Amid pressure from left-wing advocacy organization Color of Change, the Huffington Post removed conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart’s blog from its front page last week. But Breitbart is furious that the liberal site’s top brass refused to defend him against the racism allegations made by Color of Change.
Color of Change and its founder Van Jones, the former White House green jobs czar who also previously advised Arianna Huffington during her 2003 California gubernatorial campaign, alleged that Breitbart was a racist during its pressure campaign. In its statement last week explaining its decision to remove Breitbart’s blog from being featured on its front page because of what HuffPo called “ad hominem” attacks against Jones that Breitbart made to The Daily Caller, HuffPo made no statement to defend Breitbart from allegations that he is racist, even though Breitbart told TheDC that site founder Huffington and her top deputy, editor Roy Sekoff, know he isn’t one. Breitbart even said Sekoff told him he recommended to Huffington that she publicly state that Breitbart is no racist – and allegedly had language ready in a statement for her to use.
“Roy said he put a statement for Arianna in that language [that Breitbart was not a racist] and she chose not to use it,” Breitbart told TheDC. Breitbart said he tried to reach Sekoff and Huffington several times after they removed him from HuffPo’s front page. After he finally got Sekoff on the line, Breitbart said Sekoff told him he was, “arguing with her [Huffington] that she should defend me on the race accusation that they’re making.”
“I consider it the height of ingratitude that Arianna sides with Van Jones whose hapless management of Arianna’s California gubernatorial campaign made her finish with less than one percent of the vote, yet I’m the one who resurrected her Van Jones-created demise to help create for her the very institution she’s now using to shut me up,” Breitbart, who helped Huffington set up her hugely successful left-wing website, told TheDC. “The ingratitude is monumental and for her to be silent on the race question for cynical partisan reasons shows everything you need to know about this woman’s character. There’s a thread of hope in my heart that she will do the ethical thing and tell her audience what she really feels about my not being a racist.”
Sekoff and HuffPo spokesman Mario Ruiz would neither confirm nor deny to TheDC that Huffington removed language from last week’s statement defending Breitbart against charges of racism. But, through Ruiz, Sekoff told TheDC he does not think Breitbart is a racist.
“Roy absolutely does not think Andrew Breitbart is a racist, as he made clear to me during discussions this week about whether to continue front paging Breitbart,” Ruiz said in an email to TheDC. “He was taken down from the front not for being racist, but for the nature of his attack on Van Jones, as we’ve made clear.”
Sekoff has also defended Breitbart privately in the past, according to HuffPo blogger Lee Stranahan, a liberal who helped Breitbart in the past with some of his investigations. Stranahan said he asked Sekoff about Breitbart before he started working for the conservative publisher since in the left-wing circles Breitbart is viewed as “Satan.”
“Roy was as clear as can be. ‘Of course, no, of course he’s not racist’ he said ‘I know that,’” Stranahan said in a phone interview. “He said, ‘we know that.’ There was no case of Roy going, well, ‘I don’t, of course, think he is racist, but Arianna does.’ Arianna knows he’s not racist because he’s not racist. Anyone who knows him personally knows he’s not.”
Sekoff denies that conversation, and told TheDC he never said any of that to Stranahan. “If you publish that, you will be publishing an untruth,” Sekoff said in an email to TheDC. “I never said that to Lee – or anyone else. Period.”
Stranahan said the conversation with Sekoff, which he said happened last fall, was not off-the-record but was still private, so he was “reticent” about saying anything for “a long time” until now. He said he has tried to restore Breitbart and Huffington’s relationship since the two began their fallout after Breitbart left HuffPo just before Huffington launched the site, which she recently sold to AOL for $315 million. Their relationship took an ever sharper turn for the worse after Color of Change teamed with CREDO Action to get Breitbart kicked off ABC News’s election night coverage last November and The Huffington Post allowed Van Jones’ group to attack Breitbart personally on its site. Color of Change executive director James Rucker accused Breitbart of producing a “brand race-baiting propaganda and lies” in a Huffington Post blog post last November.
Huffington remained silent through all of this.
According to Stranahan, Breitbart was too “pissed” to talk to Huffington for at least a month after that, but then finally agreed to meet with her. “Around the New Year, they got together and they talked for a while,” Stranahan said. “He called me and told me all about that conversation – and that was good. She didn’t apologize, but she’s Arianna – and it just didn’t come up. Things were better, and, then, two weeks ago, I was like, ‘Look, why don’t you write for HuffPost?’”
Stranahan had stepped in to help calm Breitbart, who’s known for his fiery personality. He was the one who suggested Breitbart blog for The Huffington Post and even helped Breitbart write his two posts for the site in a way that would better appeal to those who do not share his conservative philosophy.
“I said [to Breitbart], ‘I know what your experiences are, but don’t go in assuming they [readers] are going to hate you because it brings you in with an attitude like, ‘I know you’re going to fucking hate me, but –,’” Stranahan told TheDC. “Don’t have that attitude, just be like, uh okay. Just go in a little slow.’”
Stranahan said part of the reason why he thinks Huffington and Sekoff are hesitant to publicly stand up for Breitbart against the racism allegations is because it would damage the false narrative the left has created about Breitbart – and it would further stain Arianna’s already tarnished image in the liberal blogosphere.
“When you talk about the grassroots left – go to a site like Daily Kos,” Stranahan said. “Daily Kos is not elites, it’s regular, run-of-the-mill liberals. Take a look at the reaction to Arianna over there. I would say it’s 80 percent against her and 20 percent in favor. It’s the same thing if you look at FireDogLake or if you look at Democratic Underground or if you look at any site like that.”