The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has backed away from its earlier accusations against Stephen K. Bannon, stating on its website: “We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.”
The statement appears at the end of an article on the ADL, “Stephen Bannon: Five Things to Know.”
The “five things” are:
- Bannon has embraced the alt right, a loose network of white nationalists and anti-Semites.
- Under Bannon, Breitbart published inflammatory pieces about women, Muslims, and other groups.
- Bannon is a critic of the Republican establishment and the left.
- Bannon has held a number of positions in his career.
- We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.
The first two claims are false. The next two claims are true, and innocuous. The final claim is exculpatory.
The ADL further explains:
While there is a long fact pattern of evidence that Breitbart served as a platform for a wide range of bigotry and there is some controversy related to statements from Mr. Bannon’s divorce proceedings in 2007, we are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements made by Bannon himself. In fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterization of him and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism. Some have pointed out that Breitbart Jerusalem was launched during his tenure.
Nevertheless, Bannon essentially has established himself as the chief curator for the alt right. Under his stewardship, Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.
The statement that “Breitbart served as a platform for a wide range of bigotry” is completely false, and reflects the ADL’s left-wing ideological orientation rather than objective reality. The statement that Bannon is “the chief curator for the alt right” is also completely false, and defamatory.
The ADL, which calls itself “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency,” launched a defamatory campaign on Sunday against Breitbart News and Bannon, the company’s Executive Chairman, when Bannon was named Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor by President-elect Donald J. Trump. (Bannon has been on leave from Breitbart since his appointment in August as CEO of the Trump presidential campaign.)
In a statement noting that the ADL “strongly opposes” Bannon’s new White House appointment, ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt — a former aide to President Barack Obama — called Bannon “a man who presided over the premier website of the Alt Right, a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.”
That is a completely false accusation.
Breitbart.com is not “the premier website of the Alt Right.” The only supposed “alt-right” content on the site, among tens of thousands of articles, is one widely-cited journalistic article, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.”
As one author more familiar with the alt-right noted recently, the main alt-right sites are “/r/altright, Stormfront, and 4chan’s politics board” — not Breitbart News.
Given the wide international interest in the presidential election, and the evident popularity of Trump among some portions of the alt-right (and unpopularity on the far-left), Breitbart has attracted wider attention beyond the company’s core audience of center-right and conservative readers.
But Breitbart is not an alt-right publication, and the daily news content of the website speaks for itself. Moreover, there are no “white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists” working at, or published by, Breitbart.
On Wednesday morning, nationally syndicated talk show host Dennis Prager — who has written a widely-respected book on antisemitism — called the accusations against Bannon “libel” and said that the ADL had damaged itself with the false claims.
Reacting partly to those false claims, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday evening to stage a demonstration against Bannon, including signs referring to Bannon as a “Nazi.”
Also on Wednesday, the ADL initially denied press credentials to Breitbart News’ Adelle Nazarian, who was to cover a conference on antisemitism in New York on Thursday.
Nazarian, who is Jewish, is an experienced journalist who has covered antisemitism and foreign affairs for Breitbart News, and most recently covered the 2016 presidential campaign as part of the national traveling press corps.
Late Wednesday, the ADL reversed its decision and credentialed Nazarian for the event.