Breitbart.com is in the midst of a hiring spree that promises to generate more pageviews and money for the publication while keeping its readers chasing Obama administration conspiracies for the next four years.
The publication is reportedly offering reporters from other right-wing outlets big salary increases and annual bonuses to sign four year contracts. It's no wonder that the website has money to spend; in at least one month this fall Breitbart.com passed its rivals to take the lead as the highest trafficked right-wing news site. Traffic drives ad sales, which, together with venture capital, has filled the publication's coffers.
What's significant is what Breitbart.com has done to build the traffic, and who they're planning on hiring with the resulting profits.
Breitbart.com was an important piece of the right-wing media bubble that kept conservatives blissfully unaware of major events during the 2012 election and focused on flawed efforts to “vet” President Obama. The publication fixated on efforts to reveal aspects of Obama's youth and college years, claiming that the media hadn't sufficiently put the president under the microscope in 2008 and set out to correct their failures.
Thus a major right-wing news site spent its resources during the last election running massive investigations into topics like the president's 20-year-old hug of a Harvard Law professor and the claims his literary agent made about his memoir in a 1991 pamphlet. Meanwhile, they worked overtime to try to discredit the vast weight of polling that suggested Obama was cruising to reelection. And shackled to their base, Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP's officeholders were taken along for the ride, latching on to the sorts of claims that made sense inside the right-wing bubble and nowhere else.
Woefully misleading their audience apparently brought in enough money for Breitbart.com to make fat offers to staffers at other right-wing media publications. And they're using it to bring in more “talent” that will keep the Breitbart.com gravy train running and their audience in the dark.
Matthew Boyle was the first to “enlist in Andrew Breitbart's army” in order to “go to war” against “leftwing outlets” like “The New York Times, Politico, [and] NBC News” after several years working at The Daily Caller. His December 2 announcement came less than 14 days after his previous employer had all but retracted one of his stories.
On November 20, Boyle attempted to discredit planned Black Friday rallies outside Walmart stores by reporting that financier and philanthropist George Soros was responsible for MoveOn.org supposedly urging its supporters to “descend” on the stores on that day. Given the right wing's hatred of Soros, such a story was a sure traffic-driver, and it quickly became a topic of discussion on the Fox News airwaves.
But the story was entirely false: The next day, the Caller updated the article to remove all references to Soros, acknowledging that Soros' involvement in MoveOn.org has been limited to a single 2004 donation to an affiliated organization and that he "does not appear connected to its current Wal-Mart protests."
This sort of shoddy journalism is commonplace for Boyle. He drew notoriety for a shockingly dishonest report on an Environmental Protection Agency court filing. Fallout from Boyle's work reportedly helped contribute to the departures of several Caller staffers who feared being associated with the story would hurt their reputations. In announcing his hiring, Breitbart.com praised his conspiracy-minded coverage of Operation Fast and Furious, which has involved inventing congressional testimony and pushing claims for which he admits he has no evidence, and led Attorney General Eric Holder to accurately criticize the Caller for being “behind” GOP calls for his resignation.
Boyle's stories at the Caller almost always feature a major villain to the conservative movement and often involve a complex conspiracy that inevitably reaches the highest levels of the Obama administration. The stories may be fundamentally dishonest, but they attract clicks from the right-wing base and allow for easy use in Fox News segments.
One week after announcing Boyle's hire, Breitbart.com revealed that they had hired Kerry Picket, author of The Washington Times' The Water Cooler blog. The paper's former editorial page editor called it a “smart move for Breitbart News and a huge blow to the Washington Times,” telling a reporter that Picket's blog “generates millions of pageviews a year.”
It's no wonder. The Breitbart.com announcement highlighted Picket's reporting on topics such as “President Barack Obama's illegal immigrant uncle” and that “director Spike Lee tweeted out the wrong address for George Zimmerman at the height of the Trayvon Martin ordeal.” These stories have little impact in mainstream circles but are catnip for the insular right-wing media readership.
Picket shares with Boyle a tendency toward conspiracy and away from facts. She participated in the Times' anti-gay war on then-Obama administration official Kevin Jennings, grossly distorting one set of his comments to claim he had supported “the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum” and posted doctored transcript of another to falsely claim he wanted teachers to be required to “take an LGBT course.” She drove a right-wing media firestorm by promoting the baseless claim from a “source who is friends with” the presidential campaign of Herman Cain that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was “likely involved with the sexual harassment” allegations against the candidate. She used her blog to speculate that the new logo for the Missile Defense Agency “takes a cue from Obama campaign '08.”
Other reporters Breitbart.com is reportedly targeting include TownHall.com's Katie Pavlich, best known for her factually faulty and conspiratorial book on Operation Fast and Furious; Heritage Foundation's Lachlan Markay, who has suggested that the president crafted his national energy policy based on how it would benefit George Soros' investment portfolio; and Caroline May, the Caller's stenographer for critics of the Department of Justice.
It's good business, if not good journalism or good politics. But it's clear in which of those Breitbart.com is most interested. After all, conservative media is a “racket.”