O'Rourke campaign defends ejection of Breitbart reporter

O'Rourke campaign defends ejection of Breitbart reporter
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Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Booker hits Buttigieg over gun buyback comment: NRA doesn't 'need our help' White House condemns violent video MORE's presidential campaign removed a Breitbart News reporter from a campaign event in South Carolina on Tuesday, saying that while it believed in the right to a free press, it was drawing the line with the right-wing outlet.

“Beto for America believes in the right to a free press and works hard to ensure the campaign reflects that,” O’Rourke’s national press secretary, Aleigha Cavalier, said in a statement.

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“However, 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,” she added.

Breitbart News reporter Joel Pollak wrote a story on Tuesday about being rejected from a campaign speech by O'Rourke in Columbia, S.C., on Tuesday.

He said he had covered O'Rourke's events without incident previously and that he did not initially realize there was going to be an issue.

"A staff member in a Beto O’Rourke t-shirt approached this reporter and asked what outlet I represented," Pollak wrote. "Upon reading the press credential on my chest, he put a hand on my shoulder and said, cheerfully, 'Oh, hey. All right.'"

"A few minutes later, before the event began, a campus police officer approached this reporter and motioned for me to accompany him to the back of the room, adding that I should bring any property I had with me," Pollak wrote. "In the hallway outside, he informed me that I was to leave.

"A different member of the O’Rourke campaign staff, who said his name was 'Steven' and would not give a last name, said that I was being ejected because I had been 'disruptive' at past events," Pollak added.

Cavalier said Pollak was removed due to his previous reporting and because O'Rourke was going to be talking about race at Benedict College, a historically black institution. 

“Given this particular Breitbart employee’s previous hateful reporting and the sensitivity of the topics being discussed with students at an HBCU, a campaign staffer made the call to ask him to leave to ensure that the students attending the event felt comfortable and safe while sharing their experiences as young people of color,” Cavalier said.

Pollak said he has covered two of O'Rourke's presidential campaign events in the past two months without "any disruption whatsoever."
 
In a statement, a spokesperson for Breitbart pushed back on the O'Rourke campaign's characterization of the online publication.

"The false accusation that Breitbart is racist, or that its award winning reporter - an Orthodox Jew, married to a black woman who serves in the military - is either racist or would make anyone at a black university uncomfortable is absurd," the spokesperson told The Hill.

"The irony of Mr. O'Rourke - who has stated himself 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," the spokesperson added.

“[Trump] said specifically that he was condemning [white supremacists],” Pollack said to Biden. 

“No, he did not,” Biden replied. “He walked out and he said — let’s get this straight — he said there were ‘very fine people’ in both groups. They were chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying flags.”
 
Trump supporters have argued that the president's remark was taken out of context and that he was not specifically characterizing white nationalists as “very fine people.”  
 
Updated 7:05 p.m.