Steve Bannon, the executive chair of Breitbart News, announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from the news organization that he led for the past five years (not including his stint working for President Trump). Bannon presided over the right-wing website’s rise in popularity and recognition, which also led to significant attention to controversial statements made on the site.
Here are some of the most noteworthy Jewish events of his tenure:
He published a lot of Jews — and backed Israel
Bannon took over the site upon the death of Andrew Breitbart, who was himself Jewish. Many leading employees, including co-owner Larry Solov, editor-in-chief Joel Pollak and columnist Ben Shapiro, were Jewish as well.
The site proudly took a firm pro-Israel position, and frequently published Jewish columnists like Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein, celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach and conservative activist David Horowitz (who was himself accused of anti-Semitism for a Breitbart article calling anti-Trump conservative Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.”) Shapiro resigned from the site in 2016 after it failed to defend reporter Michelle Fields, who was allegedly assaulted by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, leading the site to mock him in its pages. Pollak and other Jewish Breitbart employees continue to defend Bannon from charges of anti-Semitism.
He built the site as a platform for the “alt-right”
Bannon bragged in 2016 that his site was “the platform for the alt-right,” the loose nationalist movement coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer whose members frequently espoused racist and anti-Semitic sentiments. Former tech reporter Milo Yiannopoulos, who has Jewish ancestry, infamously co-wrote an “guide to the alt-right” explaining and justifying the movement’s racism as little more than shock humor.
An investigation by BuzzFeed News exposed how Yiannopoulos and Bannon worked together to promote the alt-right, sometimes in conjunction with known white supremacists. Frequent contributors to Breitbart, such as Jack Hadfield and Paul Nehlen, were later discovered to have made many anti-Semitic statements, and reporting by the Forward determined that Bannon’s frequent Breitbart contributor and White House colleague Sebastian Gorka had longstanding ties with Nazi-allied groups in Hungary.
He opened a Jerusalem bureau
The bureau was opened in 2015 by Aaron Klein, a Yeshiva University graduate who said that he and Bannon were “ideological brothers.” Klein was tasked with reporting that countered what the site saw as anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media. (Klein was later sent to Alabama to investigate the women who had accused the Bannon-backed Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.)
He loved calling out “globalists”
Two of Breitbart’s biggest enemies under Bannon’s direction were financier/philanthropist George Soros and presidential advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom are Jewish. The nationalist site frequently referred to them, and other Jewish figures like National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, as “globalists,” a term that the Anti-Defamation League said was a shorthand that the “alt-right” used to refer to Jews.
He hated the Forward
Our critical coverage of Bannon and his website, as well as Gorka and the broader “alt-right,” led to harsh criticism from Bannon himself and his employees. Speaking on a Breitbart radio show last November, Bannon groused that his site is “the most pro-Jewish site of any news site, and I include The Forward in that.”
Aiden Pink is the Deputy News Editor for the Forward.