Breitbart's Fight to Prove It's a Legitimate News Outlet

The right-wing news site has applied for congressional press credentials, but faces questions about its ownership and links between its editors and other organizations.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

This post was updated on March 28, 2017 at 3:54 p.m.

Breitbart News’s quest to obtain permanent congressional press credentials is forcing the secretive company to disclose more information about its operations, staff, and its links to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The U.S. Senate Daily Press Gallery’s standing committee of correspondents is so far still refusing to grant a permanent press pass to the outlet, which was led by Bannon as executive chairman until he went on leave to join the Trump campaign in August. That’s been a sticking point for the committee, which has sought more information about Bannon’s involvement with the site. The committee is seeking clarification from Breitbart about issues related to its office space and the level of involvement of the Mercer family, the powerful Republican donors who have invested in Breitbart.

The committee met on Monday and considered a letter it had received that it had requested after a meeting last month attended by Breitbart CEO Larry Solov in which Solov had stated that Bannon had resigned from Breitbart in a phone call.

Solov’s letter to the committee, dated March 23, asserts that Bannon resigned from Breitbart News “on or about” November 13, 2016—five days after the election.

“Bannon has no editorial, executive, financial or other role or interest in BNN,” Solov writes in his letter.

At the last meeting in February, Solov disclosed Breitbart’s ownership structure publicly for the first time. “I want to disclose as little as possible about our financial structure,” Solov said, according to minutes of the meeting.

But he acknowledged then that the owners of Breitbart are himself, Andrew Breitbart’s widow Susie, and the Mercer family.

At the committee’s request, Solov also included the company’s masthead in his March 23 letter, which includes three names which are connected to Mercer-linked entities. Managing editor Wynton Hall and Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer are both tied to the Government Accountability Institute. Schweizer is its president, and the group reportedly paid Bannon $376,000 over the course of four years while he also ran Breitbart. The committee is also concerned about London editor Raheem Kassam having been involved with Glittering Steel LLC, a production company owned by the Mercers.

In a phone call, Kassam said he had never had anything to do with GAI or with Glittering Steel and said the committee had confused him with Hall.

Press gallery rules bar reporters from being involved with any lobbying or paid advocacy for individuals, corporations, government entities or political organizations.

The committee also wants Breitbart to clarify its office situation in Washington. For years, the company has operated here out of the “Breitbart embassy,” a rowhouse on Capitol Hill owned by an Egyptian politician named Moustafa el-Gindy. USA Today reported last week that Breitbart is planning to move out of the embassy and into office space in downtown Washington; the embassy is not zoned to be an office.

Breitbart is being asked to clarify these issues to the committee by April 14, and the next committee meeting is scheduled for April 25. It has been given a two-month extension on its temporary congressional press pass, giving it until May 31.

Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow did not respond to a request for comment.