The editorial staff in Breitbart‘s London bureau is in a wobbly state with the return of Raheem Kassam to the editor’s chair. He left his previous job as right hand man to UK’s independent party leader Nigel Farage under a black cloud of rumor and innuendo. Kassam, who previously worked for Breitbart in an editorial capacity, has been reported to police on counts of fraud, theft, blackmail and extortion.
Kassam’s “new star columnist” is reportedly Farage.
If nothing else, it’s hard to accuse Breitbart News of being boring.
Breitbart said Scotland Yard is not investigating Kassam. The site says Kassam will report to Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow.
But with Kassam’s return comes the more serious matter of other Breitbart staffers refusing to work with him — namely James Delingpole and Milo Yiannopoulos, two men who have been accused of having London star power. Might be a blow to the bureau to lose them.
A UK blog called “Media Guido” — despite the goofball name, it’s actually a trusted media source — is reporting that Delingpole and Yiannopoulos are “exiting” the bureau with Kassam’s return. Guido calls it a “walkout.” But that is not entirely the case. Sources tell The DC‘s Mirror blog that the pair are renegotiating their contracts.
Guido points out that Delingpole and Yiannopoulos have succeeded in moving the site away from being a Tea Party-style news service. Yiannopoulos, for example, is an openly gay Republican who specializes in gaming issues and is considered a key figure in the GamerGate controversy. Delingpole, who has been the bureau’s executive editor, focuses on the environment.
Guido mentions the possibility that Delingpole and Yiannopoulos may not entirely sever ties with Breitbart. He wrote, “Guido understands they are considering casual freelance contracts but insisting on no day-to-day responsibilities to ‘avoid ever having to be in the same room as Kassam’ again.”
But freelance contracts could prove to be problematic. A juicy detail in Guido’s reportage: Breitbart London contributors haven’t always been paid on time — sometimes waiting for up to 5 months.
A source close to the situation says that Breitbart staffers are “surprised and shocked” that Breitbart News is bringing Kassam back into the fold as “he is a toxic personality with a history of controversy around him.”
London’s Spectator mag once described Kassam as “a wildly self-important figure who flits about on the internet Right. Mr. Kassam is famed for his inflated sense of self-importance.”
Kassam’s tenure as Farage’s chief of staff is thought of by UK media insiders as “a disaster”, adds the source. The Commentator heavily insinuates that he was fired from UKIP (UK’s right-wing party) amid allegations of financial illegalities involving tens of thousands of pounds, according to the publication. In May, the pub reported that Kassam’s behavior has “pushed victims to contemplate suicide.”
Kassam, however, insinuated that he was not forced out without explicitly saying so – he told the pub that his contract was set to end. “My contract has always expired at the end of the month and I am on holiday until then,” he said. “I continue to support the party under the leadership of Nigel Farage
To say that Kassam is unpopular with Breitbart‘s London staff is putting it mildly — one staffer has already begun sending his CV to other right-wing media outlets.
But the more important question is why would Breitbart bring an alleged criminal into its fold?
Delingpole did not respond to a request for comment. Yiannopolis declined to comment.
A Breitbart spokesperson denied that there is any shakeup in the London bureau and said the harassment is toward Kassam and not the other way around.
“There is no investigation of Mr. Kassam,” a Breitbart spokesperson wrote by email. “The false accusations made against him were done in response to a harassment inquiry that was already underway (case reference number 6503616/15) in which Kassam was the victim. The authorities have confirmed to Kassam directly that there was no investigation of ‘fraud/theft/blackmail/extortion’ underway and treated the false accusations against him as an act of harassment. As for Breitbart London, our team there is and has been working with Kassam, so that pretty much speaks for itself.”