A group of staffers from conservative website Breitbart.com have accused the website of taking money from Donald Trump in exchange for favorable coverage.
BuzzFeed reported Sunday night that four anonymous sources within the organization say that the website’s management have entered into a “financial arrangement” with the billionaire reality TV star and 2016 presidential hopeful.
“One current editor called the water-carrying ‘despicable’ and ’embarrassing,'” wrote BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, “and said he was told by an executive last year that the company had a financial arrangement with Trump.”
Other editors and staffers say they have heard similar statements from management but are fuzzy on the particulars of how the relationship works. Coppins also said that a “conservative communications operative” who has worked closely with the website confirmed that Trump has established a “pay for play” relationship with the right-leaning website in which he opens his wallet in order to shape coverage of his campaign for the Republican 2016 nomination.
None of the informants would go on the record, Coppins said, for fear of losing their jobs at the conservative website.
Trump’s candidacy has suffered since the debate last week. The thin-skinned Republican frontrunner chafed at the tone of some questions by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and has continued to throw sexist barbs in her direction and accuse her of asking him difficult questions because she was menstruating.
As many conservative news outlets have soured on the novelty of Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip statements and carnival-barker approach to politics, Breitbart.com has continued to dole out fawning coverage of the candidate and to rain all-caps invective on his critics.
However, Steve Bannon — Breitbart.com’s executive chairman — hotly denied the accusation of a financial arrangement.
“We have no financial relationship with Donald Trump as an investor, advertiser or in any other capacity at this time — nor have we ever,” Bannon said in a statement. “The insinuation that we do — or did — is a lie. Mr. Trump is a savvy and successful businessman but not the type of investor I partner with in emerging growth companies.”
Breitbart.com was founded by right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart, whose personal animus against liberals drove his mission to create a conservative media empire and bring about “the end of the professional left.” He collapsed and died of a heart attack during a night of drinking in March of 2012.
Since then, the staff he left behind have squabbled amongst themselves over what direction to take the website, which has spent nearly as much time feuding with employees past and present as it has reporting the news.