Right-wing tabloid and trashy conspiracy ‘news’ site Breitbart was hit with mass resignations on Sunday and Monday over the publication’s treatment of one of its reporters after she was manhandled by Donald Trump’s campaign manager. The reporter in question, Michelle Fields, was one of the ones to quit, along with editor-at-large and former conservative wunderkind Ben Shapiro, national security correspondent Jordan Schachtel and associate editor Jarrett Stepman. These resignations were preceded by the company’s spokesman publicly quitting, later saying in an interview that he believes Breitbart is lying about Fields.
Shapiro and Fields announced their decisions on Sunday night, providing Buzzfeed with their full statements. Shapiro had been critical of both the Trump campaign and Breitbart the previous few days over their attempts to sully Fields’ reputation and credibility after Corey Lewandowski roughed her up during a press conference last Tuesday. The site, while initially calling for an apology from Trump’s campaign, published an odd conspiratorial piece claiming Fields was mistaken in identifying Lewandowski as the man who assaulted her. (They’d later amend the article after additional video surfaced showing that he did indeed grab her arm.) Breitbart also posted, then deleted, a sarcastic kiss-off to Shapiro after he announced his resignation.
Following the announcement of his resignation on Monday, Schachtel provided a statement to Politico, in which he dragged his former employer, calling them a Trump Super PAC:
“The company no longer resembles the ideals that inspired me to start writing for them three years ago. Some of us have been fighting behind the scenes against the party-line Trump propaganda for some time, but without any success, unfortunately. Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something resembling an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign. I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network. As recent events have proven, there is no longer a point in trying to reform the company from within, so I must step aside with my dignity intact. I wish everyone at Breitbart the best, and hope the site can redeem the legacy of its founder under much-needed new management.”
Meanwhile, Stepman said Breitbart was engaging in Trump propaganda:
“Breitbart News has always been open about being a grassroots, conservative publication, but in my opinion we are working with or perhaps even taking direction from a presidential campaign, which is unacceptable journalistic behavior. I believe Breitbart News is becoming less of a news site and more of a propaganda organization dedicated to the Trump campaign. Breitbart News has also now openly embraced the ‘Nationalist/Populist’ viewpoint, which is in direct opposition to limited-government conservatism that channels the philosophy of the Founding Fathers. It is becoming impossible for conservatives like myself to continue working for the organization, which now relentlessly pushes a perspective directly at odds with my fundamental beliefs.
I believe the integrity of Breitbart News, my own personal integrity, and the legacy of Andrew Breitbart are at stake, which is why I had to resign.”
Now, one way to look at this is to not have any sympathy at all for any of these writers, not congratulate them for doing something even remotely in the right. You know, if you lay with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas. And there is a lot of truth to that. Shapiro is as contemptible a human being as you are bound to find. All of these reporters, including Fields, have written factually specious trash to push forth a far-right agenda.
But, in the end, they believed their cause was right, and they thought their employer would stand by them as journalists. Whether you believe in advocacy for conservatism through journalism isn’t really the point. They agreed to work for a news organization, and when one does that, they have to feel that their editorial staff, their bosses, will have their backs when they are unfairly attacked, maligned and put in harm’s way.
Breitbart told them, unequivocally, that Trump’s campaign means more to them than any of their staff. They were informed that they were expendable, that the only thing that mattered was pushing Trump to the White House. Journalism, even the conspiratorial right-wing hate-filled gossip that these writers signed up for, means absolutely nothing.
So, yes, Shapiro, Fields, and the rest of the recently departed staff should be applauded for sticking up for themselves and their principles.