Larry Solov has always been cagey about the ownership of Breitbart News. That’s why it became news when Solov was forced to publicly acknowledge the identities of Breitbart.com’s stakeholders for the very first time as he applied for a temporary Senate press pass.
Yesterday, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery told Solov that the pass will not be made permanent until he shares further information. The panel of five senior reporters from major media outlets wants answers to questions that this writer has been asking for years now.
As always, Solov was tardy, responding one day before the deadline with a terse letter that merely repeated the assertion he made in February that Bannon had resigned by conference call. “Bannon has no editorial, executive, financial, or other role or interest in” Breitbart, the letter reads.
Solov has always avoided disclosure in these matters. During the Shirley Sherrod lawsuit, Solov tried to sit at the table with Breitbart’s attorneys. But when federal judge Richard Leon asked Solov to state his interest in the proceedings, Solov’s attempt to dodge the question got him exiled to the back of the courtroom (story is behind a paywall).
That’s why Solov probably finds the press committee’s attention to detail excruciating.
First, the committee wants proof that White House strategist Steve Bannon has resigned as CEO of “the platform for the alt-right,” where he made $750,000 a year. Responding to Solov’s letter yesterday, “a committee member pointed out that beyond ‘us trusting Larry’ there was no other evidence that Bannon had in fact completely cut himself off from the site he previously ran,” the Daily Beast reports.
Predictably, Breitbart denounced the Daily Beast and BuzzFeed coverage of Solov’s stumble as “yet another effort to smear Breitbart News.” The website has declined to explain why Bannon, who reportedly works 16-hour days, lacks five minutes to write a simple letter of resignation.
Second, the committee wants an explanation of Breitbart News Network LLC’s relationship to Glittering Steel, Bannon’s film production company, and the Government Accountability Institute, Bannon’s anti-Clinton propaganda outfit. Breitbart senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer, whose name appears on Solov’s letter, wrote the book Clinton Cash as part of Bannon’s effort to shape media narratives of the 2016 election. Glittering Steel and GAI share the same address as Breitbart’s Los Angeles offices.
The panel also wants clarification of the website’s relationship to Rebekah Mercer, daughter of right wing hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who is also the biggest funder of the Government Accountability Institute. As Jane Mayer reports in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, Rebekah and Bannon are two of the three key figures to encourage Trump’s war on the media since 2015.
Finally, “committee members were also concerned that Breitbart misled them about its current office location, which is not zoned for office use,” Steven Perlberg reports at BuzzFeed. “Breitbart had told the committee it was in the process of moving.”
As I was first to report in 2014, the Washington, DC ‘Breitbart embassy‘ is in fact a townhouse belonging to Egyptian billionaire Mustafa El-Gindy. Breitbart staffers say that El-Gindy is “just a landlord,” yet his views have clearly influenced Breitbart’s news content, which in turn has clearly influenced Donald Trump’s policy towards Egypt.
The ownership picture at Breitbart News Network LLC has been a matter of speculation since late in 2011. Rebekah Mercer made an initial investment of $10 million in Breitbart News a few months before Andrew Breitbart’s death. Andrew Breitbart’s widow appears to hold a 50 percent stake, while the Mercers reportedly hold 49 percent of the company’s value. Larry Solov, an attorney and Breitbart family friend, allegedly controls the deciding one percent share.
For some reason, Solov doesn’t want to verify these facts. For some reason, Steve Bannon can’t be bothered to type out a resignation letter. It’s all familiar to me, having watched Solov and Bannon avoid disclosure and transparency all this time. Responsible journalists are justifiably wary of Breitbart News because it has never behaved like a responsible journalistic outlet, and nothing has changed about that since November.
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