Editors and reporters at the staunchly pro-Trump conservative outlet Breitbart News privately clashed over whether President Donald Trump was to blame for last week’s deadly Capitol riot, according to internal messages reviewed by The Daily Beast.
“I am just not feeling charitable AT ALL,” international news editor Frances Martel posted to Slack the morning after the rioting that left five people dead, including a police officer. “Destroy Trump.”
Martel lamented that Trump’s support for the MAGA mob had undone a decade’s worth of conservative politics, leaving the Republican Party “in shambles” and dimming the right-wing movement’s prospects.
“He set us back like 10 years,” Martel wrote. “We have worked so hard to promote our values, values that made him president when he hawked them, and now he does this, leaving everything in shambles? Nah, destroy him. Let it be a lesson to every other ‘populist.’”
Breitbart, like other outlets closely tied to Trump, has shied away from ever directly criticizing him, especially for his election-fraud lies and heated rhetoric leading up to the deadly riot. But the internal chat messages demonstrate that anger over the outgoing president’s role in inciting the MAGA mob has reached even the Trumpiest strongholds of right-wing media.
“I do blame Trump for all of this,” wrote senior editor-at-large Rebecca Mansour at one point, before referring to rioter Ashli Babbitt, a QAnon supporter who was fatally shot by Capitol police as she attempted to break into the Speaker’s Lobby. “Her death is on him as far I’m concerned.”
“[Trump] and the campaign also gave legitimacy to Lin Wood and others who were far more explicit in riling people up,” Breitbart reporter Chris Tomlinson added at another point.
Other staffers attempted to excuse or dismiss the severity of the MAGA mob and Trump‘s role in encouraging their violent actions.
“Trump explicitly asked people to be peaceful and respectful yesterday, and then almost immediately called for the violence to stop,” declared Breitbart columnist John Nolte, who at another point claiming the mob “clearly” was “99% peaceful.”
“Dude told rioters ‘We love you, you’re special,’” Martel shot back, referring to Trump’s behavior on the day of the riots. She punctuated her rebuttal with an eyeroll emoji. “Done with this guy, get him outta there with the stage cane.”
Elsewhere, Nolte, a long-time conservative firebrand, downplayed the severity of the riot by mocking the actions of Capitol police who, in the case of Babbitt, resorted to deadly force in order to prevent rioters from breaching deep into the building.
“Maybe the cop that shot her was worried she’d break a window or put her feet on McConnell’s desk,” Nolte snarked. “She had to get got.”
Several Breitbart staffers also found a way to make the Capitol riots about the left.
“I mean, violence is bad but this was nothing compared to Antifa rioting over the summer,” Pentagon reporter Kristina Wong argued. “Not even close,” Breitbart reporter John Binder agreed. “They burned entire cities to the ground. At most, these people broke windows.”
But Mansour forcefully disagreed. “I think you need to accept the context of this. This was storming the Capitol building on the day when we were certifying an election. And a woman was killed. This is banana republic shit. This was much worse than burning down strip malls.”
Minutes later, Mansour followed up: “This was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was shameful [in my opinion].”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Breitbart said, “These conversations are leaked from an internal communications channel literally called ‘Hot Takes,’ created for healthy internal discussion, dialogue, and debate on any and all subject matters.” The outlet added: “They are not a reflection of our editorial directives or decisions, and they are also hardly remarkable as these kinds of conversations happened all across America as people processed the attack on our nation's Capitol as events unfolded.”
But considering the outlet’s reputation of an uncritical booster of all things Trump, the messages demonstrate a growing fracture in conservative media over his post-election behavior, including his lies about a “stolen election” due to widespread voter fraud—which played a substantial role in fomenting violence last week at the Capitol.
“Trump spent two months telling them they were robbed,” Mansour wrote in another message posted to the Breitbart internal Slack. “Then told them to go to the Capitol on the day they were certifying the vote and said he’d go with them. And a significant portion of his diehard supporters are people who literally believe that he is the only person standing between them and a satanic pedophile cabal that’s secretly running the world (a cabal which now apparently includes Mike Pence). And we’re supposed to be surprised that thousands of these supporters who had been tweeting all day about ‘revolution’ would storm the Capitol?”
“They were robbed,” Nolte fired back, moments later adding: “And [Trump] believes he was robbed and so do about 60 million Americans, and when you change the rules of the election in the middle of the game and attack those who question that as racists and conspiracy theorists—AFTER legitimizing political violence all year, you get what you got [at the Capitol].”
“They were not robbed,” Martel responded. “Trump lost the election.”
She continued: “He ran an awful campaign! Its all sore loser victimhood stuff. I thought we conservatives hated that.”