Breitbart editor accuses BBC of 'defaming' Steve Bannon in heated exchange on Donald Trump's strategist

‘Your statement is libellous and defamatory,’ Joel Pollak tells Radio 4 presenter

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The Independent Online

Breitbart’s senior editor-at-large has accused the BBC of “defaming” its chairman after he was controversially made a senior adviser to Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders and Democrats in the House of Representatives have called on the President-elect to rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist over allegations his right-wing website spreads “racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia”.

Joel Pollak, the senior editor-at-large of Breitbart, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to respond to the accusations on Thursday morning but the interview quickly descended into a heated row.

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(Reuters)

“He doesn’t like Jews, does he,” was the opener from presenter Justin Webb, who cited claims made in court by Mr Bannon’s ex-wife, who quoted her former husband, making several derogatory comments.

“That’s 100 per cent false, 100 per cent false. I’m surprised you’d repeat a line like that on air,” said Mr Pollak, pointing out that he was himself an Orthodox Jew.

“You’ve made an inflammatory accusation…your statement is libellous and defamatory,” he added, saying that of five years working with Mr Bannon he had never witnessed him insult any religious group and found him “sensitive” to Jewish concerns.

Mr Webb moved on to cite a line in a recent Breitbart article accusing a Washington Post columnist for a “Kremlin-style disinformation offensive” against populist groups.

“Hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American, elitist scorned,” he said, quoting the piece. “What’s the purpose of the word ‘Jewish’ in that sentence?”

Mr Pollak accused the presenter of “cherry-picking” and making accusations of anti-Semitism, asking: “Have you got anything else? Have you got anything else?”

Steve Bannon calls liberal women ‘a bunch of dykes’

When asked what the purpose of using the word Jewish, the editor responded: “What’s the purpose of lying about somebody on the airwaves in Britain? 

“You want to scare British people away from the incoming Trump administration by inventing innuendo and accusation?

“I don’t know if this is the standard of journalism in Britain but I did expect better.”

Mr Pollak went on to deny that Mr Bannon had an angry temperament and championed Breitbart’s fight against the left-wing, Republican establishment and “lies that are perpetrated by the media”.

His comments echoed those by Mr Trump in his campaign, which saw him regularly accuse the “mainstream media” of bias and deliberate lies to undermine him, launching fresh attacks on the “dishonest” New York Times on Wednesday.

The President-elect has singled out a range of media outlets in his vitriolic tweets, but Breitbart is not among them.

The website has been a staunch supporter of his candidacy, with Mr Bannon credited as a key figure in his unexpectedly victorious campaign.

A letter carrying the signatures of 169 out of the 188 Democrats in the House of Representatives said his appointment undermines Mr Trump’s ability to unite the country. 

“Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump administration and your appointment of Mr Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns,” the letter reads. 

Mr Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary, also urged the President-elect to rethink his decision to have a hero of American far-right extremists as his chief White House strategist.

“The appointment by President-elect Trump of a racist individual like Mr Bannon to a position of authority is totally unacceptable,” the Vermont senator said in a statement.

“This country, since its inception, has struggled to overcome discrimination of all forms: racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. We are not going backwards.”

As the row continued on Thursday morning, Breitbart’s main story – penned by Mr Pollak – hit out at “sore losers” for the criticism, with other articles condemning an alleged “media smear campaign” against Mr Bannon.

Elsewhere on the website, it was business as usual. “Muslim migrants secretly hate Christians, seek to outbreed them,” read another front page headline, as others dismissed asylum seekers as “African migrants” and cast doubt on hate crimes reported following the election.

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