In the aftermath of Saturday night’s rampage on the London Bridge, in which terrorists killed seven people and injured dozens more, an editor at the conservative news site Breitbart posted a provocative tweet: “There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there.”
The comment from Breitbart’s Katie McHugh was not entirely uncharacteristic for the editor, who has previously made disparaging remarks about Muslims on her Twitter account. But according to McHugh, it prompted the media organization to fire her.
On Monday morning, she announced on Twitter: “Breitbart News fired me for telling the truth about Islam and Muslim immigration.”
CNN said it confirmed McHugh is no longer with the company, citing four unnamed sources.
McHugh, a Pennsylvania native who has written scores of articles for Breitbart since being hired in April 2014, previously worked at another conservative outlet, the Daily Caller, according to a Breitbart hiring announcement.
Breitbart had not responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post by Tuesday morning. The company declined to comment to the New York Times.
Breitbart was once led by Stephen K. Bannon, a top adviser to President Trump, and during the presidential campaign became associated with Trump’s nationalist policies. It gained even wider recognition through inflammatory writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who resigned from the organization in February after videos surfaced of him praising pedophilia.
After announcing she was fired, McHugh shared a link to a crowdfunding page created to support her financially for “essential medical bills that she has to pay, while finding another job,” according to the page. More than $2,800 had been raised by Tuesday morning.
“Donate here so I can pay my medical bills and get employed again. And keep telling the truth,” McHugh tweeted.
In a statement on the page, McHugh stood by her initial tweet and said Breitbart fired her for “speaking frankly about Islam and Muslim immigration.”
“I said nothing wrong,” McHugh said in the statement. “As President Donald Trump says, if we don’t get smart, it will only get worse. It’s also interesting Breitbart News chose to fire me rather than colleagues leaking to CNN.”
The crowdfunding page urged supporters to “send a message to Breitbart, the liberal media, and apologists for Islamic terrorism.”
McHugh’s anti-Muslim tweet spurred condemnation from some, and encouragement from others. Some of McHugh’s right-wing supporters denounced Breitbart for firing her.
Following McHugh’s incendiary tweet, but before she announced she was fired, CNN reported that another Breitbart writer, Ryan Saavedra, retweeted her and posted a message that said: “People think I’m kidding when I say this but the crusades need to come back.” He later deleted his tweet.
The reporters’ tweets stirred controversy among other Breitbart employees, according to CNN. Some employees told the network McHugh’s comment was “appalling,” “terrible” and “dumb.”
Actor Pej Vahdat — known for his role in the television show “Bones” — replied to McHugh’s initial tweet saying, “You’re a real moron.”
“You’re an Indian,” McHugh responded. Vahdat corrected her: “No I’m not. I’m an Iranian American Muslim and proud of it.”
Then McHugh shared Vahdat’s remarks and said: “Press one for English, and two for fewer Muslim terror attacks.”
In late April, the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which determines who gets press credentials to cover Congress, denied Breitbart’s request for congressional press passes, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported. It cited technical qualifications as the reason for the rejection — news companies are required to prove they aren’t owned or controlled by an organization that lobbies Congress.
Though Breitbart has frequently stirred controversy over its promotion of far-right ideas, its editor in chief has in interviews aimed to characterize the website’s coverage differently. In an NBC News interview, its editor in chief, Alex Marlow, said “it’s okay to check us out. We’re not a hate site.”
In an interview with New York Magazine in late April, Marlow — who calls Breitbart the “leading populist nationalist site in the United States” — said Breitbart does not always intend to align itself with the White House, even though it covers issues from the perspective of a Trump voter.
“Breitbart was seen as instrumental to the takedown of the Obamacare-light bill,” Marlow said. Marlow contented that the media organization is “always going to be seen as outside of the mainstream.”
But recent changes appeared to bring Breitbart a bit closer to that mainstream audience. In January, it hired Wall Street Journal reporter John Carney to lead a new vertical on business, markets, and economics.
In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, Carney pushed back on the reputation that Breitbart promotes racist, sexist and xenophobic views.
“I think it is a site that cares about a very broad swath of Americans,” Carney said.