From the Field

Breitbart reporter targets immigration activists in San Francisco

Lindsay Schubiner • May 20, 2016
By Theurv via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, efforts by immigrant rights organizers in San Francisco caught the attention of far-right blogger Lee Stranahan, who writes for the notoriously anti-immigrant website Breitbart.

At a San Francisco City Hall meeting, undocumented community leaders showed up to support a due process ordinance that would protect immigrants from unjust deportation when interacting with local police.

Unfortunately, Stranahan showed up too. He began filming community leaders, and soon focused in on Chuy, a local resident who is a cancer survivor and was born with Down syndrome. In response to this harassment, Chuy began to sob.

The police eventually (and temporarily) escorted Stranahan out. But apparently Stranahan’s irritation was strong enough to drive him to write several blog posts about the incident, the ordinance, and organizers themselves, including some wildly inaccurate claims.

One Stranahan post argues that the San Francisco immigrant rights organizers have a treasonous and not-so-secret agenda of “enabling Chicanos to secede from the United States and form their own nation state in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.”

Why? Because one organizer re-tweeted an image of a satirical hat that pokes fun at Donald Trump’s slogan while reminding us that the southwest United States used to be Mexico.

In another post, Stranahan blames so-called sanctuary city ordinances that limit collaboration between local police and federal immigration enforcement for the tragic death of Kathryn Steinle at San Francisco’s Embarcadero last year.

Breitbart propels xenophobic extremism

The extremism in Stranahan’s posts shouldn’t be a surprise. Breitbart has consistently served as the primary mouthpiece of organized anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements.

Though Breitbart News has always represented the far right, the Southern Poverty Law Center observed that “the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right” over the past year.

In March of 2016, four Breitbart reporters resigned. One of them, Jordan Schachtel, explained, “Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something resembling an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign.”

With its own reporters complaining that Breitbart has embraced Trump’s brand of hate, Stranahan’s targeting of undocumented community members makes sense. Trump himself even weighed in on last week’s events to support Stranahan.

This week, Breitbart published a column by extremist anti-Muslim leader David Horowitz in which he called Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of The Weekly Standard, a “renegade Jew” because of Kristol’s efforts to stop Trump. Maybe Horowitz is right at home at Breitbart. He has argued, among other things, that “Guns don’t kill blacks, other blacks do” and that “universities are a base for terrorism.”

Breitbart’s lack of journalistic integrity isn’t entirely new. Mother Jones previously exposed the outlet’s collusion on high-level messaging with conservative partisans through the secretive Groundswell coalition. In fact, the reporter who published Trump’s statement in support of Stranahan, Matthew Boyle, is known to have directly participated in Groundswell meetings.

With Breitbart’s support for extremism and ever-decreasing legitimacy as a news organization, its attacks on San Francisco policies and undocumented community members are simply a reflection of an outlet going farther and farther off the rails.

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