A BBC presenter confronted a Breitbart writer, paid by Mr. Bannon, with claims that Trump ally – and newly-appointed White House Strategist – Steve Bannon is an anti-Semite.
Justin Webb used claims in legal documents from Bannon’s ex-wife to claim “He doesn’t like Jews, does he?” while interviewing Breitbart staffer Joel Pollak.
Pollak – an observant Jew himself – then tried to slap Webb down by pointing out that he has never had a problem with the man. Listen here:
Here’s the transcript:
Justin Webb: He doesn’t like Jews does he?
Joel Pollak: That’s 100% false, I mean, absolutely false. I’m surprised you would repeat a lie like that, on, on air…
JW: (speaking over) Well hang on a second, hang on a second, erm, his ex-wife is quoted as saying, in a court document as saying, “He doesn’t like Jews” he told her, “He doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be whiny brats, he doesn’t want his girls going to school with Jews”?
JP: Are you divorced?
JP: Have you known anyone to go through a divorce?
JW: So you’re suggesting it was because she . . . didn’t like him?
JP: (two second pause) I think that’s a fair assumption, I think . . .
JW: (speaking over) No, okay.
JP: . . . also that I’ve, I’ve worked with him, I’m an Orthodox Jew, I observe the Sabbath, I eat kosher food, I have time off for all the Jewish holidays . . . I’ve worked with Steve Bannon – hold on a second, you’ve made an inflammatory accusation, I hope you’ll allow me to respond. I’ve worked with Steve Bannon in close quarters for five years, Steve Bannon not only has never said anything against Jews or any other person, but has in fact been overly sensitive toward concerns…
JW: (speaking over) Hmm.
JP: . . . affecting Jewish communities around the world. So . . .
JW: (speaking over) Okay.
JP: . . . in fact your statement is actually libellous and defamatory.
As other commentators have observed, there are plenty of reasons to take issue with Bannon that are much better-supported than allegations of anti-Semitism made by Bannon’s ex-wife in a custody case.
By seizing on those – instead of things he has verifiably said and done – the media is engaging in the exact same post-truth politics it accuses Bannon of championing.
One thing Mr. Bannon has verifably done, however, is to publish articles on Breitbart normalising the alt-right, which cite a white supremacist who was banned from Twitter earlier this week.
In “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right’, Breitbart writers normalise the work of Richard Spencer:
In 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, which would become a center of alt-right thought.
AlternativeRight.com is a white supremacist website, featuring such helpful headlines as ‘White Nationalism 2.0’.
Breitbart also compared vicious anti-semitism to mere rebellion like kids who are into rock n’ roll. Speaking of anti-semitic memes, it wrote:
Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish “Shlomo Shekelburg”.
Here is the meme figure of ‘Shlomo Shekelburg”, which is, in fact, not “rock n’ roll” but a textbook piece of anti-semitic racism.
Mr. Bannon’s publication has, under his leadership though not under that of the dead founder Andrew Breitbart, published many similar pieces. It sparked astonishment when criticising the journalism Anne Applebaum in explicitly anti-semitic terms:
This turn of events ended Applebaum’s dream of being Poland’s first Jewish-American first lady….hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.
Criticism of Mr. Bannon from his ex-wife is not as potent as reading the publication that he helms when it comes to assessing allegations of anti-semitism.