Why Breitbart Fired an Editor for a Tweet

"Alt-Right" Rosie Gray, The Atlantic, June 7, 2017

Katie McHugh

Katie McHugh

The final straw was something that, at any news organization, would have gotten someone fired.

“There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there,” tweeted Breitbart News’s Katie McHugh, in the wake of the London Bridge attack that killed eight and injured 48 people. McHugh then responded to a critical tweet from an Iranian American actor by telling him he was Indian.

And Breitbart did fire McHugh. But this wasn’t an anomaly. During her time at Breitbart, McHugh consistently made racially charged statements on her Twitter feed and used the argot of the alt-right twittersphere.

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Five months into the Trump administration, Breitbart—the right-wing news outlet that, under former chairman (and now White House chief strategist) Steve Bannon, became the most vocal pro-Trump organ in the media—has gone from edgy outsider to, at least in Trump’s D.C., something close to establishment media. It’s even hired reporters from mainstream outlets like The Wall Street Journal.

Someone like McHugh may have fit well within Bannon’s Breitbart, with its philosophy of never backing down and never bowing to mainstream media pressure. But as Breitbart settles into its new role in the Trump era, it faces a different set of challenges. Long beset by internal drama and external controversy, it now faces more pressure than ever before. The number of advertisers on the site has dropped dramatically, and the site has been the target of advertiser boycotts. It has been unable to obtain congressional press credentials because of questions about its ties to Bannon and to the Mercer family. Breitbart’s high profile, and its connections to the Trump White House, have made it an object of unprecedented scrutiny.

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But the fact that McHugh finally became too much for Breitbart speaks volumes about the changes in the site since Bannon’s exit.{snip}As the head of Breitbart, according to a 2015 Bloomberg profile, Bannon referred to his young female staffers as his “Valkyries,” after the Norse battle goddesses. Of the young women on staff at the time, the closest to Bannon was Julia Hahn, who went on to join him in the White House.But McHugh was seen as a fellow traveler to Bannon as well. “The concept was that there were people who were playing the game and marching to the tune of that particular drummer, and she was one of them,” said a former Breitbart staffer.{snip}

But McHugh’s termination primarily reflects the site’s change in leadership. The fact that under Alex Marlow, the site has to some extent bowed to public pressure, further underscores Bannon’s absence at the helm.

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McHugh didn’t respond to requests for comment. Bannon didn’t respond to a request for comment.

McHugh’s Twitter feed over the last few years contains multiple examples of tweets that are just as explosive as the one that got her fired.

“British settlers built the USA. “Slaves” built the country much as cows “built” McDonald’s. Amateur…” she tweeted in September 2015. Also that month, McHugh called for an end to Muslim immigration: “The only way to strike a balance between vigilance, discrimination, (& terror) is to end Muslim immigration.” She has often used the word “cuck,” a slur popular on the white nationalist alt-right internet, and has tweeted disparagingly about Mexicans, Native Americans, and others.

Far-right pro-Trump activists have sprung to McHugh’s defense in the wake of her firing, and turned on Breitbart.

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McHugh has reacted defiantly in the wake of being sacked, tweeting that the company fired her for “telling the truth about Islam and Muslim immigration” and launching a fundraiser on Wesearchr, a website run by infamous troll Charles C. Johnson.

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