Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and In-House Counsel Joel B. Pollak appeared Wednesday morning on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition with Steve Inskeep, and defended the company’s Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, while calling out NPR’s “racist programming.”
Bannon was recently named Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor by President-elect Donald Trump.
Presented with selective quotes from Breitbart articles and Bannon’s past statements, Pollak challenged Inskeep to defend NPR’s taxpayer-funded racial programming, including Code Switch, a series that focuses obsessively on race, and which called the results of the 2016 election “nostalgia for a whiter America.”
The full audio (via NPR) and transcript follow, below.
INSKEEP: Let’s hear a defense of Steve Bannon. He’s the campaign manager for Donald Trump, now slated for a top post at the White House — campaign CEO, to be correct. He has been fiercely criticized because Bannon previously ran Breitbart, a website that Bannon described as “the platform for the alt-right,” a name that encompasses white nationalists and others embracing white identity politics.
Joel Pollak has worked with Steve Bannon. He is Senior Editor-at-Large for Breitbart, and he’s with us now from our studios at NPR West in Culver City, California. Good morning.
POLLAK: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Thanks for coming over early, really appreciate it. Now, people have heard a lot the last couple days about Bannon’s statements, or statements on Breitbart. But before we get into that, I want you to round out the picture of this guy. You know him. What are people missing?
POLLAK: Steve Bannon is a fantastic manager. He helped Breitbart grow fantastically, to the point where we have 250 million page views per month. He is a leader with vision, he’s very disciplined, he insists on excellence from those around him. He’s also very open to debate and challenge as long as you bring facts and data to the table. And he has no prejudices. 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, and gave them a voice at Breitbart. so I —
INSKEEP: Why do you — go ahead.
POLLAK: I think he’s a fantastic choice. I think he’s, first of all, from a conservative perspective at least, a national hero. Because in helping Donald Trump win, he’s helped defend the Supreme Court and the Constitution. And I think Americans can take heart in the fact that you have someone who’s so calm under pressure in the White House. You know, people tend to think of everything in political terms —
INSKEEP: Let me just stop you there. Because I do want to ask about something that you said. You were talking about facts and data and how he ran Breitbart. Why did he make Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right”?
POLLAK: You know, all I can speak to is the content on the website. And the only “alt-right” content we have is a single article out of tens of thousands of articles, which is a journalistic article about the alt-right by Milo Yiannopoulos, and Allum Bokhari, which basically went into this movement, and tried to figure out what it was all about. [Article here] That’s not racist, that’s journalism.
INSKEEP: Well let me ask about some articles that I have been reading. There’s been a lot of mention of an article defending the Confederate flag. The headline was, “Hoist it High and Proud.” It was put out after last year’s shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. [Article here] Why was it a good idea to publish that?
POLLAK: Well, there’s an argument to be made — and it was not just made at Breitbart, it was made at National Review [article here] and other places — that the Charleston shooting had nothing to do with historical attachment to the Confedereate flag, that this was an individual who acted on his own motives, and that there was a case in terms of heritage and history. Now, that’s not a case I agree with, but I don’t agree with everything on Breitbart, and you don’t have to agree, to work there or to enjoy the content on the website.
INSKEEP: I want to mention, you know — actually, putting controversial opinions out there is a perfectly fine idea. We’ve had David Duke on this program. But we fact-check. We try to question, we put in context. This particular article goes on to make a string of statements. There’s a reference about President Obama and Kenya. There’s also a statement: “The Confederacy was not a callous conspiracy to enforce slavery, but a patriotic and idealistic cause.” A little bit of research would show that Alexander Stevens, the vice president of the Confederacy, declared the cause was slavery. I mean, why put these things out there?
POLLAK: I think that we can talk about individual articles out of the tens of thousands at Breitbart, but, you know, NPR is taxpayer-funded, and has an entire section of its programming, a regular feature, called Code Switch, which from my perspective is a racist program. I’m looking here at the latest article, which aired on NPR, calling the election results “nostalgia for a whiter America.” [Article here] So NPR has racial and racist programming —
INSKEEP: Well, let me just mention —
POLLAK: — that I am required to pay for as a taxpayer. So, you know, you can read Breitbart, you can read something else — I don’t think that’s racist, to talk about the history of the Confederate flag. There are people who disagree with that, as a symbol, but you’re picking on one opinion article. Breitbart is a 24-hour news website that provides coevrage from within a conservative worldview.
INSKEEP: Because we’ve got a limited amount of time, I do have to stop you there. We’ll just check a couple of facts. Local public radio stations do receive a small percentage of their funding from the government. And Code Switch has explored race and ethnicity from a wide variety of viewpoints. And, as we’ve said, having a wide variety of viewpoints is fine, as long as you’re checking your facts. Now, I want to ask a little bit more about what Bannon is going for, what he believes. This is a guy who’s talked about nationalist movements — I think he’d reject the label “white nationalist,” but he’s reached out to nationalist parties in Europe, like the French National Front, which has actually been fined for racist statements. Do you have any idea of what his strategy is, what his vision is?
POLLAK: I think his vision is to defend American interests. And I think you saw that reflected in some of the campaign themes that Donald Trump used, of resisting elites and resisting international agreements and international bodies that are against the American interest. There’s a lot of what goes on at the United Nations, for example, which is designed to undermine American interests, and unfortunately — from our perspective, at least — President Obama often colluded with these international institutions, like taking the Iran Deal to the UN Security Council before taking it to Congress. That is the opposite of the way it should be. And so I think Steve Bannon’s orientation, and Donald Trump’s orientation, would be toward putting America first in those discussions.
INSKEEP: Well, let me ask you another thing. And this is another Bannon quote — and we can pull out quotes, but it’s a quote that he made in a 2011 radio interview that gets to maybe what he wants to do inside the country? He criticized feminists. He said, “Women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children” — and I’m just reading the quote here — “they wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools.” [Article here] What’s he driving at, there?
POLLAK: I don’t know. But there’s a political correctness in this country that would say that if you said that once on a radio show, that you should be drummed out of public life. I would defy you to find a person in the LGBTQ community who has not used that term, either in an endearing sense, or in a flippant, jovial, colloquial sense. I don’t think you can judge Steve Bannon’s views. What you can judge him [on] is how he conducted himself at Breitbart. And he brought a gay conservative journalist like Milo Yiannopoulos on board. And Milo has brought gay conservatives into the media, into the debate. At the Republican National Convention, Breitbart co-hosted a party for gay conservatives. So that’s not something you do if you’re anti-gay. And Andrew Breitbart was the same. Andrew Breitbart broke through at CPAC, the conservative annual gathering, and helped GOProud get a foothold there —
INSKEEP: Oh, Breitbart, that was the former publisher of Breitbart.
POLLAK: Right, the founder.
INSKEEP: I want to invite a yes/no question, because we’ve just got a few seconds here. This is a question that’s just on a lot of people’s minds. Is Steve Bannon — and by extension, Donald Trump — winking at racists? Not quite embracing their views, but trying to get their support and their votes? Yes or no?
POLLAK: Absolutely not.
INSKEEP: Not at all?
POLLAK: Not at all.
INSKEEP: OK. Joel Pollak, thank you very much, really appreciate the time.
POLLAK: Good to be with you.
INSKEEP: He is Senior Editor-at-Large for Breitbart News. That’s a publication that was once run by Stephen Bannon, who is now slated for a senior position in President-elet Donald Trump’s White House.