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In what the right-leaning website called evidence that “the Deep State teams with Fake News,” Breitbart News reported Tuesday that a New York Times reporter sought to get insider accounts of enhanced secrecy at the EPA.
Matthew Boyle, Breibart’s Washington political editor, obtained a copy of an email sent by a union leader. The email, which included the text of what the Times reporter had sent the union boss, was distributed to a group of EPA employees who were told that the Times reporter “needs our assistance in verifying some information she has heard.”
Much of the media industry snarked Breitbart’s story by suggesting that the Times was caught red-handed trying to do actual reporting. But, more ominous and troubling — particularly for the Times — was Breitbart’s decision to make visible the names of the EPA employees who received the forwarded email from the union leader (though their email addresses were redacted).
These employees may now face consequences for being seen as potential leakers. And, by outing these government employees, the Breitbart story could serve to chill other would-be leakers at other government agencies.
“Stories like this can have a chilling effect on precisely the type of investigative journalism that holds government power to account,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha told The Hollywood Reporter when asked about the impact of the piece.
Breitbart, and Boyle particular, are seen as being supportive of the administration, which much of right-leaning media feels is unfairly under attack by the mainstream media. In this particular case, the story published Tuesday could serve to tamp down potential leaks that could end up in the Times and be injurious to the president.
Kurt Bardella, who used to work as Breibart’s spokesperson, said the story — particularly the decision to disclose the names of would-be EPA sources — is in line with the site’s role as something of an attack dog for the administration.
“There is no question that Boyle & Breitbart published the story with the intent of attracting as much scrutiny as possible on these EPA staffers,” Bardella told THR. “It’s essentially a road map for the leak investigators inside the Trump administration to follow directly to these staffers. As is standard operating procedure, Breitbart is doing the White House’s dirty work, showcasing once again that there is zero line of separation between Breitbart and the Trump White House.”
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