Breitbart “News” may be a darling of the white supremacist “alt-right” but after intense scrutiny by an independent group of journalists that decides who can cover Congress, an application by the online news blog for a permanent credential has been tabled indefinitely.
When the temporary pass given to Breitbart while the matter was investigated expires on May 31, their reporters will no longer be authorized to cover the Senate and House.
The Breitbart application has been dogged by lingering questions about whether it is an independent editorial outlet, as required, as well as the real ownership of the parent company, ties to other non-profit groups and its link to Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart editor who is now President Trump’s chief strategist.
Bannon has faced accusations that he has spoken to Breitbart reporters and editors to boost Trump policies since he arrived in the White House, which would be a violation of the government rules.
The loss of the “hard pass” is an even bigger deal than just covering Congress. Without it, Breitbart will almost certainly not be able to get credentials to cover the White House and the daily news briefings by the President’s press secretary.
That pass is also used around Washington with organizations, lobbyists, and other sources to show a news outlet has credibility. Without it, Breitbart may be denied interviews, press briefings and access to news releases and data.
The credentials are awarded by a group of four journalists from more traditional news outlets. One committee member said he did not remember ever devoting as much time to the consideration of any other applicant, and that the committee acted in good faith during its unusually long deliberations, according to a report by Buzzfeed.
The questions raised by the committee include Breitbart’s connection to the non-profit Government Accountability Institute, whether the family of billionaire Trump supporter Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekkah – who have an ownership stake in Breitbart – have any editorial control, and the past and present role of Bannon, who had a different date of separation from Breitbart on his government disclosure form than the Breitbart editor provided the committee.
“The whole thing suggests to me they are not ready for a credential,” one committee member said during the meeting, per Buzzfeed.
Breitbart can apply again in the future for the credentials. A spokesman for Breitbart said they would do so and insisted “Breitbart News is unequivocally entitled” to the pass.
Whatever happens, this shines a spotlight on the Trump administration policy of favoring news outlets that give them favorable coverage or have links to people who have provided financial support to Trump in the past.
At press conferences, the President and his press secretary have gone out of their way to call on these small, sometimes obscure outlets – who are all known for the far right-wing extremist slant to their coverage and editorial products and for propagating delusional conspiracy theories.
In the past, Presidents may not have liked the coverage they got but they understood the importance of a free press and their rights under the First Amendment. The Trump administration has been in tune with Bannon, who has declared the press an enemy and has crafted policies to get around them.
Trump has said he goes on Twitter because he does not trust the media to accurately get out his message. The irony is that many of his tweets – like his claim President Obama wiretapped him in Trump tower – have turned out to be fake news that originated at fascist hate-rags like Breitbart in the first place.
The cherry on top of this cake is that rape apologist and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who was a major proponent of the Susan Rice wiretapping conspiracy, has also lost his press pass today, and he is not happy about it.