Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins is out with a scandalous – if unproven – report this morning: anonymous Breitbart.com staffers believe that the organization is accepting payments from Donald Trump in exchange for providing sycophantic coverage of the billionaire racist clown’s presidential campaign:
According to four sources with knowledge of the situation, editors and writers at the outlet have privately complained since at least last year that the company’s top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website — using it to hype his political prospects and attack his enemies. One current editor called the water-carrying “despicable” and “embarrassing,” and said he was told by an executive last year that the company had a financial arrangement with Trump.
If you’ve read any of Breitbart’s over-the-top coverage of the Trump campaign recently, then this allegation doesn’t seem especially far-fetched. And when you consider that Trump declared during last week’s debate that he lavishes donations on politicians with the expectation that they’ll do favors for him, it starts sounding downright plausible.
Corruption of this kind would hardly be a new development in conservative media. One of Breitbart’s competitors, the Daily Caller, has a strict ban on publishing any criticism of Fox News because editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson is on Fox’s payroll. Breitbart.com’s higher-ups vigorously deny any sort of financial arrangement with Trump (though a Breitbart staffer did apparently help Trump organize a campaign trip to the southern border), but at this point the site has made itself so toxic on the left and the right that even if they’re not on the take, they won’t find too many allies defending their behavior.
Back when Andrew Breitbart was alive and in charge, the site operated within and was guided by his worldview, which wasn’t so much pro-conservative as it was anti-liberal and obsessed with aggravating racial resentments. As repellent as his ideology was, he had undeniable media savvy and knew how to market his product to a right-wing audience that loved to read about how Democrats and liberals are the real racists. Conservatives in the media and elsewhere were quite happy to ally themselves with the Breitbart empire when it was shooting outside the tent, aiming its proprietary brand of incompetent, high-wattage, race-baiting “journalism” at Barack Obama, community activist groups, and lowly civil servants.
Now that Breitbart is gone, the organization has shifted gears. Instead of relentlessly focusing on the supposed evils of civil rights activists and obscure academics, Breitbart has anointed itself the arbiter of true conservatism for the 2016 Republican presidential primary. In typical Breitbart fashion, they’re picking petty fights, vastly overinflating their significance, and determinedly refusing to see the larger picture. The act has worn thin on conservatives who once loved these same tactics when they were used to annoy liberals.
And, of course, Breitbart has decided that of all the Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination, Donald Trump is among the true conservatives. Just before last week’s primary debate, Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle wrote a piece sketching out the “civil war” within the GOP field between conservatives and establishment moderates. By Boyle’s reckoning, Trump is more conservative than Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush:
Conservatives like Paul, Cruz, Carson, and Huckabee—along with Trump—argue that the party needs a bolder and fresher face than the weaker establishment-minded candidates in order to attract more voters. Moderates like Rubio, Bush, Christie and Kasich believe the party needs to soften its conservatism to appeal to more voters. Walker falls somewhere in the middle, perhaps the only GOP candidate in the top 10 who can walk in both the establishment and conservative worlds inside this civil war—at least for now, due to having battled the left to win three elections in four years after Democrats unsuccessfully tried to recall him.
That is a bonkers assessment of the Republican field, but it’s stated as obvious truth by a Breitbart reporter. After the debate, Boyle ran cover for Trump by reframing The Donald’s refusal to pledge his support to the eventual GOP nominee as Trump standing up against “amnesty.” Trump’s stated reasons for not promising his endorsement were entirely narcissistic – he never once mentioned immigration or “amnesty” as part of his calculus. But Boyle did him a solid and recast the issue to better fit with Trump’s campaign message.
What could possibly account for all this ridiculously fawning treatment of Trump at the expense of non-joke candidates who are far more conservative? One explanation, offered by Buzzfeed, is that certain Breitbart people are on Trump’s payroll. Another could be that this is just an inevitable feature of the post-Andrew Breitbart era in which there’s no strategic mastermind to channel and the organization’s trademark incompetence away from allies and towards “the left.” A cash-for-coverage arrangement actually makes the most sense when trying to figure out what the hell Breitbart is doing, though it doesn’t eliminate “incoherent derping” as an explanation. They’re either stupid, corrupt, or stupid and corrupt.