When you’re a fan of a sports team, one of the ways you show passion is through criticism. You holler about bad coaching decisions and gripe about every flaw — and you do all this complaining because you love the club and want it to be better. The principle often extends to hometown media covering those teams.
I’ve never understood why politics can’t be more like sports in this regard, but it’s not. When you’re a fan of a candidate, you holler at anyone who points out bad decisions and deny each and every flaw, never giving an inch.
Here, too, the principle can extend to media. And when it does, you end up with coverage that loses all perspective and credibility.
You end up with Breitbart News.
Breitbart jumped so deep into the tank for Donald Trump that it couldn’t find its way out last week when one of its own reporters appeared to become the latest victim of his campaign’s arrogance. Then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields (who has now resigned) and Washington Post reporter Ben Terris both reported that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed Fields's arm harshly after a news conference, with Fields tweeting pictures of her bruises a couple days later.
This left the popular conservative news site with a choice: Stand with Fields or stand with Trump.
Breitbart shamefully, embarrassingly stood with Trump. Now Fields, editor-at-large Ben Shapiro and spokesman Kurt Bardella have all quit, and Breitbart looks snarky and small.
An article on the site Monday morning tastelessly mocked Shapiro and Fields on their way out:
Former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro announced Sunday evening via left-wing BuzzFeed that he is abandoning Andrew Breitbart’s lifelong best friend, widow, hand-picked management team and friends in pursuit of an elusive contributorship at the Fox News Channel.
Friends of Hamas could not be found for comment. …
Alleged Fox News contributor Michelle Fields also resigned.
Later in the morning, Breitbart took down the article and replaced it with an apology to Shapiro and Fields. But it's too late to salvage dignity in this fiasco. Breitbart has shown itself to be exactly the kind of blind loyalist Trump was talking about when he bragged that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose support.
The lengths Breitbart went to in covering for the Trump campaign are almost unimaginable. Fields told Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly that Lewandowski admitted grabbing her arm in a conversation with Breitbart's Washington political editor Matthew Boyle last Wednesday, one day after the incident.
Yet when the Trump campaign publicly denied that Lewandowski had touched Fields — and sought to smear her reputation — Breitbart responded by publishing a story from Pollak that contended that Lewandowski was innocent and the victim of mistaken identity. Only when video evidence emerged Friday to back up Fields's and Terris's version of events did the site acknowledge the truth of what Fields had said all along. At that point, Bardella said he'd had enough.
“My own personal observation is that there is a cycle of behavior that is escalating, and it’s happening exclusively at Donald Trump events,” Bardella said in a statement announcing his resignation. “It is wrong, disgusting and indicative of an ugliness that is contaminating the public and political discourse in our country.”
Shapiro said it best in a statement announcing his departure: "Breitbart has unfortunately become Trump’s Pravda. No media outlet worth its salt would throw over their own reporter and bad mouth her on their front page in order to protect the candidate."
Added Bardella: "When you've gone all in so much for a candidate, when you have that kind of skin in the game, you don't want to see that derailed."
It's okay for a publication to have an ideology and an agenda, and to support politicians who share those. Breitbart and Trump is something else entirely — a forged union that was all about the politician rather than the principles. The result is what you see today.