semitism within the party under Corbyn was absent from that list.
– Misogyny –
Labour has repeatedly had accusations of misogyny levelled at it from women within the party, dating back years before Corbyn’s leadership.
In addition to the gender-segregated meetings the party holds for its Muslim members, Sonia Sodha, who worked as an adviser to the party between 2010 to 2012 called the party out with a brutally honest article on The Guardian‘s website last August, in which she admitted: “Labour has always had a long-standing women problem.”
Weeks earlier, Theresa May had walked into Downing Street as the Conservative Party’s (and the country’s) second female prime minister, prompting Sodha to admit that Labour Party members were “left asking the uncomfortable question: could it ever happen on our side?”
She concluded it could not, as the party’s problem was more than just one of lack of equal representation in elected offices. Women were too often being left out of the important decision-making processes within the party, she said.
“To me, it’s tokenistic to promise half a shadow cabinet of women if you don’t bother to invite any of them to the discussions that count or to share the key election platforms,” she added.
Her article followed a letter sent to Corbyn, signed by nearly half of Labour’s female MPs, challenging him over his “inadequate” response to “rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows”, targeting women in the party, which the signatories said was “being done in your name”.
Then, during the leadership challenge designed to oust Corbyn as leader last summer, rival Owen Smith criticised the Labour leader’s failure to sufficiently stamp out “intolerance and misogyny” from the party.
But Anoosh Chakelian, deputy web editor at the New Statesman took issue with his claim that the party “didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader”, writing: “Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time.”
– Homophobia –
In October, an internal investigation by the Labour Party found that Labour MP Angela Eagle had been subject to homophobic abuse and intimidation by members of the party after the atmosphere within her constituency became “toxic and divided in the extreme”.
“The investigation has received many hundreds of abusive, homophobic and frightening messages that have been sent by Labour members to Angela Eagle” the report outlining the findings noted.
It added: “This has resulted in genuine fear and intimidation of a small number of other members.
“This creates an environment in which some members are fearful to take part in the party or raise their voice about any issue, as they see that meetings have become hostile and sometimes aggressive.”
– Charges against Breitbart repeatedly debunked –
Meanwhile, the charges of anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia levelled at Mr. Bannon have already been roundly and repeatedly debunked.
Breitbart employs several Jewish journalists and editors, including Joel Pollak, an Orthodox Jew, who was happy to confirm that Mr. Bannon is a “friend of the Jewish people and a defender of Israel”.
In an interview, Mr. Pollak went on to defend Mr. Bannon as a man with “no prejudices“, saying: “He treats people equally, and, in fact, during my time working closely with him at Breitbart for five years, he sought out people from diverse backgrounds.”
The sentiment was seconded by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who said of Bannon: “I know him well, I worked hand-in-glove with him. I feel that these charges are very unfair.”