On Friday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press briefing with a handpicked group of reporters. All three major networks — NBC, ABC, and CBS, which was serving as the pool outlet for the day — were invited, along with Fox News. But several major news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and Buzzfeed, were kept out. Right-wing publications like the Washington Times and conspiracy sites like Breitbart were included. The Associated Press and Time Magazine reportedly boycotted the gaggle in response.
Shame on reporters who didn't walk out of the White House briefing denied to their CNN, NYT etc colleagues.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) February 24, 2017
The White House hasn’t been shy about their disdain for the press. Trump himself continues to attack the media for exposing the disfunction, ineptitude, and criminality of his administration, labeling well-sourced and thoroughly reported stories as fake news. Instead of answering questions, he and Press Secretary Sean Spicer have sought refuge in the warm embrace of sites like Breitbart, the online clearinghouse for conservative conspiracy theories and Donald Trump fanfiction.
Less than two miles away, as Spicer was barring the press from covering a press event, Breitbart co-founder and CEO Larry Solov was appearing before the standing committee of the U.S. Senate Press Gallery to try and secure Congressional press credentials for his website. As part of the hearing, the committee asked Solov about the site’s ownership, and after initially resisting their request for disclosure, revealed that in addition to himself and Susie Bean Breitbart — the widow of site co-founder and namesake Andrew Breitbart — the Mercer family are co-owners of the site.
Buzzfeed’s Steven Perlberg was one of a handful of journalists in attendance, and reported on the hearing.
The Mercer family is one of the largest donors to conservative causes and candidates, and the single largest contributors to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund billionaire who serves as co-CEO of Long Island-based Renaissance Technologies, reportedly invested $10 million into Breitbart in 2011, back when it still considered itself a news organization. But the Mercer’s stake in the company wasn’t fully disclosed at the time, and still remains a partial secret: Solov wouldn’t say how the ownership structure breaks down, except that Susie Bean Breitbart is the largest shareholder.
At this point, Trump’s White House is best characterized by its chumminess: He was elected thanks in large part to the millions donated by the Mercers, who are also co-owners of Breitbart, whose former chairman Steve Bannon is now chief strategist for Donald Trump, who appointed Rebekah Mercer to his transition team.