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Reports: Breitbart News seeks to stop ex-employee criticism

Reports: Breitbart News seeks to stop ex-employee criticism

Invoking non-disparagement clauses and sending cease-and-desist letters.

In assessing why the Michelle Fields – Corey Lewandowski dispute had such media legs, I previously assessed that there was a great dislike of Breitbart News among other media types and bloggers in part because of its treatment of employees, The Michelle Fields controversy is only barely about Michelle Fields:

Breitbart News has a reputation for having particularly sharp elbows as to employees. And many of us know those employees and former employees and have heard stories. That doesn’t mean Breitbart News does anything it’s not legally entitled to do, but, for example, people being locked into strict contracts seems pretty rough in a business where people float around a lot for relatively little pay. The Dana Loesch lawsuit created a lot of ill will among conservative bloggers.

Non-disparagement clauses — in which parties agree not to criticize each other — long have been rumored to be part of Breitbart News employee contracts.

Indeed, there was a suggestion in the Breitbart News post about Ben Shapiro — which was taken down with an apology — that there might be legal action based on contractual provisions:

Shapiro, a Harvard lawyer and member of the State Bar of California, apparently violated virtually every clause in his employment contract during an appearance on The Kelly File last Thursday evening.

Now Politico reports that unnamed former employees have been getting cease and desist letters:

Breitbart is getting litigious.

The company sent out cease and desist letters to some of the employees who left the company in the past week, multiple sources with knowledge of the letters told POLITICO. Six staffers resigned in the past few days, citing the aftermath of how the site handled one of its reporters, Michelle Fields, accusing Donald Trump’s campaign manager of strong-arming her as she tried to ask the candidate’s attention.

Several of the now former employees issued scathing statements about the company as part of their resignations, and some have given interviews on television and in major newspapers.

There was no listing in the Politico account who got letters, but it’s not hard to imagine in includes both Fields and Shapiro, who were on TV again last night:

As well as two reporters who resigned yesterday as well, quite publicly and critically.

Former Public Relations consultant Kurt Bardella also wrote a scathing column at CNN, Why I quit over Breitbart and the Trump campaign

As published by Breitbart News, political editor Matthew Boyle exchanged a few text messages with Lewandowski in the immediate aftermath of the Fields incident where Boyle himself reveals a bias toward the Trump campaign, writing, “K I wanna make sure that this doesn’t turn into a big story. It sounds to me like it was a misunderstanding.”

That is the lens with which Breitbart has viewed this incident from the very beginning, and underscores the inherent doubt it had for Fields’ account. It clearly very much wanted Lewandowski to be exonerated and for Fields to be guilty of making up some perverse hoax….

As the story unfolded, Breitbart became obsessed with uncovering any type of “evidence” that could disprove Fields’ account, or at the very least, create a certain amount of reasonable doubt….

I think it’s worth sharing that there is a number of people at Breitbart News who vehemently disagree with the direction the company has taken. Unfortunately, not all its employees have the luxury or financial flexibility to simply walk away. People have families and obligations of which they need to be mindful. In many ways, most of the people there are trapped.

The Daily Caller names names:

Breitbart News execs have shot out cease and desist letters to three employees who recently resigned from the publication, The Mirror has learned.

The shut-up letters have been sent to Michelle Fields — who was allegedly assaulted by GOP frontrunner Donald Trump‘s resident bad boy Corey Lewandowksi — editor-at-large Ben Shapiro, and publicist Kurt Bardella.

I guess I need to research the enforceability of non-disparagement clauses. Not that they apply to me or other media, just to help fill in where this is likely to go.

You know who else likes non-disparagement clauses?

This morning I thought the story was pretty much over.

Apparently not.


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Sammy Finkelman | March 15, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Non-disparagement might be tied to severance pay.

First of all Congratulations on 18000 posts to the Prof. and the Staff of LI.

This has been coming since Andrew’s death, within weeks after Andrew died you could see a massive shift in the Breitbart sites, from the way they handled comments to the massive increase in advertising. That was bad enough, but this incident has shown that for some reason the people that Andrew left in charge have turned out to be nothing more than petty tyrants.

What surprised me the most was the attitude of Joel Pollak and the spiteful, mean, and underhanded “accidental” post. I mean he is supposed to be their “In house counsel” and should have known that even writing that letter was a stupid thing to do.

If nothing else this incident has convinced me that at least Pollak and Bannon need to resign, especially Pollak after that letter went public. I would love to see Shapiro’s counter suit based on that little letter.

What I can tell you is that from what I knew of Andrew he would be very disappointed in how his legacy has been handled.

    Breitbart has been my main go-to for this entire election cycle, but they have really discredited themselves. And I in no way support Fields or that whole fraud. One thing I do like is I never see the ads there. Not sure why you do 😉 I’d far rather pay a little fee than see anyone’s ads. I find the LI ads to actually be rather gross.

As a former newspaper guy (Thank the Lord I was delivered from that profession in 2006), when you inject yourself into the story, you have failed as a journalist. I have yet to see any evidence that elevated this incident to assault or anything that isn’t considered part of the job. There are hazards involved in getting caught in a scrum around any famous person, whether politician, movie star or sports hero. My opinion is Fields is looking for free publicity for her upcoming book. When you throw in a sketchy Washington Post reporter, the stench elevates to a three-day-old mackerel left in the August sun.

    janitor in reply to BigDaveLA. | March 15, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you. It’s been almost 40 years since I gave up journalism to become a lawyer, but I agree with every word you wrote.

    HarrietHT in reply to BigDaveLA. | March 15, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Though I’m not a journalist I do comment frequently over at Breitbart and somewhat less at gatewaypundit, using another nom de plume.
    My thoughts and comments mirrored yours almost exactly.
    Tempest in a teapot, mountain out of a molehill, and getting out of a too-hot kitchen were some of my remarks.
    And since Bretibart is now owned by Robert Mercer who has donated a cool $10 million to Sen. Cruz’s campaign, I smelled the aroma of rotting fish in the entire faux-“assault.” I could not believe the Fields woman claimed to have been “assaulted.” I also recommended she get a desk job, as little snowflakes should not expose themselves to the rough and tumble of on-the-scene news reporting.

    Mark in reply to BigDaveLA. | March 16, 2016 at 3:08 am

    And as a former campaign worker and party operative, the WORST a person should expect is a little gentle hand checking or guiding hand to a different direction. In any tavern in America any big dude grabbing a smaller woman so hard it leaves bruises is not only a shock, but likely to engender a pretty violent reaction.

    The story, made by the WP reporter, would not have been much of a story had CL merely acknowledged that he used to much force and apologized. However Trump. CL, and Breightbart have dug the hole and are now bitching about the fallout.

    peg_c in reply to BigDaveLA. | March 16, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Agree 100%.

Y’all realize this is only a story in the rightward blogosphere/ media echo-chamber, right?

To the rest of the world, if anyone even bothers with the details, it is: a guy on Trump’s team acted like a dick, and the person he acted like dick to went on to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Unfortunately, the anti-Trump punditry on the right thought this incident, instead of someone on Team Trump just being a dick, was a great example of how Trumps campaign is mean, and is the primary, or perhaps sole, catalyst for the increased hostility of this election cycle. The above narrative is being pushed primarily by the left to excuse the antisocial Bernie bullies on who think shutting down speech they disagree with is the only answer to speech that they disagree with. And now Team Ted has jumped on the bandwagon.

It is disappointing when Team Trump piggybacks on the HuffPo false narratives to try to weaken support for Cruz, and it is just as disappointing when Team Ted does it to Trump. For me its actually more disappointing when Team Ted does it, since I do not expect any less from Team Trump, who has been doing it from the start.

Both sides make it very hard to really give a f*ck about who gets the GOP nod.

It’s weird because the video evidence extant completely contradicts Fields’ account. Which means Breitbart has the facts on its side, yet has behaved so badly that they’ll be the ones with egg all over their faces. They all come out of this looking very bad, including Fields and Shapiro. This episode is unlikely to have occurred in a vacuum – the gas had to have been leaking for a while before this match got lit.

And I was such a fan of Andrew’s.

What’s weird to me is that the three videos I know of (two in particular) support Field’s account. One shows CL reaching for Fields, and another video shows her dipping as his arm seems to pull her back.

It’s also strange that you are ignoring the eye-witness testimony of Terris, the audio that clearly shows their shock and reaction moments afterward, and the photos of bruises.

And I find it equally odd that you miss who really should look bad: Trump who denied it happened and CL who denied he knew or touched her.

Most witnessed transgressions don’t have video supporting it. As such, there is more than enough evidence to any investigator.

    Estragon in reply to Mark. | March 16, 2016 at 4:32 am

    The little weasel CL admitted he did it to Boyle, told him he didn’t realize Fields was with Breitbart, as if he only regretted upsetting a friendly news outlet.

    It was only the next day he denied it. Probably Trump made the call, knowing the loathsome scum who support him would either swallow it whole or applaud the use of violence, being the animals they are.

    Daiwa in reply to Mark. | March 16, 2016 at 10:32 am

    “Dipping” (and you are correct, that slight dip is all the videos confirm) is not the same in my mind as being “nearly thrown to the floor”. And the look on her face immediately after the “dip” betrayed nothing – certainly not shock or even surprise, certainly not pain, certainly not “OMG, I’ve just been assaulted”. And I wasn’t “avoiding” anything, Mark – my comments had to do with & the turmoil therein. I happen to agree that CL & Trump look equally bad, maybe more so, but that simply wasn’t the subject of my comments.

    Daiwa in reply to Mark. | March 16, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    And for the record, I do not support Trump. If I was forced to vote today, I’d vote for Cruz. If Trump ends up as the Repub nominee, I might have to hold my nose again, just like the last two presidential elections, Hillary being evil incarnate.

By the way, you ought to read the link to the article on the volunteer “contract”. It’s a contract for LIFE to never speak ill of Trump, his business, his products etc. AND to never work for someone else, even on a volunteer basis.

Figures – this is the guy the GOP is about to nominate. in reply to Mark. | March 16, 2016 at 5:10 am

    If what you say is true, it is reminiscent of the kind of lifetime contract Scientology members who work for the organization sign.

The sort of low trash that supports Trump doesn’t care if he mocks the disabled, screws his business partners, wives, and customers, why would they care about mistreating a reporter asking an inconvenient question? They are the dregs.

Screw ’em all. The real donors will stop writing checks, let’s see how the detritus of humanity do on their own. I want no part of any party that celebrates this filth.

    I am the sort of low trash that supports Trump. I am an attorney, and a member of Mensa.

    However, better “low trash” than the “high class” sorts who think it simply declasse’ to get po’ed when ones job is either transported to Mexican workers in Mexico, or those self same Mexican workers illegally jump the Rio Grand and come here. | March 16, 2016 at 5:26 am

I write about cars and a few years ago at the media preview for the Detroit auto show, then Sec’y of Transportation Ray LaHood was there on the taxpayers’ dime to get his photo taken with auto executives.

After one of those photo-ops, I think it was with Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat Chrysler, as LaHood was off to another opportunity to promote himself, one of his security guys dipped his shoulder into my chest, pushing me out of his way, even though I wasn’t obstructing LaHood at all.

I’ve been in plenty of scrums around people more important than the head of the DOT, like presidents, and I know how to act around security, including the Secret Service. This was highly unusual, so I wrote about it, Make Way For The King’s Man.

A number of readers said I was whining, so I understand some of the criticism directed at Michelle Fields, but I was complaining because it was such an abnormal situation. From the contemporaneous audio recording, it’s clear that Fields and Ben Terris thought their situation was unusual as well.

Meanwhile, supporters of Trump skip right past the possibility Fields and Terris were mistaken and have gone right to accusing them of a conspiracy.

Even without the videos (which to me are evidence that Lewandowski did indeed grab her), based on the audio tape, Terris’ eyewitness account, and her bruises most prosecutors could get a conviction.

kenoshamarge | March 16, 2016 at 8:40 am

I always look to see how those that dismiss a story would look at the same story if it wasn’t the candidate they support.

Suppose the candidate was then candidate Barack Obama and the alleged miscreant was Campaign Manager David Axelrod. Wonder how many of the now Trump supporters would be calling Michelle Fields a whiner and a “snowflake”.

holdingmynose | March 16, 2016 at 9:02 am

Kudo’s on 18,000 posts!

This whole Fields thing stinks to high heaven. Criminy, there is a durn video which shows nothing happened. At worst it was an accidental bump, which is a defense to an assault charge. I dared to ask, what if Michelle Fields had lived 324 years ago in Salem???

I do these cartoons, and tweet, because that is the new battlefield in Politics.

    So Fields is accusing Trump’s campaign manager of being a witch? Is this the kind of insightful analysis that gets you accepted in Mensa, or the kind of critical thinking it takes to pass the bar in your state?

    Usually, it’s the candidate’s wife that handles the bimbo eruptions. Are you bucking for that position, or is Trump already married again for the moment? How does one keep up?

    Anyway, congrats on identifying the twitting thing and comics as the “new battleground” of politics. At least it gets you away from the hoi polloi.