“BLACK LIVES KILL.”
Those were the three words that blared across the Drudge Report early Friday morning after five Dallas police officers were killed in a horrific ambush attack.
And immediately upon seeing the race-baiting headline, conservatives rebelled against a once-reliable ally who has become more and more divisive to them over the course of the 2016 campaign.
“In moments like these, we should do the opposite of what Drudge is doing,” Commentary Magazine Editor Noah Rothman wrote on Twitter.
“Responsible reporting as always,” sarcastically tweeted Jeff Blehar, from the popular Ace of Spades blog.
Others piled on.
Allahpundit, an influential anonymous conservative blogger, skewered the site for a subsequent banner headline claiming a “black power group” had claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Dallas chief says suspect told them before he died that he wasn’t part of a group,” the blogger wrote.
And David French, the National Review writer who flirted with a third-party presidential run, went as far as to say that he had deleted the Drudge Report app from his phone.
I just deleted my Drudge app.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) July 8, 2016
The anti-Drudge sentiment had been simmering for months. But it seemed to finally come to a boil with the Drudge Report’s coverage of the Dallas attack.
Since its inception in 1996, the Drudge Report has been a home to conservatives who feel disenfranchised by traditional media. Drudge has marketed his website as a news destination not controlled by corporate interests or politicians.
But that’s a narrative that was heavily challenged during the 2016 Republican Primary, when it became clear the news aggregator was pushing a pro-Trump agenda.
Many conservatives who frequent the right-wing link aggregator had grown upset over how founder Matt Drudge had covered the 2016 election. The Drudge Report, they say, trashed true-bred conservatives like Ted Cruz in favour of promoting a squishy moderate in Donald Trump.
“I don’t know what the hell happened to Matt Drudge,” Glenn Beck, the prominent conservative talk-show host and founder of The Blaze, said in March.
The Drudge Report, operating from the same playbook as Trump, has used the racial tension in the country to generate page views, its critics say. And the website’s controversial three-word headline in the aftermath of the Dallas attack was the final straw.
“Matt Drudge, for whom my late friend Andrew Breitbart used to work closely and for whom I used to fill in on his old national radio show, is not a conservative,” conservative talk-radio host John Ziegler told Business Insider. “He is a brilliant businessman who doesn’t care at all about the conservative cause.”
Dear fellow conservatives!
The operator of the anti-Trump Stop Trump PAC, a Republican operative who asked not to be named to preserve his anonymity, told Business Insider he agreed with Ziegler’s analysis.
“It has nothing to do with conservatism. It has to do with ratings,” he said.
He added: “When it comes to Drudge, he has chosen to go down a path of racism. Embracing racism, inciting hate — all to gain followers. He doesn’t care about conservative principles or ideas. It’s all about ratings. It’s a ratings game.”
And Steve Deace, a popular Iowa radio host, slammed the Drudge Report as a “fraud.”
“Drudge isn’t a conservative. He’s a sensationalist. And right now, the sensation is white grievance politics/populism, so he’s parked there,” Deace told Business Insider. “Drudge, like too many other people in our industry, is a master at capitalising on being conservative media without actually demonstrating a shred of conservatism.”
Yet, despite a growing group of critics, Drudge still has fierce backers.
When asked to respond to the onslaught of attacks on his friend, Ann Coulter, the best-selling conservative author, replied in a Trump-esqe manner: “SAD!”
Matthew Boyle, Washington editor for Breitbart News, a website often linked to by Drudge, told Business Insider that the criticism stemmed from a “handful of losers.”
“Clearly, a handful of losers like David French have a problem with truth and accuracy,” he said. “The reason they don’t like Drudge is because Drudge gets it right.”
Boyle added: “He got it right in the Republican primaries, and he has it right in Dallas. Maybe David French’s time would be better spent floating an irrelevant potential presidential campaign again, while Drudge tells America what’s really going on.”
Others told Business Insider that the latest controversy surrounding Drudge was nothing unexpected.
“I think Drudge is just being Drudge,” radio host Erick Erickson said. “I think Drudge sensationalizes things, but he also knows what his readers want. I’m not one to call for a boycott of anyone, but I personally find I go to the site less and less this political season.”
Overall, the divide over the Drudge Report appears to reflect the current rift in the Republican Party caused by the bombastic Trump.
The website’s loudest supporters are largely backers of Trump, and the Manhattan billionaire has repeatedly lavished praise on it throughout the 2016 cycle. On the other side of the spectrum, members of the “Never Trump” movement have been the most critical, accusing Drudge of being a sellout.
Drudge, for his part, has appeared to bask in the limelight, seemingly enjoying the attention from both fans and critics. He did not respond to an emailed request for comment, but took to Twitter earlier this month to pen a short note to the “lovers and haters.”
The Internet-news mogul wrote: “Thank you for your continued readership! The lovers and the haters. Such extraordinary times. Thrilling, actually.”
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