Just last year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called Breitbart News — the cartoonishly racist conservative news site that birthed Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Ben Shapiro — "not a credible source." In February 2016, Rubio told Fox News that Breitbart is a website that peddles "conspiracies." (For once, he wasn't lying.) Breitbart responded by bashing Rubio throughout the 2016 election cycle.
But yesterday Rubio caved and shamelessly published an op-ed about tax cuts on the website, right alongside all of that xenophobic, factually baseless garbage the site spews daily.
If a politician wants to reach a huge number of people, Breitbart sure does provide a large reach. (The site constantly brags about how big its Facebook audience is — its current banner photo screams to readers that 45 million people visit the website each month.) But writing for Breitbart means siding with the most reactionary and hate-filled wing of the GOP electorate and lending your name to a website that
Rubio apparently used to know this: As the Week first noted, he went on Fox to rebut a Breitbart story that claimed he spurned immigration officials when drafting a undocumented-immigrant amnesty plan in 2013. Rubio said he doesn't "even talk about the things they report because they're basically conspiracies and
Rubio's campaign didn't respond to an email from New Times to talk about why his opinions about the site changed. But he used his op-ed yesterday to launch a discussion about "tax reform" (read: tax cuts), sending a signal that the GOP is likely moving away from health-care legislation and onto changing the tax code.
The actual policy Rubio is proposing — raising the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,500 per kid and applying it to both income and payroll taxes — is fairly innocuous. Granted, an extra few thousand dollars is just a Band-Aid for the poor and won't radically transform life for the middle class in the same way, say, single-payer health care or a federal minimum-wage increase would. But Rubio is at least proposing something that isn't just "slashing taxes on rich people" and even went as far as to propose raising taxes on wealthy Americans to offset the cost.
The plan would, most worrying, cut billions from the federal tax rolls — Rubio proposed a similar plan in the past, which would have cut an estimated $60 billion from government coffers. In his piece yesterday, the senator proposed eliminating unnamed "loopholes" that benefit the affluent and "special interests" in order to make up any lost revenue. (For what it's worth, Hillary Clinton also proposed a nearly identical plan during the 2016 presidential campaign.)
But the fact that he's proposing the plan through Breitbart suggests Florida's junior senator might be embracing the same alt-right reactionary forces he has largely shied away from. Rubio couched the plan in the sorts of weird, paternalistic odes to "family" common to GOP proposals, because workers apparently don't deserve to "afford" things unless they're raising wonderful, flag-waving babies.
"Families are how values are passed on from generation to generation," Rubio wrote. "We simply cannot have a strong nation without strong families."
But the discourse on Breitbart is something no lawmaker should tolerate. Here's a sample of the offensive nonsense Rubio let his name appear next to yesterday.
Let's group the articles into two camps: outright lies and bald-faced racism.
First, here come the lies:
1. "Sen. Claire McCaskill Open to a $32 Trillion ‘Medicare for All’ Single-Payer Health-Care Scheme."
In this piece, Breitbart warns that single-payer health care will cost taxpayers $32 trillion over ten years. That's likely true. But what the site fails to mention is that under the nation's current system, citizens are expected to spend $49 trillion over the same time period. That's $17 trillion in savings.
2. This completely bullshit meme:
The Dow is a largely meaningless smattering of random companies that provide no real measure
3. "ICE Arrests 650 Obama-Era Border Crossers"
The actual data that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released doesn't explain how any of the people arrested actually arrived in the country. Many could have overstayed visas, and
And second, the outright racism:
1. "Wisconsin County Fair Bans Confederate Flag After ‘Someone Got Their Feelings Hurt’"
2. "Police Make Arrest in 2003 Case of Grooming Gang Victim Believed Ground Up and Sold as Kebab Meat"
Funny enough, for years this case has captivated neo-Nazi websites such as stomfront.com because the perpetrators were allegedly a group of nonwhite sexual predators, which is a running theme at Breitbart. There's never been any actual evidence that 11-year-old Charlene Downes was ground into kebab meat — the statement came from a witness recording that reporters watching the case assume
3. "DREAMer Accused of Raping Woman in Sanctuary City"
It's awful that this woman was raped. But there's absolutely no reason that the DREAM Act or the suspect's immigration status had anything to do with this crime — immigrants aren't any more predisposed to committing rape than anyone else. Regardless of the suspect's immigration status, he'll be tried and, if convicted, sent to prison just like anyone else who rapes. This story isn't indicative of anything except for the fact that one person was arrested for a terrible crime, but Breitbart would like you to think this justifies kicking immigrants out of the country.
4. "African Migrant Stabs Bus Driver in the Chest, Attacks Police"
The same criticisms can be applied to this story. Again, there's no reason whatsoever to bring up the fact that this person is an "African migrant" unless you want to kick "African migrants" out of the country and blame them for violence. Breitbart has never met a crime committed by a person of color it didn't love.
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5. And, finally, this out-and-out endorsement of white supremacy:
So, what does being "German" in this instance mean except for being white? Preserving "white culture" or "Western culture" is the most tired, obvious neo-Nazi trope, and here's Breitbart endorsing it openly. You'll never guess who's blamed for destroying "German" culture! Never mind — if you guessed "Muslims," you win
Reading Breitbart for more than 12 minutes is a great way to simulate the feeling of suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Rubio could have published his op-ed almost anywhere — any publication, from the New York Times to the Hill to the Miami Herald would have run 800 dry words about tax cuts. Rubio instead chose a site that caters to white nationalists.