Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik: Bannon "weaponizing" Breitbart "goes against everything I believe about journalism"
Zurawik: "Here's somebody who's saying, 'We're weaponizing our platform. We call our services Breitbart News, but we're a weapon, we're a killing machine'"
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From the August 27 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Kurt, there's word that Sebastian Gorka, who seems to have been forced out of the White House on Friday, is going to rejoin Breitbart. That's what he said on Breitbart's radio show yesterday. Now, this time last year, I think he was a writer or columnist for the site. What's the significance of Gorka now possibly returning to Breitbart?
KURT BARDELLA: Yeah, he was the national security editor -- is what they called him -- over at Breitbart, and, like [Steve] Bannon, left to join the Trump White House. And also, like Bannon, after being fired, is going to rejoin Breitbart. And a part of it is, where else was this guy going to go? His credentials are questionable at best. The responsibilities he had in the White House were undetermined other than him going on TV acting as a pundit, really, for the White House. So, it's not surprising at all. I think what Steve is doing is just kind of getting the old gang back together, hoping lightning strikes twice and they can be just as impactful as they were perceived to be during the 2016 election as they are right now.
I think in a lot of ways, what you are seeing also is Steve trying to recalibrate the relationship with Trump. When Steve was with Breitbart and the Trump relationship began, their dynamic was more of a peer. Trump saw Steve as a media enterprise who has been very successful. Trump was obviously a candidate. When Steve moved into the White House, he then became an employee of Trump, a subordinate. And I think that, in a lot of ways, while Steve still viewed Donald as the same person, Trump viewed him as an employee. Now that he's out of the White House, Steve is going to try to recalibrate that relationship and realign it, so that it's more peer-to-peer.
STELTER: Do you think, Zurawik, that we make too much out of Bannon's power and Breitbart's power?
DAVID ZURAWIK: I think, Brian, in some ways that we totally do that. And thanks for those statistics, because they're better than mine. But I knew they were around 60 and the Times -- New York Times was around 30. We don't spend time obsessing about what [executive editor of The Washington Post] Marty Barron is thinking, or [executive editor of The New York Times] Dean Baquet. Maybe because we assume they're doing journalism's work. They're going to cover the stories that matter. I think we do, and part of it is this: We sometimes create these scary media and political figures on the right. We did it with Karl Rove to some extent, oh he's this Svengali who's going to manipulate all these things, and I really think we're overstating Bannon's importance.
Now, it's not that he is not very important. He told The Economist this week, "I'm going to light up members of Congress," I think was the language he used, in terms of defending Donald Trump. And then yesterday we see a headline, or today, that says, "Paul Ryan throws in with leftists in criticizing President Trump's pardon of Sheriff Joe." It's a great headline for Breitbart. But, "throwing in with leftists" is trying to really throw a hard punch on Ryan with this, and that's what he is doing. So he has influence. But, Brian, this whole thing about somebody -- and here's the other part of this that worries me: Here's somebody who's saying, "We're weaponizing our platform. We call our services Breitbart News, but we're a weapon, we're a killing machine." That goes against everything I believe about journalism. And so, in one sense, he's important because of what he says, but I think he is not that important in terms of their widespread influence. We overestimate, I think, his influence to some extent. Right now, especially.