There’s nothing that delights the folks at Breitbart News more than headlines glorifying Breitbart News. After Donald Trump praised a Breitbart reporter at a February news conference, the headline “Donald Trump Praises Breitbart’s Washington Political Editor Matthew Boyle: ‘Very Good Reporter’” popped up on the website. After the site interviewed Glenn Greenwald, it posted this headline, “Glenn Greenwald: Breitbart News Has ‘Editorial Independence’ That ‘Left and Establishment Right Utterly Lack,’” even though Greenwald cited as “repellant” some of the site’s content. And then, from an interview with former Politico newsletter writer Mike Allen — now of startup Axios: “Mike Allen: ‘Very Smart’ Breitbart News Sees Business, Tech, Media, Politics ‘Colliding and Converging.’”
In his session with Breitbart staffers Boyle and Charlie Spiering, Allen said this, among other things: “As we move toward our launch mode, it makes me newly appreciative of other entrepreneurs. We admire so much what’s been built at Breitbart. And … one of the things we like about Breitbart, is that you do things that other people aren’t. And both journalistically and as a business, that’s a great place to be right now. Don’t be doing what other people are. It’s not working.”
He went on at the end of the interview: “We admire your coverage. We admire what Andrew Breitbart and his successors have built. … What an amazing road the country and we are on. For people in the media who are listening, for you guys, enjoy this, soak it in. This is a once-in-a-century moment in journalism and in our country’s history and we’re very, very fortunate to have a front-row seat.”
On one level, Allen is right. Unlike other media outlets, Breitbart essentially bailed on a female staffer after she cited a Trump campaign official for man-handling her after a news event. Unlike other media outlets, Breitbart called Bill Kristol a “Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” And unlike other media outlets, Breitbart has built a following within the country’s “alt-right.”
Twitter is savaging Allen for his remarks about Breitbart.
— Brian Riccio (@Trumpwatching1) January 7, 2017
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Allen lashed out at the backlash. If you listen to the interview, Allen said, “you will see that I was making a very specific point about media doing things differently. That is in no way an endorsement of anything that they do and it’s been twisted to sound that way. I was in no way endorsing anything they do. This Twitter twisting and hyperventilating is absurd.”
Okay, but what about the part where Allen professes an admiration for Breitbart coverage? “I haven’t even thought about it,” said Allen to this blog. “I’m not in the business of judging other people. What I’m saying is that I don’t endorse it in any way. I was making a very specific point about trends in journalism, the media business.” Allen went on to say, by way of example, that there are things that The Post “does well and things The Post could do better.”
We asked again whether there was really anything about Breitbart journalism that Allen admires. “I’m not going to get into critiquing somebody else.”
As to Allen’s advice that the media should “enjoy” these times and “soak it in,” we asked whether that advice applied to journalists like Hadas Gold and Julia Ioffe and Jonathan Weisman, who’ve received anti-Semitic threats and abuse for doing their jobs. “I think that this is a great time to be journalist and I’m surprised if you would question that,” he responded. When we pointed out that it’s greater for some than for others, Allen replied, “If you don’t see these as historic times, that’s up to you.” He did observe that “caveats are always important, nuance is always important.”
Axios, the media site that Allen is launching along with fellow former Politico executive Jim VandeHei, is launching a trio of newsletters Monday, including Allen’s.