O'Rourke campaign ejects Breitbart reporter from speech

DAVID BAUDER
FILE - In this July 24, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, speaks during a candidates forum at the 110th NAACP National Convention in Detroit. As the U.S. economy flashes recession warning signs, Democratic presidential candidates are leveling pre-emptive blame on President Donald Trump. They argue that his aggressive and unpredictable tariff policies are to blame for gloomy economic forecasts. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

NEW YORK (AP) — Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign said Wednesday that it ejected a Breitbart News reporter from an event at a South Carolina college because it wanted to ensure that students felt "comfortable and safe."

The Texas Democrat's campaign found itself in a public confrontation with the aggressive conservative web site a day after its senior editor-at-large, Joel Pollak, said he was booted from an O'Rourke speech. He said the campaign told him was being ejected because he'd been disruptive at past events.

O'Rourke spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier said that Breitbart walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech. The campaign asked him to leave because of Pollak's "previous hateful reporting" and the sensitivity of the topics being discussed with black students at Benedict College.

"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," Cavalier said in a statement.

Cavalier did not immediately outline what work from Pollak the campaign had found objectionable or whether this was a one-time action that would apply to Breitbart personnel in the future.

During a question-and-answer session with the press earlier this week, Pollak accused O'Rourke of misquoting remarks made by Trump following the Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstration by white supremacists.

The dust-up gave a shot of attention to Breitbart, which has plummeted in readership and influence from its apex, when former editor Stephen Bannon was a top aide to President Donald Trump.

Saying that Breitbart or Pollak, an Orthodox Jew who is married to a black woman, are racist is absurd, said Elizabeth Moore, spokeswoman for Breitbart News.

"The irony of Mr. O'Rourke, who has stated that he is the beneficiary of 'white privilege,' purporting to decide for black students who should be banned from events that are open to the press, or what they should feel, is not lost on us," Moore said.