President Trump‘s ex-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has made one of his first strategic calls outside the White House — he gave a reporter, Neil McCabe, his blessing to leave Breitbart News to become president of a new site that could ultimately become a competitor.
Big League Politics, which some consider to be an offshoot of Breitbart News, is looking up in the world with the addition of McCabe. He joined Breitbart in May 2016 after a stint at One America News.
Editor-in-Chief Patrick Howley is the name most associated with the new right-wing investigative news site, along with Cassandra Fairbanks, the pub’s only full-time reporter who is based in Washington.
Pay attention to the language — it matters.
There was chatter that Big League Politics could fold after Steve Bannon, President Trump‘s ex-Chief Strategist, returned to his old stomping grounds, Breitbart News. But he quickly became supportive of Breitbart‘s new cousin-in-crime.
“[Breitbart CEO] Larry Solov emailed me last night and gave me my release from my Breitbart News contract,” McCabe told The Mirror Monday morning. “I start at Big League Politics formally Oct. 1, when my five-month tour with the Army Reserve at Fort Belvoir expires.”
The decision was an emotional one as well as a practical one.
“Leaving Breitbart was a very friendly and positive experience,” he said. “The question was whether to be a crewmember on the mothership or strike out with the pioneering party. I am always more comfortable with the pioneers.”
McCabe felt the need to ask Bannon for his “blessing.” Which is sort of an odd way to leave a job for a new one. How many journalists ask their bosses for spiritual permission to leave? What’s more, everyone knows that getting out of a contract at Breitbart is a bitch and a half.
I asked McCabe about this “blessing” business from Bannon.
“Bannon was a Navy officer and I spent three years on a Coast Guard ship, so we bonded and communicated on a different freq,” he replied. “He told me he wanted me to stay, but as we teased it out, he told me that I know how to hire good people and how to build a team, so BLP was better for me personally.”
It also gave Bannon peace of mind in another way.
“It is important to remember that Steve has great affection for Patrick Howley, too, so he was happy that I would be manning the oars with Patrick,” he said. “In our conversation, he told me that Patrick is a genius.”
And if Bannon had said no?
“If he had say no, then I was still bound by my contract and I would honor it,” he said.
McCabe explained that his plan to depart Breitbart was hatched before Bannon’s return.
“I asked to leave Breitbart before Steve came back,” he said. “When Steve came back, I met with him and he gave me his blessing to join Big League–part of it was that as a friend, he saw that Big League offered me opportunities to build, shape and lead that I would not have as the Capitol Hill reporter.”
But even McCabe isn’t totally sure he’s doing the right thing.
“Leaving Breitbart as it continues to grow is a tough decision, maybe a stupid one,” he told me over email. “I joined Breitbart for the chance to work for Matthew Boyle and play on a team with real impact. I loved every day there, especially during the 2016 election, when I was writing up all the Breitbart-Gravis polls that kept our readers tethered to the reality of how the race was going, so that on Election Day, they were not surprised.”
“Patrick Howley has created a great platform and a great journalism culture at Big League Politics that I am thrilled to join. It is fun to be part of a scrappy contender again, it reminds me of when I was running upstart community papers in Somerville and Cambridge, competing with hundred-year-old newspapers.”
“Cassandra Fairbanks is breaking out as a celebrity reporter. Her insights and ability to frame issues in play give Big League Politics an edge other sites lack.”
McCabe will double as a reporter for Big League Politics.
“As Patrick runs the content and editorial, I am going to build up the platform, while continuing to cover Capitol Hill and national politics,” he said.