Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign made some news this week when it evicted Breitbart News' Joel Pollack from a private event. The right-wing site with white nationalist loyalties hyped the kerfuffle as an attack on the free press, claiming Pollack is a news reporter. And lots of Beltway journalists rushed to the defense of the GOP propaganda outlet, insisting that the Democrat had crossed a dangerous line.
But that convergence of conservative and traditional media talking points completely misses the truth about Breitbart and the role that far-right outposts like it play in today's political landscape. Put simply, Pollack is a news reporter the way I'm an astronaut. It's a silly and completely misleading description. And once you strip it away and get to the truth about what Pollack and Breitbart represent, the O'Rourke campaign's decision looks far less controversial, and far more acceptable. Plus, it's about time Democratic candidates start to push back against the right-wing noise machine.
In reality, Pollack functions more as a GOP campaign tracker than he does a news reporter. Trackers are paid operatives who relentlessly follow candidates from the other party, in hopes of capturing an embarrassing moment on tape. That was evident last week at the Iowa State Fair when Pollack, with his video camera in hand, aggressively pursued Joe Biden and falsely accused him of lying about what Donald Trump had said in the wake of the neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2018. The resulting confrontation generated some headlines, but in no way was Pollack acting as a journalist, which makes sense, because Breitbart doesn't produce journalism.
Here are just two recent and egregious examples of how Breitbart functions as a GOP opposition research firm, and not a journalism outpost.