Breitbart News is morally bankrupt. That was amply established long before we learned that Steve Bannon and his minions had no qualms about giving succor to Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists in an effort to normalize their hateful agenda.
But if there was any doubt that Breitbart has burned down its moral compass–assuming it ever had one–in its quest to burn everything down, it should have been erased just a few days before Christmas. The number-three man at Breitbart, editor-in-chief Alex Marlow, admitted that he believed one of Roy Moore’s accusers, Leigh Corfman, sounded credible–and yet twiddled his thumbs while Breitbart engaged in a ham-handed effort to discredit Corfman and Moore’s other accusers.
Marlow had already admitted that Breitbart’s efforts to smear the women who claimed Moore molested them and pursued them when they were young enough to be his daughters was politically motivated. Just days after Moore was narrowly defeated by Democrat Doug Jones, he admitted that Breitbart had gone all-in for Moore in order to insulate Donald Trump. But this was another matter altogether. Now we know Breitbart called out the dogs on a woman that it had reason to believe might be telling the truth.
In the two weeks since Marlow made this disclosure, this is what we’ve heard on the matter from anyone with ties to Breitbart.
That’s right. Nothing even resembling an apology from Bannon, CEO Larry Solov, or Marlow.
Simply put, this is unacceptable. Politically-motivated victim shaming is bad enough as it is, even though it seems to have become standard operating procedure in the darker corners of the right. But to engage in victim shaming when you have reason to believe a victim may be telling the truth is absolutely heinous.
By admitting that Breitbart did this, Marlow tacitly admitted that he and Breitbart breached every standard of decency that is known. Every single article that Breitbart wrote during the campaign that cast doubt on the victims’ stories might as well have a big, fat asterisk next to the title. And the fact that he has not had the decency to apologize proves beyond any doubt that he is missing the switch in his brain that makes him human.
This is many, many, many times worse than the mainstream media repeatedly punting on stories that would have exposed Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long rampage of sexual misconduct. At least these outlets could claim–at least theoretically–that they didn’t have enough to go with the story at the time. Breitbart and many other right-wing outlets spent a lot of time pilloring the media for not blowing the lid on Weinstein sooner. Those denunciations now sound like the definition of hypocrisy.
Can you imagine if an outlet that passed on an exposé of Weinstein not only had reason to believe that his accusers were telling the truth, but ran stories that essentially called his accusers liars? That’s exactly what Breitbart did when it went all in for Moore despite having reason to believe Corfman was telling the truth.
What is equally telling is that, as I write this, no one from Breitbart has condemned its reporting on the accusations, let alone resigned. We already knew that the culture in the Breitbart newsroom was morally bankrupt. After all, no one raised a word of protest at Milo Yiannopoulos’ disgraceful trolling sprees. Even when Milo was pushed out for appearing to condone pedophilia, the powers that be at Breitbart claimed it was the result of a politically motivated hatchet job.
I can think of only two cases in recent memory in which a media organization has behaved in a more morally bankrupt manner than Breitbart. The first is Discovery Communications’ decision to deal with the Duggars. When Discovery first introduced the nation to the Duggars in 2003, they were living in conditions that any reasonable person would conclude were unsafe, unsanitary, and unlawful. That makes their decision to continue working with the Duggars even after we learned Jim Bob and Michelle slow-walked reporting Josh’s predatory behavior even more incomprehensible.
The second is Gawker’s decision to out a Condé Nast executive as gay in 2015, based entirely on the account of an escort who was extorting the executive. Even if the story was true, it amounted to aiding and abetting extortion. Gawker CEO Nick Denton deleted the story after 24 hours, saying that it might have been acceptable in Gawker’s early days, but was not acceptable in 2015. It says a lot about Gawker’s culture that it was ever acceptable at all. It’s a big reason I didn’t shed a tear when Gawker was driven out of existence after losing an invasion-of-privacy suit to Hulk Hogan.
It cannot be stated enough–Breitbart has admitted engaging in a politically-motivated witch hunt against a woman whom it had reason to believe was telling the truth about sexual assault. Frankly, if Breitbart is allowed to stay in business after this, we owe an apology to Gawker.
We already know that the top priority for liberals and Democrats in 2018 is taking back Congress. Well, after this, a very close second item on the agenda is driving Breitbart out of existence. After all, when a news organization reveals beyond any doubt that it has no moral compass whatsoever, that news organization has forfeited its right to exist. If News of the World was driven out of existence for phone hacking and Gawker was driven out of existence for showing little regard for privacy, then there is no question–Breitbart must follow them into the dustbin.
(featured image: photo art courtesy Emil Lendof, The Daily Beast)