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Why Trump brought a news executive into his fold

The Republican candidate has waged fierce battles with the press. Now, he’s bringing on board a media executive.

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    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with reporters before the start of a town hall event in Columbus, Ohio on Aug. 1.
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In Donald Trump’s simpler days, when he was no more than the scion of a New York real estate developer aspiring to outdo his father, Mr. Trump liked the attention of the tabloids, and he would reputedly foster coverage of himself in bizarre ways – calling in false tips about himself to columnists, and posing as his own spokesman.

Since his entry into the presidential race, with all of the skeptical coverage it invites, the candidate has grown increasingly hostile to most press outlets, accusing them of glossing over the missteps of his Democratic competitor Hillary Clinton and bearing down unfairly on him. Lately, with his poll numbers sagging and news media casting his presidential hopes in a fading light, Trump has been doubling down.

In a speech last Friday during a campaign rally in Erie, Penn., he pointed out journalists covering the event. "These people are the lowest form of life, I'm telling you," he said, according to The New York Times. "They are the lowest form of humanity."

But perhaps – in Trump's eyes – not all members of the fourth estate are created equal.

On Wednesday, Trump named Stephen Bannon, chairman of Breitbart News, as his new campaign chief, reported The Christian Science Monitor. The ascent of Mr. Bannon, a former investment banker and Hollywood producer with no experience in directing political campaigns, seems to signal a full embrace of Trump's uncompromising, amateurist approach to winning the candidacy.

But it also brings into the fold an executive from a news site that has offered consistently favorable coverage to the candidate, serving as a go-to media source for the far-right fringe among whom Trump's campaign has whipped up unprecedented support. And it may indicate a desire to pull strings with a media establishment that the candidate sees as hopelessly arrayed against him.

This election season, the site has tweaked Republican establishment figures like Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin and fulminated against Mrs. Clinton, while acting as a reliable booster of Trump.

In The Washington Post, former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro lamented the direction the site had taken under Bannon since the death of founder Andrew Breitbart, who saw it partly as a means of combating what he saw as an unholy alliance between media and the Democratic Party.

"Breitbart News has become everything Andrew hated: a party organ; a pathetic cog in the Trump-Media Complex and a gathering place for white nationalists," wrote Mr. Shapiro.

Bannon's influence in media extends beyond the far-right fringe, though. As writer Joshua Green noted in a 2015 Bloomberg profile, the executive is also the chairman at the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit that has produced enormously influential indictments of money's role in politics, including two books focusing on the Bush and Clinton families.

Staffed with lawyers, forensic investigators, and data scientists, the GAI performs many of the same functions as an investigative newsroom, and disseminates its work through mainstream outlets. As Mr. Green wrote in 2015, it might represent "the secret to how conservatives can hack the mainstream media."

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