Claim: Breitbart News charges tea party group thousands to cover event
Breitbart News recently charged a Texas tea party group at least $7,000 to promote and cover the group’s rally, according to a tea party organizer involved in the planning.
On March 15, the group called Patriots Rally for Freedom held a rally in Martindale, Texas. In the lead-up to the event, organizers asked Breitbart News — which recently announced a “Texas bureau” — to cover the gathering.
But according to Ken Crow, the tea party activist and founder of TeaPartyCommunity.com who made the call to Breitbart, the site would only cover the event if the tea party group paid for it. Crow revealed the arrangement in an interview with ex-Breitbart News reporter Lee Stranahan, who posted the audio to Twitter Wednesday. Stranahan was recently fired by Breitbart.
“The big item that I really wanted was some promotion leading up to the event,” Crow told Stranahan this week.
Crow said that Dan Fleuette, the person he spoke with at Breitbart News, insisted that the media organization would need $11,000 to come and cover the event. In an interview with The Daily Caller’s Mirror blog Wednesday night, Crow said Fleuette eventually acquiesced to $7,000 plus travel expenses. But upon hearing the price, the women organizing the rally flipped out. “The girls are screaming, ‘WE DON’T HAVE SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!'” Crow recalled.
In his interview with Stranahan, Crow said, “I honestly thought this was a very newsworthy event to be covering. I was told Breitbart didn’t have the financial wherewithal to send a crew down there because they didn’t have the advertising base and the revenue to warrant that, and that the organizers would have to pay.”
The cost included plane and hotel fees for three journalists — despite the fact that Breitbart presumably had local resources available to cover the rally via its Breitbart Texas bureau — along with technical tools Fleuette said they’d need to livestream the event.
The final fee, which Crow said was paid to Breitbart News 48 hours prior to the event, was $7,000 plus plane and hotel costs.
“Originally they told me five to seven thousand dollars,” Crow recounted to Stranahan. “Then there was an issue for uplinks for live streaming. Now we’re up to 8500 dollars, plus we had to fly two people from Atlanta over and one from Washington D.C. to come down and then pay all their expenses too. The entire package was going to run — to have Breitbart cover this was going to run around 11 thousand dollars, as I recall.”
The two people from Atlanta were a camera crew from Ground Floor Video, a company whose clients have included the Tea Party Patriots. On the site are a barrage of glowing testimonials from Glenn Beck, Chick-fil-A, Breitbart affiliated BIG Hollywood, Herman Cain and more.
Crow confirmed the financial arrangement to The Mirror and said he had at least a dozen emails discussing a monetary deal. He said a third party agreed to bankroll the arrangement but refused to say who.”This particular group likes to remain anonymous when they do things like this,” he explained.
There is some confusion over Fleuette’s role within the Breitbart News organization. While Stranahan and Crow referred to him as a “vice president” during the interview, sources familiar with the operation explain that Fleuette is known around the company as “Bannon’s guy,” or in cruder terms, “Bannon’s bitch” — a reference to Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon.
He also comes up in searches on the site as a “lacrosse analyst” who has a “regular Saturday column.” Fleuette has worked on Bannon’s films and is listed as a writer and producer in the credits of some Citizens United Films that Bannon directed.
In the end, complained Crow, the event coverage on Breitbart News was pretty meager. “For that I’m a little bit of a disgruntled customer,” he told The Mirror.
“Breitbart did appear [at the event], but none of the other items, the promotional things were really done,” Crow said in his interview with Stranahan. “There was one small story done that was put on the back page of the website that nobody ever saw. They did livestream parts of it but nobody knew it was there. I don’t think it had any viewership at all. It was a pretty disappointing thing, actually.”
A search of the Breitbart News website shows that Bob Price, who has written for the site since January of 2014, covered the rally. The search turned up five stories on the event, some of which had “Breitbart Texas” as the byline. Several new pieces featuring video of the March 15 rally were posted as recently as this past Tuesday.
None of those pieces revealed that Breitbart News had received payment for its coverage.
Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Breitbart News, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Dan Fleuette did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Bob Price, who covered the rally for Breitbart, also did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.