Raheem Kassam | Media Matters for America

Raheem Kassam

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  • Here are the right-wing media figures defending Trump’s racist “shithole” comment

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During a meeting on immigration policy in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump reportedly questioned the United States’ policy of accepting immigrants from, what he said, were “shithole countries,” such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. In the aftermath of the president’s racist remarks, many in right-wing media rallied around him to defend his comments.

  • Is Breitbart trying to have it both ways with this “alt-right” candidate?

    It is unclear whether Team Bannon actually disavowed congressional candidate Paul Nehlen for his anti-Semitism and ties to the “alt-right,” or if it considers his extremism “hysterical rubbish”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    As conservative commentators scrutinize congressional candidate Paul Nehlen’s explicit anti-Semitic messages and ties to the “alt-right,” Breitbart.com, which had put its full support behind Nehlen, is appearing to disavow Nehlen’s extremism while also continuing to give him a platform.

    In an attempt to advance its nationalistic war against all things establishment, Breitbart went all-in for Nehlen -- a little-known candidate who had no chance of winning -- in a 2016 primary election, launching its quixotic crusade to unseat Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). Predictably, and despite Breitbart’s full-throated support (up until the election, the outlet published close to 30 pieces of content shilling for him), Nehlen lost to Ryan by a 85 to 15 percent margin. Not discouraged by his loss, Nehlen continued to raise his profile with a prolific social media presence and, most importantly, Breitbart’s support. Breitbart’s Executive Chairman Steve Bannon hosted him on his radio show a week after his embarrassing loss, treating him “like a hero” and literally professing his love for him.

    In June, close to a year after his humiliating defeat, Nehlen announced a new bid to unseat Ryan in 2018. Breitbart continued to churn out Nehlen-related content, as well as provide him with an “exclusive” platform to author his own attacks on the speaker of the House. However, Nehlen’s penchant for bigotry on social media recently drew the condemnation of a conservative commentator when he targeted attorney Ari Cohn with an anti-Semitic message. As a result, other pundits in the MAGAsphere similarly condemned Nehlen’s anti-Semitism, with Rebel TV host John Cardillo claiming he’d “spoken to Team Bannon” and “they were shocked and disgusted”:

    Despite the reported shock of his loyal supporter, Nehlen’s anti-Semitism was anything but sudden. His ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right” had been explicitly displayed in his digital fingerprints, as reported by HuffPost and Salon. His attacks on Cohn were not his first display of anti-Semitism, nor were they out of the ordinary given his habit of aggressively responding to his critics using compelling arguments such as “eat a bullet” or “self deport.” Nehlen had also promoted a 4chan meme with ties to the “alt-right,” as well as embraced “Groyper,” a known “alt-right” mascot. He has never shied away from being “all in on the AltRight (sic) vote.” After stumping for Roy Moore, Breitbart’s chosen (and defeated) candidate in the Alabama senatorial special election, Nehlen appeared on the “white power podcast Fash the Nation” and used an anti-Semitic expression, talking about “people who want to throw their parentheses at you,” a clear allusion to the “alt-right” echo meme. Currently, he’s responding to his critics from the right with the type of trolling that is typical of message board posters, crudely comparing outcries to “autistic screeching” (a meme often used to signal enjoyment from triggering those deemed oversensitive).

    Meanwhile, the Cardillo tweet remains the only (even second-hand) evidence that Breitbart is at all bothered by the explicit extremism of their chosen candidate. And in response to the HuffPost article that compiled evidence of Nehlen’s ties to white supremacy, Breitbart editor and Team Bannon member Raheem Kassam dismissively tweeted that it was “hysterical rubbish:”

    In fact, Breitbart has continued giving Nehlen a platform. As recently as December 18, Nehlen made a guest appearance on the Breitbart radio show Whatever It Takes with Curt Schilling. If what Cardillo tweeted is true, it shows that Breitbart is trying to have it both ways -- appease conservative critics with a vague reported condemnation of Nehlen’s bigotry, without issuing a full-throated disavowal that could cause them to lose the Gab “alt-right” audience. This audience loves Nehlen, proving once again what's become more than evident this year: Breitbart is OK with playing footsie with Nazis.

    UPDATE: CNN reported that an adviser of Steve Bannon, Arthur Schwartz, said "Nehlen is dead to us" in response to Nehlen's increasingly offensive tweets.

  • Breitbart radio is a bigoted and misogynistic cesspool

    Stephen Bannon claimed Media Matters “can’t find any” racism or misogyny on Breitbart radio -- Here's plenty in just the past two months

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    In response to calls that satellite radio broadcasting company SiriusXM be boycotted for making a deal to expand Breitbart’s programming on its Patriot channel, Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon ridiculously claimed his outlet does not feature any “racist” or “misogynist” comments. In the last two months alone, Breitbart radio has been a cesspool of racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry.

  • After America, Breitbart Plans To Infect Politics Across Europe

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.

  • Breitbart Has A Literally Unbelievable Response To Its False German Church Story

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    As Breitbart.com prepares to export its brand of anti-establishment xenophobia to Germany, the website has come under fire for a false report suggesting that a “mob” of 1,000 Muslims tried to burn down a German church. Breitbart London’s editor-in-chief has now responded to critics with a 2,300-word rant that does not meet the laugh test.

    Breitbart, which is planning to expand to Germany ahead of national elections this fall, has frequently attacked Muslim communities in European nations and highlighted friction between those communities and white Europeans. The site aggregates instances of crimes allegedly committed by refugees in Germany and suggests German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her refugee policy are to blame -- a strategy that mirrors the political efforts of her far-right opposition, Alternative for Germany.

    Breitbart experienced a setback in this approach when a false story the website published on January 3 drew condemnation from local police and politicians as well as debunks from local, national, and international media outlets.

    Yesterday, Breitbart’s Raheem Kassam responded. According to him, the critics “have railed against Breitbart London’s reporting of an 1,000-strong crowd, many of whom were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, and firing fireworks at one of the oldest churches in Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.”

    But that's not what the outlet originally reported. According to the January 3 story, “a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church.”

    I can’t believe I need to write this, but there’s a difference between those three discrete facts all occurring -- 1,000 people being present, some of them chanting “Allahu Akbar,” and one of them at some point firing a firework that hit the church -- and 1,000 people who are all chanting “Allahu Akbar” collectively setting fire to said church.

    Breitbart reported the latter. That report was false.

    Kassam triumphantly claimed that media outlets that disputed Breitbart’s story “confirmed almost every substantive fact about the Breitbart London report on the issue: there were 1,000, mostly male, mostly non-native German people gathered in the Leeds Square; there were repeated chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’; the ‘Free Syrian Army’ flag was flown; and there was a fire at the St. Reinold’s Church caused by the fireworks.”

    Again, I can’t believe I actually need to write this, but the relationship that Breitbart claimed existed between those facts is also relevant in terms of whether its story is accurate.  

    The rest of Kassam’s piece is a painstaking, tiresome effort to prove that each of those individual facts is true, while ignoring that Breitbart’s report distorted and misrepresented their connection. It is also filled with whining:

    Whining about a reporter who wouldn’t help Breitbart with the story in the first place:

    One witness of the event — Peter Bandermann from the Breitbart-critical Ruhr Nachricthen (RN) website — refused to assist Breitbart London in the reporting of the event, despite reporting it at length himself.

    Whining about German journalists acting more like Russian propaganda outlets:

    The effect of journalists refusing, on ideological grounds, to ensure stories are reported across the international press is both a sign of a partisan media, but also protects criminals, police ineffectiveness, and failing state policies. This tactic, usually reserved for state-sponsored news outlets like Russia Today or TeleSUR, are becoming more commonplace in the West, especially in Germany.

    Whining about the German police:

    The police clearly failed in their attempts to stop this happening again, and are now lashing out against news organisations like Breitbart News for drawing attention to the matter.

    Whining that critical news outlets called out the Breitbart piece for pointing the finger at Muslims (we are the real racists, apparently):

    Despite this, outlets such as Mediaite, TeleSur, Sputnik, HuffPo, Media Matters, Deutsche Welle, the Washington Post and others decided to use words like “Muslim”, “migrant”, “Islam”, “Arab”, and “immigration” in their headlines or reporting on our story. Why? To stoke fears and division — and perhaps even to suggest that this behaviour would be somehow representative of all of the members of the aforementioned communities and backgrounds. That, to us, is the real “fake news” and “racism” and I am grateful that my journalists do not engage in that kind of scare-mongering.

    Whining about German politicians:

    Like the Rotherham rape scandal, the Hillsborough disaster, and even Cologne last year, police and politicians often collude in order to mask a true version of events that are inconvenient at best, or institutionally damning at worst.

    Kassam’s posture makes clear that in Germany, Breitbart intends to use the same us-against-them assault on the media and political establishment that it deployed in the United States. Given the results of the past year, German reporters should be extremely wary of what the website has in store for their country.