NEW YORK (AP) — Following the installation of Breitbart’s chief executive to a top job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, the news organization in its infancy when Barack Obama took office has big expansion plans and the goal of being the best source of news on the new administration.
That scares its critics, which consider Breitbart News the home of cheerleaders rather than journalists — and often offensive ones at that.
Despite the opponents, Breitbart is unquestionably on a high following the surprise election of Trump, whose candidacy the web site unceasingly backed both before and after its leader, Stephen K. Bannon, was brought in to run the general election campaign. Trump on Sunday named Bannon chief strategist and senior counselor for his administration.
Breitbart is planning a move into more spacious Washington offices, looking to add reporters in Germany, France, the Middle East and Asia, wants to add coverage of the media and technology to its conservative-framed news and hopes to produce more video, said Alexander Marlow, the site’s editor in chief, on Monday. Its own cable network is a dream, but unlikely now, he said.
“We’re going to be the best place for news on the Trump White House,” Marlow said. “That is my intention and I have no reason to think that’s not a fully attainable goal. I think a lot of the mainstream media already consider that the expectation and they’re none too happy about it, which of course is a delight to me.”
ComScore reported that Breitbart had 19.2 million unique visitors to its site in October, the most ever for the service founded in 2007 by Andrew Breitbart, a Los Angeles man intent on offering a conservative view on politics and the media. Breitbart died of heart failure in 2012 at age 43, opening the door for Bannon’s rise as top executive.
The site adopted Trump as a champion as his campaign took off. There were objections from those who considered Trump not conservative enough, and Breitbart lost staff members last spring when it failed to back its own reporter after she was roughed up by then-Trump campaign chief Corey Lewandowski.
Among the site’s headlines Monday: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi “continues to lead Democrats to glorious defeat”; “Anti-democracy crybabies march by thousands nationwide”; and “Dow Jones had best week since 2011 due to Trump win.” A column on Trump’s new appointment was headlined: “Stephen K. Bannon, friend of the Jewish people, defender of Israel.”
“Breitbart will continue to be what it has been during the campaign — it was just a propaganda arm for Donald Trump,” said Kurt Bardella, a public relations consultant who dropped Breitbart as a client this spring following the incident with reporter Michelle Fields and Lewandowski. “This is as close as we’re ever going to be to having a state-sponsored media entity that will effectively be operating out of the West Wing.”
Bardella said he believed Breitbart was on a path to being a more serious news organization before embracing Trump.
Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor who also left following last spring and is now editor of the Daily Wire site, said he can’t imagine Bannon not continuing to have input on what Breitbart publishes.
“The site will continue to be popular, although they could run into trouble if Trump decides to move away from the populist right and they’re stuck shilling for him,” Shapiro said.
Bannon has been on a leave of absence from Breitbart since he began running the Trump campaign, and Breitbart said he will take steps to leave the company in accord with government rules when he takes the White House job. Marlow said Bannon has had no formal communications with the company, although he said he talked to him Wednesday. “He gave me a couple of war stories and I gave him a big hug,” he said.
Marlow said Breitbart wouldn’t be afraid to criticize Trump if he strays from the populist message that got him elected.
He said Breitbart doesn’t just have readers, it has fans; one of the first things visitors see on the site is a line of merchandise for sale. The dismissal of its readers as haters “was really rejected by the voters, who are much more savvy, much more sophisticated and much more informed than a lot of people at CNN think they are,” he said.
But some of Breitbart’s reputation comes from headlines that some readers could easily find offensive: “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and “The solution to online harassment is simple: women should log off.”
Bannon was quoted before leaving Breitbart that he considered the site “the platform for the alt-right” — a movement often associated with far-right efforts to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”
“I’ve never made an editorial decision based on whether the alt-right would like it or not,” Marlow said. “I don’t consider myself part of the alt-right. If I am, I don’t even know it.
“The implication is that we’re OK with racism and bigotry and we’re absolutely not,” he said.