Conservative news heavyweight Matt Drudge took a brutal swipe at former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday over Bannon’s support for far-right Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is now embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal.
In a tweet, Drudge linked to a Daily Beast story that said Bannon recently had second thoughts about supporting Moore. “A lesson on leaving politics to the professionals,” Drudge wrote.
On the Drudge Report, the highly-trafficked website that Drudge operates, the banner headline read, “BANNON TURNS ON JUDGE WHORE?”
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CNN that, in the face of the growing scandal surrounding Moore, Bannon had asked confidants about whether he should continue supporting the embattled candidate. But Bannon ultimately decided to continue backing Moore, the person said.
The split between Drudge and Bannon is emblematic of a larger trend in right-wing media. Since the Washington Post first reported that Moore had pursued teenagers as a man in his 30s, media personalities on the right have been torn on how to respond. Breitbart has been unapologetic in its coverage, deploying staffers to Alabama who have sought to discredit the Post’s reporting. Many others have also sought to cast doubt on the allegations. But the Drudge Report and more traditional conservative news websites have been far more critical.
Bannon did not respond to a request for comment, but staffers at Breitbart, where Bannon is now executive chairman, were seemingly taken aback by Drudge’s jab.
“Wow,” wrote Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering, linking to Drudge’s tweet in an internal Slack message obtained by CNN. “Is that accurate?”
“FACTUALLY INACCURATE,” replied Matthew Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington editor. “FAKE NEWS. MATT DRUDGE IS PEDDLING FAKE NEWS.”
Amanda House, Breitbart’s deputy politics editor, wrote in Slack that it would be Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow’s decision ‘on how we want to cover/if we want to cover.”
“This is fake news,” Boyle replied. “Not true. Bannon is not turning on judge moore. Bullshit.”
Raheem Kassam, Breitbart London editor-in-chief, responded to Drudge in what he later told CNN was a “tongue in cheek” tweet, writing, “Professional politicians huh? Did Drudge vote for Hillary!?”
A spokesperson for Breitbart did not respond to a comment from CNN. Neither did Spiering, Boyle, House or Marlow.
Prior to President Trump’s campaign, Drudge and Breitbart were, editorially, a mirror image of each other, almost always framing stories in the same light and rarely taking contradictory stances. Andrew Breitbart, who founded Breitbart, previously worked for Drudge.
But Drudge — an ally of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who was regularly at odds with Bannon when the two men worked together — has for months now spearheaded a negative campaign against Bannon and much of Bannon’s agenda.
While Bannon was in the White House, Drudge regularly linked to articles critical of Bannon and posted unflattering photos of him. After Bannon left the White House, there appeared to be a brief period of peace between the two men. That has seemingly disintegrated.