Andrew Breitbart launched Breitbart.com as a news aggregator in 2005. The website featured direct links to wire stories at the Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News, the New York Post, TMZ as well as a number of other outlets. The website's initial growth was largely fueled by links from the Drudge Report. In 2007, Breitbart.com launched a video blog, Breitbart.tv.
During a stay in Israel, Andrew Breitbart conceived of the idea of founding Breitbart News Network, with "the aim of starting a site that would be unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel. We were sick of the anti-Israel bias of the mainstream media and J-Street."
Co-founder and owner of Breitbart, Larry Solov—who like Andrew Breitbart, is also Jewish— writes:
In August 2010, Andrew Breitbart told the Associated Press that he was "committed to the destruction of the old media guard." As part of that commitment, he founded Breitbart.com, a website designed to become "the Huffington Post of the right" according to Breitbart News's former executive chairman, Steve Bannon. Breitbart News exclusively re-posted the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, and the ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy. Following Andrew Breitbart's death in 2012, the site was redesigned, bringing the formerly distinct "Big" websites under one umbrella website at Breitbart.com.
There is also Breitbart News Daily, a program that is broadcast on Sirius XM radio.
Andrew Breitbart died in March 2012. The website hosted a number of memorials for him. Editors said they intended to carry on his legacy at the website. Following Andrew Breitbart's death, former board member Bannon became executive chairman and Laurence Solov became CEO. The company also hired Joel Pollak as editor-in-chief and Alex Marlow as managing editor.
Before his death, Andrew Breitbart had begun a redesign of the Breitbart News website to transform it from a links-aggregator into a more tabloid-style website. The redesign was launched shortly after his death in March 2012. An October 2012 article in BuzzFeed suggested there were internal tensions in the organisation in the year after Andrew Breitbart's death as staffers battled for ownership of his legacy.
In February 2014, Bannon announced the addition of approximately 12 staff members and the opening of Texas and London-based operations. The new offices were the beginning of an expansion plan that included the addition of a new regional site roughly every 90 days, with new locations to include Florida, California, Cairo, and Jerusalem. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 3% of respondents got their news from Breitbart in a typical week, and 79% of its audience report having political values that are right-of-center.
Breitbart News is a for-profit organization. According to Politico, investors include computer scientist and hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer. Editors commented in 2015 that the site is a “private company and we don’t comment on who our investors or backers are.” One of Breitbart News's objectives is to court millennial conservatives. Traffic is vital to Breitbart News as it supports itself from advertising revenue.
In April 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that the "outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right" and was using "racist," "anti-Muslim" and "anti-immigrant ideas." The center wrote that the website was openly promoting, and had become associated with, the beliefs of the Alt-right. Former editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote that under Bannon's leadership, "Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers." Michael M. Grynbaum and John Herman in The New York Times described Breitbart News as an organization that is a source of controversy "over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist". However, the owners of Breitbart News deny their website has any connection to the alt-right.
Breitbart News was described by the Anti-Defamation League as "the premier website of the alt-right" representing "white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists." The Zionist Organization of America rejected accusations of anti-semitism, saying that Breitbart News instead "bravely fights against anti-Semitism" and called for the ADL to apologize. An article in Jewish Daily Forward argued that Bannon and Andrew Breitbart are anti-Semitic. An article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in The Hill disputed the allegations, arguing that Breitbart defends Israel against antisemitism.
In July 2015, Politico reported that Ted Cruz "likely has the Republican presidential field's deepest relationship with the Breitbart machine." In August 2015, an article in BuzzFeed reported that several anonymous Breitbart News staffers claimed that Donald Trump had paid for favorable coverage on the site. The site's management strongly denied the charge. In March 2016, Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast characterized the website as "Trump-friendly", writing that Breitbart News "regularly savages the GOP establishment, the media elite, the Washington consultant class, and the Fox News Channel." Up to June 2016, Breitbart News was the most cited news source on Trump’s presidential campaign website, DonaldJTrump.com.
On March 11, 2016, Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields filed a battery complaint against Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, alleging that Lewandowski had grabbed her and bruised her while she was attempting to ask a question at an event. After claiming that Breitbart News's management was not sufficiently supportive of Fields, Breitbart's editor-at-large Ben Shapiro and Fields resigned. A Breitbart News article published on March 14, 2016 accused Shapiro of betraying Breitbart News's readers; the article was subsequently removed from the website. Editor-at-large Joel Pollak apologized for writing the article, saying he had done so in an attempt "to make light of a significant company event." The website's spokesperson Kurt Bardella also resigned following the incident, objecting to the company's handling of the incident and its favorable coverage of Trump. By March 14, several top executives and journalists at Breitbart News had resigned, with the New York Times saying that "Breitbart's unabashed embrace of Mr. Trump, particularly at the seeming expense of its own reporter, struck them as a betrayal of its mission." Former employees accused Bannon of having "turned a website founded on anti-authoritarian grounds into a de facto propaganda outlet for Mr. Trump."
On August 17, Bannon stepped down from his role as executive chairman to join the Trump campaign as its new CEO. On August 25, Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton criticized him for hiring Bannon as his CEO in her rally in Reno, Nevada. She stated that the site "embraces ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right" by reading out the site's headlines and that Trump's decision to hire Bannon "represents a landmark achievement for the alt-right".
On November 30, 2016, Breitbart News announced plans to boycott the Kellogg's brand after their decision to stop advertising on the site because Breitbart is not "aligned with our values". Later, Breitbart News announced they would be willing to go to "war" with Kellogg's over their decision to remove ads from the site.
In December 2016, Breitbart News published an article positing that 2016 record-high global temperatures were not caused by climate change but were a direct consequence of the impact of El Niño. The article was a summary of a report which first appeared on the Daily Mail. Both the Daily Mail and the Breitbart News stories are counter to the scientific consensus on climate change.
Milo Yiannopoulos, who had served as a senior editor of Breitbart News since 2014, resigned from the company on February 21, 2017 after a video of him making controversial statements in relation to pedophilia surfaced.
In 2008, Andrew Breitbart launched the website "Big Hollywood," a group blog by individuals working in Hollywood. The site was an outgrowth of Breitbart's "Big Hollywood" column in The Washington Times, which included issues faced by conservatives working in Hollywood. In 2009, the site used audio from a conference call to accuse the National Endowment of the Arts of encouraging artists to create work in support of President Barack Obama's domestic policy. The Obama Administration and the NEA were accused of potentially violating the Hatch Act. The White House acknowledged regrets, and the story led to the resignation of a White House appointee, and new federal guidelines for how federal agencies should interact with potential grantees.
Andrew Breitbart launched BigGovernment.com on September 10, 2009, with a $25,000 loan from his father. He hired Mike Flynn, a former government affairs specialist at the Reason Foundation, as Editor-in-Chief of Big Government. The site premiered with hidden camera video footage taken by Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe at Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) offices in various cities, attracting nationwide attention resulting in the ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy. According to law enforcement and media analysts, the videos were heavily edited to create a negative impression of ACORN.
In January 2010, Andrew Breitbart launched Big Journalism. Upon the launch of Big Journalism, he told Mediaite: "Our goal at Big Journalism is to hold the mainstream media's feet to the fire. There are a lot of stories that they simply don't cover, either because it doesn't fit their world view, or because they're literally innocent of any knowledge that the story even exists, or because they are a dying organization, short-staffed, and thus can't cover stuff like they did before." Big Journalism was edited by Michael A. Walsh, a former journalism professor and Time magazine music critic.
BigPeace.com, which later became the National Security component of Breitbart.com, debuted on July 4, 2010. National Security covers foreign policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism, Islamic extremism, espionage, border security, and energy issues.
On October 27, 2015, the website launched Breitbart Tech, a technology journalism subsection of the site that focuses on technology, gaming, esports, and internet culture. It was initially edited by Milo Yiannopoulos until his resignation on February 21, 2017, following the controversy surrounding questionable comments he made regarding hebephilia and the sexuality of children during two podcasts. In July 2016 Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after racist abuse was directed towards Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones following Yiannopoulos's insulting tweets about her. Although Yiannopoulos's Twitter account has been deleted, Breitbart News has since republished the full tweet exchange and has published articles criticizing Twitter.
On January 1, 2013, the website launched Breitbart Sports, a sports journalism subsection edited by John Pudner. In launching the section, the website cited the "central nature of sports in and to American culture."
Breitbart News's London edition was launched in February 2014. It was headed at the time by executive editor James Delingpole, described as a "high traffic hire" by The Spectator's Steerpike column, and managing editor Raheem Kassam. Kassam later went on to take over as Editor. Breitbart London announced that it would have a staff of 10 along with hundreds of contributors covering Israel and the Middle East from the London office. Regular contributors include Nigel Farage and Gerald Warner. Previous and occasional columnists have included Mary Ellen Synon, Jonathan Foreman and Katie Hopkins.
On November 17, 2015, the website launched Breitbart Jerusalem, which covers events in Israel and the wider Middle East. It is edited by Israel-based American reporter Aaron Klein.
Breitbart News's Texas edition was launched in February 2014, the same time as its London edition. The edition's editor and managing director is Brandon Darby.
On April 6, 2014, Breitbart News launched its California edition. It was edited by Joel B. Pollak. The section included contributors such as then House Republican WHIP Kevin McCarthy, comedian Greg Gutfeld, and actor Orson Bean.
Breitbart News played a central role in the 2009 ACORN video controversy, which resulted in the reorganization of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as its loss of private and government funding. Breitbart News contributor Hannah Giles posed as a prostitute fleeing an abusive pimp and seeking tax and legal advice on how to run an illegal business that included the use of underage girls in the sex trade, while James O'Keefe, another contributor, posed as her boyfriend. They clandestinely videotaped meetings with ACORN staff who "gave advice on house-buying and how to account on tax forms for the woman's income."
Andrew Breitbart paid Giles and O'Keefe $32,000 and $65,000, respectively, to film, edit and blog about the videos. Giles paid $100,000 and O'Keefe paid $50,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera regarding the videos.
Subsequent investigations by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office and the California Attorney General found the videos were heavily edited in an attempt to make ACORN's responses "appear more sinister", and contributed to the group's demise. Clark Hoyt, The New York Times public editor, wrote, "The videos were heavily edited. The sequence of some conversations was changed. Some workers seemed concerned for Giles, one advising her to get legal help. In two cities, ACORN workers called the police. But the most damning words match the transcripts and the audio, and do not seem out of context." However, a former Massachusetts Attorney General hired to investigate the matter found no pattern of illegal conduct by the ACORN employees and said the news media should have been far more skeptical, demanding the raw video from which the edited versions were produced.
Breitbart News promoted the falsehood that President Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim. Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel B. Pollak nevertheless denied that Breitbart News was a "Birther website" or that it had ever made a birther-conspiracy claim.
In June 2016, Breitbart News falsely claimed President Obama supported terrorists.
In July 2010, Breitbart News released an edited video titled "Proof NAACP Awards Racism" which featured USDA official Shirley Sherrod speaking at a NAACP fundraising dinner in March 2010. In the video, Sherrod admits to a racial reluctance to help a white farmer obtain government aid. As a result of the video, the NAACP condemned Sherrod's remarks, and U.S. government officials called on Sherrod to resign, which she did.
The NAACP later posted the longer 43-minute video of the speech. In it, Sherrod said her reluctance to help a white man was wrong, and she had ended up assisting him. The NAACP then reversed their rebuke of Sherrod, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack apologized and offered Sherrod a new government position. Andrew Breitbart said that the point of the piece was not to target Sherrod, but said the NAACP audience's reception of some parts of the speech demonstrated the same racism the NAACP's President had accused the Tea Party movement of harboring. In 2011, Sherrod sued Andrew Breitbart and his business partner Larry O'Connor for defamation. In 2015, Sherrod and Andrew Breitbart's estate settled the case.
On May 28, 2011, Breitbart's BigJournalism website reported on a sexually explicit photo linked on New York Representative Anthony Weiner's Twitter feed. Weiner initially denied that he had sent a 21-year-old female college student the link to the photograph, but later admitted to inappropriate online relationships. On June 6, Breitbart News reported other photos Weiner had sent, including one that was sexually explicit. Two days later, the sexually graphic photo was leaked after Andrew Breitbart participated in a radio interview with hosts Opie and Anthony. Andrew Breitbart stated that the photo was published without his permission. Weiner subsequently resigned from his congressional seat on June 21.
On February 7, 2013, Ben Shapiro published an article on Breitbart News reporting allegations that former Senator and nominee for United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) may have been paid to speak at an event sponsored by a group called "Friends of Hamas." Breitbart News said that the story was based on exclusive information from U.S. Senate sources. The story was later repeated by RedState, National Review, Washington Times, and PJ Media.
An investigation by Slate reporter David Weigel failed to confirm the existence of the purported group. On February 19, New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman said that the story had originated from a sarcastic comment he had made to a congressional staffer. "Friends of Hamas" was one of several groups which Friedman considered to be so over-the-top as to be implausible and obviously fictitious. He said he made the sarcastic comment in an effort to find out what Hagel had done was considered to be anti-Israel. Friedman followed with an email to the congressional staffer asking if Hagel had received a $25,000 fee from "Friends of Hamas" for his speaking engagement. No reply to the email was received, and the next day, Breitbart News ran a story with the headline "Secret Hagel Donor?: White House Spox Ducks Question on 'Friends of Hamas'."
Breitbart News maintained that the report was accurate, posting articles defending the website and criticizing Weigel and Friedman. Writers for The Washington Post, New York magazine and The Daily Beast criticized Breitbart News for the "Friends of Hamas" story.
In April 2014, Breitbart News created an advertising campaign to launch Breitbart California, which included posters bearing an image of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi's head superimposed onto singer Miley Cyrus's body as seen twerking on California governor Jerry Brown, spoofing the 2013 VMAs. DNC Chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz denounced the images as disrespectful to women. In response, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy requested that his column be removed from the site.
According to Breitbart News, the inspiration for the ad campaign was a 2013 Saturday Night Live skit in which Cyrus appeared as a highly sexualized version of Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann alongside a feminine, homosexual version of Republican Congressman and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
On November 8, 2014, Breitbart News posted an article by Warner Todd Huston, which erroneously reported that Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, had been part of Bill Clinton's defense team during the Whitewater scandal about the Whitewater Development Corporation. In fact, the Whitewater lawyer was a different Loretta Lynch. After this mistake was pointed out by Talking Points Memo and Media Matters for America, Breitbart News noted that the two Lynches were different people by correcting and appending the original article. Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times editorial page editor criticized this, writing: "The appended correction didn’t really do justice to the scope of the misidentification."
The American Journalism Review said "that Breitbart had let the mistaken fact stand in the headline and the article itself," and had published a second story containing the incorrect information on November 9. By November 10, the initial story had been deleted from Breitbart.com. PolitiFact rated the claim "Pants on Fire" and noted that the false claim had "already spread to other conspiracy, opinion and conservative news websites", as an example of how fast false information can spread on the Internet.
During the 2016 presidential election, Breitbart News promoted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and her staff, including the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory (that Clinton or her aide John Podesta were involved a child sex ring) and the conspiracy theory that Clinton was suffering from health issues stemming from a brain injury. Roger Stone, an outside adviser to Trump's campaign and frequent promoter of fringe-right conspiracy theories, regularly publishes pieces in Breitbart. A June 2016 Breitbart article presented Stone's conspiracy theory that Clinton aide Huma Abedin was involved with terrorism.
On January 3, 2017, Breitbart News's Virginia Hale wrote that "[a]t a New Year’s Eve celebrations in Dortmund a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church" giving the impression of "chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors" according to The Guardian. The story was later shown to be false; St. Reinold's Church is neither the oldest church in Germany nor was the church set on fire. While 1000 people did gather, which is not unusual on New Year's Eve in a public place, video footage from the scene does not show a "mob", and no policemen were targeted. The official police report recorded an "average to quiet New Year's Eve" with "no spectacular facts to report", while firefighters note an "almost normal weekend night" and state that a "safety net at the Reinoldi church caught fire by a fireworks rocket, but was quickly extinguished" (because of use of fireworks, small fires like this frequently happen on New Year's). According to eyewitness reports, it was not the church roof that was scorched, but a construction scaffolding on the church's far side, away from the crowd. The group that shouted "Allahu Akbar" consisted of only 50–70 people and was celebrating the ceasefire in Aleppo.
The false story was then subsequently picked up by an Austrian far-right website before it made its way back to Germany where politician Thorsten Hoffmann fell for it. In Germany, several newspapers reported on Breitbart News publishing the hoax and distorting facts for the purpose of spreading Islamophobic propaganda. Breitbart News initially declined to comment, but on January 8, 2017 published a story in which it stood by its claims, which had been shown to be false, and refused to admit to any exaggeration. The only correction issued was with regard to the church's age. The followup story used a screen capture of different fireworks at the near side of the church, with no scaffolding. Ruhr Nachrichten, the original outlet and the alleged witness cited by Breitbart News, replied to the update, and stated that Breitbart News had not contacted them or the firefighters present to verify their story. They also reiterated the accusation against Breitbart of exaggerating minor facts to give a false "impression that a 'mob' of 1000 migrants had shot at Christian churches in Dortmund and set them on fire". The newspaper went on to accuse Breitbart News of not adhering to journalistic ethics. Ruhr Nachrichten also accused Breitbart of "using our online reports for fake news, hate and propaganda" and published video fragments recorded on site that contradicted Breitbart News's story.