By now, you know that I believe Donald Trump should have been pushed out of the race long before now. One of the biggest reasons I believe Trump has no business even talking about running for president is the thuggish behavior from his supporters–behavior that Trump has even tacitly encouraged at times. Recently, a number of Trump’s opponents have wondered if a popular right-wing Website is aiding and abetting the thuggery.
Breitbart News Network, named after the late right-wing provocateur and tea party leader Andrew Breitbart, has been a loud-and-proud Trump supporter almost from the time Trump launched his bid to buy the presidency. To give you an idea of how far right Breitbart is, it thinks that Fox News Channel is run by a bunch of squishes. The Website is so pro-Trump that it has garnered the derisive nickname “Trumpbart.” Recently, a number of pro-Trump trolls have taken to trolling Trump’s Republican foes with links from Breitbart and audio clips from “Breitbart News Daily,” a SiriusXM show hosted by Breitbart chairman Stephen K. Bannon and editor in chief Alex Marlow.
One of the main targets of the Trump/Breitbart fans’ ire has been Bethany S. Mandel, a columnist for The Federalist. Though Mandel is a staunch conservative, she despises Trump so much that if push comes to shove, she is even willing to support Hillary Clinton over him. Ever since she started blasting Trump on Twitter and Facebook, Mandel has been bombarded with a number of ugly and anti-Semitic replies from Trump supporters.
For instance, one Trump supporter whose account has since been deleted warned Mandel to “never f**ck with Breitbart.” Another warned her that she “deserve(s) the oven.” When she blocked a number of these trolls from her Twitter feed, one snapped at her, “Missed one, you slimy Jewess.” It’s gotten so bad that Mandel recently got a gun permit.
John Podhoertz of Commentary recalled that not long after Breitbart slammed him as an establishment tool who wants to derail Trump’s revolution, he got bombarded by a horde of “literally neo-Nazi white supremacists.” He thinks there is at least some overlap between Breitbart’s readers and Trump supporters. While cautioning that supporting Trump doesn’t make one “a validator or an expresser” of such bile, Podhoertz thinks that “something was let loose by him” in the summer of 2015–and it isn’t pretty.
Erick Erickson of RedState has had to endure something even more chilling than ugly tweets. Not long after Erickson disinvited Trump from a RedState gathering for his ugly attack on Megyn Kelly, Breitbart ran a piece calling Erickson “a RINO on steroids.” Erickson recalled that at some point, his address got leaked–and he was bombarded with hate mail so vile that for awhile, he didn’t allow his kids to open the mailbox. A number of advertisers for Erickson’s radio show received what Erickson describes as “clearly organized phone calls” pressuring him to drop them. None of them have done so.
Along similar lines, Republican consultant and Marco Rubio supporter Rick Wilson believes that Breitbart and Trump decided to “weaponize themselves” after an on-air spat with Marlow on CNN in which Wilson laid into both Breitbart and Trump. Someone ordered a copy of Wilson’s credit report, and other trolls attacked his daughter and son on a white supremacist Website.
Bannon and Marlow distance themselves from any thuggery by their followers. Marlow thinks it’s just a consequence of “what it’s like in the Twitterverse.” Bannon thinks it’s “absurd” to blame Breitbart for any ugliness, but warns that if anyone dares attack his Website or its followers, “we’re going to leave a mark.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that Breitbart has skated close to the ethical line–and in some cases, gone over it. Remember, Breitbart worked closely with James O’Keefe, the pseudojournalist best known for illegally burrowing his way into then-Senator Mary Landrieu’s office and misrepresenting ACORN’s work.
Regardless of whether Breitbart is aiding and abetting pro-Trump thuggery, one thing is clear beyond all doubt. This behavior has no place in any self-respecting democracy, and anyone who engages in this is engaging in un-American behavior. Period.