The powerful consumer bloc that was built from people with far-right political views has been suffering from some infighting for months now. Recently, there was another crack in this culturally-impactful group. Once again, Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon has publicly denounced a person his publication once praised. In this case, Bannon has distanced himself from Paul Nehlen, the activist who had designs on Paul Ryan’s Congressional seat. In the past, Breitbart has offered very favorable coverage of Nehlen, who most people don’t give much of a chance of besting the sitting House Speaker. Speaking to the media, as reported by CNN, a Bannon advisor said, “Nehlen is dead to us.”
The question, for many, is why? The distancing is likely a response to recent rhetoric from Nehlen, with especially inflammatory content being pushed out on twitter. He had repeatedly flirted with anti-immigrant and anti-semitic views, according to CNN. As the responses stacked up, the tweets continued, with Nehlen seemingly reveling in the attention he was generating.
That response led some to ask Breitbart what their publication thought of the man they had somewhat recently supported. The positive coverage from Breitbart started when the site’s correspondent, Matthew Boyle, was covering House Speaker Paul Ryan on the campaign trail. His stories about Ryan were overtly negative, almost taunting and baiting the Congressman. However, the coverage of Nehlen was generally positive. Later, Bannon and Nehlen both spoke at a rally for former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
However, as Nehlen’s star faded, and his tweets grew more incendiary. Then, the final straw. Bannon heard that Nehlen was a guest on a white nationalist podcast. That was it, as far as Bannon was concerned. Nehlen’s author page was scrubbed, and a senior editor at Breitbart publicly spoke out against him. In a tweet, the editor said Nehlen, “disqualified himself” from Breitbart’s support. So, is this yet another sign that some on the right are souring on “vocal outsider” candidates who tend to get a lot of attention by saying inflammatory things? Not entirely. Both fringes of the political spectrum tend to flirt with candidates and personalities who say things just to get a rise out of people.
Because that tactic tends to work, it will likely continue. However, there will be some moderating going forward. As long as the candidate or spokesperson is popular, they can almost say what they like … but, cross a line, right or left, and find yourself cut off.
Where is that line? That’s a question many are still asking.