Conservative news website Breitbart News has been making headlines after a reported confrontation last week between a national political reporter and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump's campaign manager.
Reporter Michelle Fields and editor-at-large Ben Shapiro on Sunday announced their resignations amid controversy over Fields' claim that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her hard enough to leave bruises when she asked a question after a press conference in Florida on March 8.
The conflict has only furthered tensions within the organization, which has been dealing with a crisis of confidence centered around the site's pro-Trump editorial stance.
In a statement Sunday, Shapiro said he initially signed on at Breitbart News because he believed in the mission set forth by the site's founder, controversial conservative icon Andrew Breitbart.
“Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: Fight the bullies,” Shapiro said. “But Andrew's life mission has been betrayed. Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew's legacy.
“In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew's mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump's personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump's bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle.”
Breitbart founded the Breitbart News Network in the mid-2000s and had great success with reports written from a right-wing political perspective. The news organization reported extensively on the 2009 hidden-camera videos that eventually led to the closure of the nonrofit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the 2011 Anthony Weiner “sexting” scandal.
“I’m committed to the destruction of the old media guard,” Breitbart told The Associated Press in 2010. “And it’s a very good business model.”
Breitbart died of an apparent heart attack in 2012. He was 43 years old.
In his stead, Bannon took over the editorial reins with a mission of channeling Breitbart's energy.
“You just try to infuse the site with the spirit of the guy, from people that knew his DNA and knew what he wanted,” Bannon told the Los Angeles Times five months after Breitbart's death. “You cannot replace Andrew Breitbart. The conservative movement does not have a lot of warriors. He was a combination of Marshall McLuhan and Falstaff.”
He told the paper that Breitbart News would be “the Huffington Post of the right.”
However, staffers -- most notably Shapiro -- claim that Bannon is falling far short of his goal.
“This is disgusting,” Shapiro said, referring to the conservative site's recent refusal to stand behind Fields. “Andrew never would have stood for it. No news outlet would stand for it. Nobody should. … Breitbart News has become precisely the reverse of what Andrew would have wanted.”
More resignations are expected as police in Jupiter, Florida, continue to investigate Fields' report as a simple battery. The charge is a misdemeanor.