Breitbart News, right-wing website buoyed by Trump victory, aims to go global
Ten years ago in Westwood, a small army of young employees in T-shirts and shorts huddled over their laptops, determined to launch a news site that would shake up the world of conservative media.
At first, the site started by Andrew Breitbart was a simple news-aggregation site. But in a few short years it developed into an idiosyncratic voice combining original reporting, incendiary commentary and outright trolling, in keeping with the rambunctious spirit of its founder, who died in 2012. As its popularity grew, many condemned its rhetoric as extremist, xenophobic, sexist and a platform for hate speech. Others laughed it off as a journalistic lightweight catering to a far-right fringe.
No one’s laughing anymore. As Donald Trump prepares to take office as president, the Breitbart News Network stands to become one of the most influential conservative media companies in the country. Stephen K. Bannon, the site’s executive chairman, was a key figure in Trump’s campaign and has been named chief White House strategist.
For Breitbart, that could mean a direct line to the White House, a level of media access unprecedented in modern times. While some believe the site will turn into an extension of the Trump administration, leaders at Breitbart see its presumed access as an opportunity to compete not only with conservative rivals like Fox News, but also the rest of the media, which they consider to be dishonest about a left-leaning bias.
Breitbart doesn’t discuss its inner workings and finances. It doesn’t have digital subscriptions and makes most of its money selling advertising. Now that it has become a household name and a political lightning rod, mostly for its pro-Trump coverage leading up to the election, there is intense curiosity about who exactly these bad boys (and girls) of the right are: how does Breitbart make money? What is its media strategy? And will the firestorm over Bannon hinder its ambitions?
In a series of interviews, leaders sounded confident and unapologetic. As a company, it is aiming for no less than the world.
“The goal is to become a global news network,” said Larry Solov, the company’s president and chief executive.
Los Angeles might seem to be an unlikely home to such an outspokenly conservative publication, given the city’s heavily liberal leanings. But both the founder and CEO of Breitbart grew up together in Brentwood. Solov was persuaded to join the company during a trip to Israel they took together as adults. He said Breitbart is looking to expand into television, though not necessarily on its own cable network, and will increase its editorial staff, which now employs about 100 people.
They will focus heavily on covering the new administration.
“We think we are going to be the best place for coverage of Trump,” Solov said.
The company has dismissed criticism that it is too closely aligned with the president-elect, arguing that Trump’s platform fits with its core beliefs – nationalism (but not white nationalism), strong borders and jobs – and that it has never tried to hide its biases.
“We don’t believe there’s such a thing as an unbiased media source,” Solov said. “We think people who read us should know what our viewpoint is and values are and can judge us accordingly. You don’t have to like it or agree with it.”
He described Breitbart News as an anti-establishment outlet for anti-establishment times, delivered in a signature style that is “a little swagger, a little take-no-prisoners, a little Fight Club. It can be biting at times. And it can be fun and funny.”