Breitbart is the media voice most closely aligned with Donald Trump’s candidacy. (Steve Bannon was, until last summer, its executive chair.) But it’s since turned against the administration’s agenda on several occasions. So how should we be reading Breitbart now? New York’s Gabriel Sherman spoke with Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow.
Is Breitbart the voice of the Trump White House?
It’s hard for us to be the voice of the Trump White House when his biggest legislative push — really his only legislative push thus far — we opposed. Breitbart was seen as instrumental to the takedown of the Obamacare-light bill. We have a set of values that we think are underrepresented in the media landscape and we’re going to continue to fight for those values. I’ve been 100 percent consistent. We’re supportive of his policies that reflect the populist, nationalist, conservative agenda that put him in the White House and we’re very negative when he’s abandoned those principles.
Do you see the elevation of Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn as a sign that Trump is moving toward a centrist, technocratic, almost democratic agenda?
That is a great speculation. I have very little insight into what Jared is doing and whether or not he really has as much power as the media’s portraying. I am relying on reports from Politico, from the New York Times, from news sources that I largely do not trust, because Jared doesn’t do interviews. When is the last time the guy has spoken up? I would love to interview Jared.
What would you ask him?
I would ask him how his vision, Jared’s personal vision for the country, how that relates to the people that elected his father-in-law. If he counsels the president to not forget about his base, then he’ll get some positive coverage at Breitbart. But the media reports that I’m reading are the exact opposite. He’s urging the president to moderate his tone and to try to convert Democrats who I believe would never come to the president’s side simply because the president is a Republican and is perceived as controversial. That’s a lesson that I feel like much of the base understands, which is that people on the left are not seemingly willing to compromise with any Republican. People forget how horribly George Bush was treated.
I’ve heard that Kushner and Cohn refer to Bannon and Stephen Miller as “the crazies.” There clearly is a camp that is trying to move away from this nationalist, populist movement.
Obviously, as someone who is at the top of the editorial chain of the leading populist nationalist site in the United States, that’s the sort of thing that will prick my ears up. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t trust the media reports. And what I’ve heard from inside the White House is usually different than what I’m reading. But of course I’m skeptical that a liberal Democrat or former liberal Democrat billionaire type would be able to channel the Republican conservative working-class Trump base. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I’m going to be paying very close attention to it. And I think the Trump voters will be paying very close attention as well.
But you don’t necessarily believe the media reports about what’s going on inside the Trump White House?
I hear, “It’s all a game of thrones and everyone’s at each other’s throats and everything’s a power play,” and then I hear, “It’s all theatrics, it’s people mostly getting along, the chaos is really a controlled chaos, and everyone actually respects one another.” Now the media is pushing a narrative that Steve Bannon is losing power. They’re gleefully reporting that. And we don’t know how much of it is true. Because they want the Trump White House to fail.
How much is Bannon involved in Breitbart now?
Steve has not had any control over Breitbart’s editorial since he left Breitbart.
So you are willing to run stories that might complicate things for Bannon in the White House?
As much as I respect Steve — and I think Steve is a patriot and understands the conservative, populist, nationalist movement globally better than any individual on the planet — he also now works for the president of the United States. If President Trump or Steve wants to come out and explain that “we actually pushed this health-care bill because this was the most important issue to the Speaker, and in return the Speaker is going to make sure that we get the border wall funded, make sure that we fix our trade deals, et cetera,” then maybe that would change some of the views of the Breitbart readership. That wasn’t how this was presented.
It sounds like you see your role as the voice of the Trump voter, whether that aligns with the White House itself or not.
You nailed it. I have two responsibilities: No. 1 is to report the truth, and No. 2 is to report the issues from the vantage point of a populist, nationalist conservative.
Would you say Fox News is more in lockstep with the White House than Breitbart is?
I would say so. I’ll caveat this by saying I think it’s good for the country that Fox is presenting so much of what the Trump administration has to say in a way that’s unadulterated by the Establishment media filter. But it’s fascinating how quickly Fox went from an essentially anti-Trump network, where they were diametrically opposed to Trump on core issues like immigration and trade, and watch them change the voice of the network on a dime. I do think there’s a cynical business element to it, but I don’t fault Fox for doing that because I think it’s good for the country as well.
The nationalist movement is international as well. What’s going on with your European expansion?
The media likes to report that they’re not happening or that they’ve been delayed, all of that fake news. All of these bureaus just take time and careful planning when you have a target on your back as big as Breitbart has. The second we set foot in these countries, we’re going to be subject to relentless attack, not just from the institutional left but, in many cases, governments that have more control over speech.
Despite the fact that Breitbart now has a seat at the table in the Trump administration, it sounds like you still feel very much like the outsiders.
In many ways I think we are. I think we’re comfortable in that role. We don’t have to be hysterical or outraged as often because our agenda is mostly getting implemented. But when we feel like there’s a big departure from it, then we will speak up loudly. We’re always going to be seen as outside of the mainstream.
*A version of this article appears in the May 1, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.