Beto O’Rourke boots Breitbart News writer Joel Pollak out of event
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s staff had a Breitbart News writer removed from an event in South Carolina on Tuesday.
Breitbart’s Joel Pollak first wrote that a security officer escorted him out of the event and a staffer in a campaign T-shirt “said that I was being ejected because I had been ‘disruptive’ at past events.”
O’Rourke’s campaign confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that staffers made the decision to ask Pollak to leave due to his “previous hateful reporting and the sensitivity of the topics being discussed.”
Breitbart is a right-wing news and commentary site that covers news events often with a conservative slant. It has been widely criticized as a platform for hate speech, one reason campaign spokesperson Aleigha Cavalier said Pollak was asked to leave.
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“Beto for America believes in the right to a free press and works hard to ensure the campaign reflects that,” Cavalier said. “However, whether it’s dedicating an entire section of their website to ‘black crime,’ inferring that immigrants are terrorists, or using derogatory terms to refer to LGBTQ people, Breitbart News walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech.”
O’Rourke spoke Tuesday at the historically black Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Cavalier said that the campaign staffer’s decision was in order to “ensure that the students attending the event felt comfortable and safe while sharing their experiences as young people of color.”
O’Rourke has tweeted in the past that the press is “critical to effective government for the people.”
Pollak says he has been present at two previous O’Rourke events and he denies disruptive behavior. He said his only direct interaction with O’Rourke was at a press gathering during which Pollak asked a question.
The Breitbart report had people who work in the media industry divided on Twitter. Some remarked that it is always wrong for a campaign to restrict a news outlet from attending an event, while others said Breitbart is not a legitimate news site.