Open Letter: Senate Press Gallery Should Reject Breitbart’s Application For Permanent Credentials
Breitbart Violates Rules On Editorial Independence
To the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery:
Breitbart.com has reportedly come before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery seeking permanent Capitol Hill credentials. We urge you to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence as required by your rules.
According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent congressional press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In rejecting the application of the Supreme Court reporting outlet SCOTUSBlog, the committee explained that editorial firewalls are insufficient when personnel are inextricably connected between the federal government and an applying publication.
Breitbart fails this standard in several ways:
Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon is on leave while working as the top adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, and he has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump once he is sworn in as president.
Even if Bannon completely severs his position with Breitbart, his likely financial interest and the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent.
Numerous media observers and former employees suggest that given Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, Breitbart could serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.
Rebekah Mercer, daughter of a major Breitbart investor, is reportedly serving on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and could end up serving in the Trump administration.
Breitbart has already engaged in similar conduct internationally. Notably, Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam left the website to become chief of staff to UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage during the 2015 UK General Elections; rejoined the website following the elections and spent the next year using his editorial post to support and advocate for UKIP’s signature policy initiative, Brexit; then briefly ran for UKIP leader.
It is simply not credible for an outlet to claim the editorial independence required under your rules given that their longtime executive chairman is about to become the closest advisor to the president.
In addition to these documented, inextricable, and disqualifying links between the outlet and the Trump administration, Breitbart has secretive business ties that it refuses to disclose as a matter of policy, including financial ties to foreign businessmen that are kept equally secret. The Committee should also be wary of granting additional credibility to an extremist website -- Bannon himself called it “the platform of the alt-right,” an ideology that features white nationalism.
Given these facts, we urge the Standing Committee to reject the Breitbart application.