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?
Donald Trump's volunteer gag order extends far beyond campaign secrets: https://t.co/SLIqZNuo46
— Layer 8 (@dotlayer8) March 15, 2016
This morning I thought the story was pretty much over.
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