Katie McHugh, and Charles C. Johnson, Medium, June 13, 2017
After Steve Bannon left on August 17, Breitbart News editor-in-chief Alex Marlow sent out a Slack message saying it wasn’t the company’s job to defend Steve. Whether that meant management finally felt safe making their discomforts with Steve known, or that Breitbart believed it was essential to maintain their independence from a campaign run by their former executive chairman, isn’t clear.
What is clear: Bannon’s departure created a power vacuum and in part led to the steady decline in traffic after the election. Readers want red meat, and while a right-leaning version of the Huffington Post plus The Hill might limp along, it won’t enjoy the meteoric rise of a news site that breaks original news and covers topics media wants hushed up.
GotNews editor-in-chief Charles C. Johnson often says the “B” in the Breitbart logo stood as much for Steve as it did Andrew. Steve has his flaws, but he has vision even if he lacks organization. Breitbart’s traffic didn’t have to decline so dramatically after the election.
In the end, what matters is specific personnel. Personnel, as Steve must be learning in a White House where he has few friends, is policy.
Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, Lee Stranahan, Julia Hahn, Patrick Howley, and Katie McHugh are gone. Breitbart is trying to coast on a reputation built by Andrew, advanced by Steve, and then solidified after an election many at the company believed we were certain to lose.
Part of the problem, of course, came down to advertisers. Breitbart relies on a patriotic megadonor Rebekah Mercer and ads from corporations that hold diversity training seminars — not reader donations. There were also hiring considerations at Breitbart: Prospective employees felt Breitbart might be the final stop in their career, so some were reluctant to sign on. In order to expand, Breitbart may have calculated it had to shed an employee from the Bannon era. And yet there is little indication that Breitbart France or Germany are truly in the offing.
Bannon branded Breitbart as “the platform for the alt-right” during an interview with a Mother Jones reporter at the Republican National Convention, which raises another question. Why does Bannon so assiduously court what he has mocked as the “opposition party?”
They think Steve calls us all. The problem is, Steve doesn’t call any of us. Why is Steve always calling the fake news media, giving them scoops, giving them access? What does it mean when Steve is constantly talking to the opposition and shutting out allies? How should those of us who opened doors for him feel when he is shutting them on us?
Steve spoke about his “Valkyries” in a now-famous Bloomberg profile published on October 8, 2015. Where are Steve’s “Valkyries” now? Julia Hahn is somewhere in the White House; Alex Swoyer is back at the Washington Times; Katie McHugh is fired from Breitbart after expressing in a tweet what the site covers every day.
Breaking News: Breitbart has fired Poland. https://t.co/Uz27BgenTp
— Stefan Molyneux (@StefanMolyneux) June 6, 2017
Bannon handpicked McHugh to launch Breitbart’s SiriusXM radio show and told her it was a great honor. After Bannon left, a former Breitbart colleague bitterly remarked to McHugh that Steve got what he wanted out of his radio show, and the rest of the company got nothing but abuse. While that’s not entirely true — launching and producing Bannon’s radio show for about six months was very interesting for McHugh — it does bring up a larger point about Bannon using Breitbart to advance, and then discarding it after he gained power.
Now that he has power, what has Bannon done with it? Talk to the “opposition party?”
Steve, call us. We know you’re reading this and we’re waiting in the wings.
Or does the honey badger care too much what they say about him?