NEW YORK — Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign said Wednesday that it ejected a Breitbart News reporter from an event at a South Carolina college because it wanted to ensure that students felt “comfortable and safe.”
The Texas Democrat’s campaign found itself in a public confrontation with the aggressive conservative website a day after its senior editor-at-large, Joel Pollak, said he was booted from an O’Rourke speech. He said the campaign told him was being ejected because he’d been disruptive at past events.
O’Rourke spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier said that Breitbart walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech. The campaign asked Pollak to leave because of his “previous hateful reporting” and the sensitivity of the topics being discussed with black students at Benedict College.
“Whether it’s dedicating an entire section of their website to ‘black crime,’ inferring that immigrants are terrorists, or using derogatory terms to refer to LGBTQ people, Breitbart News walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech,” Cavalier said in a statement.
Cavalier did not immediately outline what work from Pollak the campaign had found objectionable, whether this was a one-time action or whether it would apply to Breitbart personnel in the future.
During a question-and-answer session with the press earlier this week, Pollak accused O’Rourke of misquoting remarks made by Trump following the Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstration by white supremacists.
The dust-up gave a shot of attention to Breitbart, which has plummeted in readership and influence from its apex, when former editor Stephen Bannon was a top aide to US President Donald Trump.
Saying that Breitbart or Pollak, an Orthodox Jew who is married to a black woman, is racist is absurd, said Elizabeth Moore, spokeswoman for Breitbart News.
“The irony of Mr. O’Rourke, who has stated that he is the beneficiary of ‘white privilege,’ purporting to decide for black students who should be banned from events that are open to the press, or what they should feel, is not lost on us,” Moore said.