The far-right website Breitbart has spent a good portion of the last few months trying to distance itself from racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic causes.
In the wake of the violent white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Steve Bannon went on 60 Minutes to disavow the ultra-racist groups. Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump and former Breitbart CEO, returned to the site after leaving the White House in August. “They are absolutely awful,” he said. “There’s no room in American politics for that, there’s no room in American society for that.”
Breitbart has repeatedly claimed that it is merely representing a populist, grassroots conservative movement that helped get Trump elected, and is not a platform for white nationalists. “We think there’s a lot of disenfranchised people out there who don’t feel like they’re getting the whole story,” Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow said in March. “So we’ve identified stories for those people.” In August, the site explained that Bannon saying he welcomed the “alt-right” to Breitbart was a reference to “computer gamers and blue-collar voters who hate the GOP brand.”
But a Buzzfeed News investigation has found that Breitbart didn’t just tolerate those white supremacist views that Bannon denounced on 60 Minutes; it actively allowed them to flourish. One of the key figures in the investigation was provocateur Milo Yiannopolous, a former senior editor at Breitbart, who was a link connecting far-right trolls and white supremacists with Steve Bannon and Breitbart’s powerful allies, like hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer.
WATCH: Former WH Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says “there’s no room in American society” for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates and the KKK. pic.twitter.com/0eRmoLOMu1
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) September 7, 2017
Two major examples show just how cozy the relationship was between Breitbart and white nationalists. The first came when Yiannopolous started writing a major feature on the so-called “alt-right” for Breitbart. According to Buzzfeed’s reporting, one of the sources he reached out to was Devin Saucier, leader of the the white nationalist movement American Renaissance, who Yiannopolous described as “my best friend.” When Yiannopolous had completed the article he sent it back to Saucier, who gave him line-by-line annotations.
Essentially, Breitbart handed a piece on a racist movement to a prominent white nationalist to edit and send back. Buzzfeed also detailed Yiannopolous’ coordination with several other white nationalists, including Andrew “Weev” Aurenheimer, who helps run the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, and Vox Day, who previously called an African American writer “an ignorant savage.” Yiannopolous also passed his article to Day, who said it was “solid, fair and fairly comprehensive” and reportedly gave several suggestions.
The second incident is a video where Yiannopolous is seen performing karaoke at the Old Nostalgia Tavern in Dallas while Saucier looks on with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who does a “Sieg Heil” salute in front of admirers. Yiannopolous’ emails were also reported to have deeply anti-Semitic connotations. One began “LongKnives1290” and the other “began with the word Kristall” — a reference to the paramilitary attacks on German Jews in a 1938 riot.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Yiannopolous strongly disavowed that he was a racist in any form. “As someone of Jewish ancestry, I of course condemn racism in the strongest possible terms,” he said. “I disavow white nationalism and I disavow racism and I always have.”
ThinkProgress has long-maintained that there is little-to-no difference between the so-called “alt-right” and old-school white nationalists, and made the editorial decision in November last year to no longer use the term.
“[Richard] Spencer and his ilk are essentially standard-issue white supremacists who discovered a clever way to make themselves appear innocuous — even a little hip,” an editor’s note read. “A reporter’s job is to describe the world as it is, with clarity and accuracy. Use of the term “alt-right”, by concealing overt racism, makes that job harder.”