Breitbart editor planned secret anti-Trump campaign to take down reporter

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

After former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields turned against the right-wing news site in May, the site’s Washington Political Editor Matt Boyle had an idea.

Breitbart has been a major booster of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the media company’s chairman, Steve Bannon, became the chief executive of Trump’s campaign on Wednesday. Since Bannon joined Trump’s team, it has been rumored Boyle might follow him to the campaign.

However, Boyle was apparently willing to work with progressive activists to insult Trump if it might cost Fields her new job at the left-leaning Huffington Post, which hired her to cover Trump.

Yahoo News has obtained a copy of an email Boyle sent to a progressive activist on May 26, four days after Fields announced her new position with the Huffington Post. It was apparently meant to be an open letter from progressives to the Huffington Post complaining that Fields wouldn’t be aggressive enough against Trump.

The plan apparently didn’t work out because the letter was never published and Fields remains at the Huffington Post.
Fields infamously left Breitbart after she accused Trump’s then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, of assault at a campaign event in March. Following the incident, Breitbart published pieces that questioned her story and Fields subsequently resigned.

Boyle’s message contained an open letter attacking Fields that he hoped the activist would encourage other progressives and union groups to sign. According to the source who provided the letter to Yahoo News, Boyle claimed he personally wrote the letter. Boyle’s letter described Trump and his policies as “dangerous” and implied that, as a conservative who “considered supporting and voting for Donald Trump,” Fields was not up to the task of covering his campaign and should be removed from her job by the Huffington Post.

Boyle clearly hoped the letter would not be linked to him. The subject line on his email to the progressive activist was written in all capital letters, “OFF RECORD — YOU DID NOT GET FROM ME.” Boyle’s message, which was sent from his personal Google email account, contained nothing other than the letter, which was titled, “An Open Letter To The Huffington Post From The Progressive Community.” Before criticizing Fields, Boyle’s letter cast Trump as a serious threat to the country.

“Donald Trump is a force to be reckoned with. He breezed through the Republican Primary to become that party’s presumptive presidential nominee by name-calling and insult-hurling, while putting forth a policy agenda we consider to be dangerous. His immigration plan would see millions of undocumented workers deported, families torn apart, and he literally campaigned on a plan to ban an entire religion from coming to the United States. He did so with minimal vetting, including of his personal finances. He continues to refuse to release his tax returns,” Boyle’s letter said.

When told about the letter Thursday, Boyle laughed and referred Yahoo News to a Breitbart spokesperson. When pressed about the email, which came from his personal account, Boyle maintained it was a matter for the company’s spokesperson, Alexandra Preate.

“I use my personal email a lot,” Boyle said, later adding, “We’re doing this with any story.”

Preate declined to offer an immediate response and said she would respond later on.

Journalist Michelle Fields at the Glamour and Facebook brunch to discuss sexism in April. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Glamour)
Journalist Michelle Fields at the Glamour and Facebook brunch to discuss sexism in April. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Glamour)

Boyle’s letter is remarkable because of his willingness to work with progressives and attack Trump, who enjoyed a warm and close relationship with Breitbart even before the site’s chairman, Steve Bannon, took the top job on his campaign. Throughout the Republican primary Breitbart wrote favorably about Trump while attacking his rivals. Trump also granted the site multiple interviews.

According to the Daily Beast, earlier this year Boyle boasted that he would be named press secretary in a hypothetical Trump administration. After Bannon’s move to the Trump campaign was announced on Wednesday, it was rumored Boyle would be joining the team as well. Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow has denied Boyle will go to the campaign. In February, Trump, who has been interviewed by Boyle, singled him out as a “very good reporter” at a South Carolina press conference. Breitbart wrote a piece highlighting Trump’s praise that credited Boyle with “managing Breitbart’s reporting team and political content.”

The anti-Trump sentiments in Boyle’s letter stand in stark contrast to Breitbart’s coverage of the candidate.

“Do you really think Michelle Fields will do serious investigative reporting on Donald Trump’s tax returns? What about on his decades of dealings with mafia mobsters or on his scores of bad real estate deals?” Boyle’s letter said. “Do you think Ms. Fields can handle aggressive investigations into Trump University or reporting on Donald Trump’s demagoguery of women, immigrants, Muslims and African Americans. Stop kidding yourselves. The world is laughing at you.”

Fields resigned from Breitbart in March after she accused Lewandowski of roughly grabbing her arm and pulling her toward the ground at a campaign event at Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Fla., on March 8. Fields said she was left with multiple bruises after the incident. Three days later, on March 11, Breitbart editor at large Joel Pollak published a piece on the site in which he disputed Fields’ account and suggested footage of the incident showed “the person who made contact with Fields was likely not Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.”

Fields announced her resignation from Breitbart on March 14. “I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways,” Fields said. After she left Breitbart, the site published multiple articles that criticized her.

Yahoo News reached out to Fields, who is currently vacationing and she declined to offer immediate comment on this story. The Trump campaign also declined to comment.

Stephen Bannon (Photo: Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)
Stephen Bannon (Photo: Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Though Lewandowski was charged with simple battery, the Palm Beach County state attorney ultimately declined to prosecute the case. Lewandowski left Trump’s campaign in June. The Huffington Post, which for many months covered Trump in its entertainment section rather than on its news pages and continues to publish an editor’s note on stories about him that call the GOP nominee, among other things, a “serial liar” and “racist,” announced Fields’ hiring in May.

The open letter Boyle hoped progressives would send referred to the incident between Fields and Lewandowski as “entertaining” as it urged the Huffington Post to “change course” in its decision to hire Fields. Boyle’s letter also repeatedly praised the Huffington Post for regularly “trolling” Trump.

“Given the severity of the situation, which we have been pleased that until now you took seriously, we were disappointed to see your hiring of Michelle Fields as a Trump campaign reporter,” the Boyle letter said. “While Ms. Fields’ interaction with the Trump campaign was certainly entertaining, and we appreciated all the good laughs we had as Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski struggled through a media and legal minefield on this matter, we feel as though it is your responsibility as the leading progressive news source in the world to step up your game in vetting Trump.”

Read Boyle’s full letter below.

From: Matthew Boyle
Date: Thursday, May 26, 2016
Subject: OFF RECORD — YOU DID NOT GET FROM ME

An Open Letter To The Huffington Post From The Progressive Community

Dear Huffington Post Editors,

We, the undersigned progressive community activists, write this open letter to you with the hopes that you will change course in your editorial decision making to take the threats that lay ahead much more seriously.

Donald Trump is a force to be reckoned with. He breezed through the Republican Primary to become that party’s presumptive presidential nominee by name-calling and insult-hurling, while putting forth a policy agenda we consider to be dangerous. His immigration plan would see millions of undocumented workers deported, families torn apart, and he literally campaigned on a plan to ban an entire religion from coming to the United States. He did so with minimal vetting, including of his personal finances. He continues to refuse to release his tax returns.

Given the severity of the situation, which we have been pleased that until now you took seriously, we were disappointed to see your hiring of Michelle Fields as a Trump campaign reporter. While Ms. Fields’ interaction with the Trump campaign was certainly entertaining, and we appreciated all the good laughs we had as Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski struggled through a media and legal minefield on this matter, we feel as though it is your responsibility as the leading progressive news source in the world to step up your game in vetting Trump.

Fields leading your Trump coverage is a joke, clearly intended to troll the Republicans and their new standard-bearer. But this election is no laughing matter. Trump is but a couple months away from literally taking over the entire GOP as he is nominated officially in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention—and then this election will turn into a high-gear campaign season. We believe it is imperative that, as the leading progressive news outlet with impeccable credibility, that the Huffington Post up its game. You need to take this seriously, and stop treating Trump as an entertainment joke that you are trolling.

Do you really think Michelle Fields will do serious investigative reporting on Donald Trump’s tax returns? What about on his decades of dealings with mafia mobsters or on his scores of bad real estate deals? Do you think Ms. Fields can handle aggressive investigations into Trump University or reporting on Donald Trump’s demagoguery of women, immigrants, Muslims and African Americans?

Stop kidding yourselves. The world is laughing at you. Fields even said in interviews that before her incident with Lewandowski she considered supporting and voting for Donald Trump. Is that someone who can handle this serious position in a serious way? We think not.

While we laud your efforts to troll Trump, we think the time for games is over. Please, Huffington Post editors, you are one of our last shots. We need you to start dealing with these threats in a more effective manner. Step up to the plate, and do the right thing: Start actually reporting on Trump, rather than trolling him.

Sincerely,

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