Thursday 17 November 2016

Justin Webb v Joel Pollak

For fans of transcriptions (and for Samira Ahmed), here's the transcript of this mornings 7.10 Today interview between Justin Webb and Breitbart's Joel Pollak:

Justin Webb: What's Steve Bannon like? What kind of a man is he?

Joel Pollak: He's a tough-minded, disciplined, very focused manager. He's very open to debate but that debate has to be on a basis of facts and data. And he encourages diverse voices. He recruited people from a variety of backgrounds to work at Breitbart and has taken Breitbart overseas to Breitbart London with our own Raheem Kassam - who you, I'm sure, know from there and who's been very effective in coverage Brexit and other developments in Europe. 

Justin Webb: He doesn’t like Jews, does he?

Joel Pollak: That’s 100% false, I mean, absolutely false. I’m surprised you would repeat a lie like that...on...on your air...

Justin Webb (interrupting): Well hang on a second, hang on a second...erm, his ex-wife is quoted as saying, in a court document as saying, “He doesn’t like Jews”. He told her, “He doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be whiny brats. He doesn’t want his girls going to school with Jews”?

Joel Pollak: Are you divorced?

Justin Webb: No.

Joel Pollak: Have you known anyone to go through a divorce?

Justin Webb: So you’re suggesting it was because she...didn’t like him?

Joel Pollak (after a pause): I think that’s a fair assumption. I think...

Justin Webb: No, okay.

Joel Pollak: ...also that I’ve...I’ve worked with him. I’m an Orthodox Jew. I observe the Sabbath. I eat kosher food. I have time off for all the Jewish holidays...I’ve worked with Steve Bannon...

Justin Webb (interrupting): Tell...

Joel Pollak: Hold on a second! You’ve made an inflammatory accusation. I hope you’ll allow me to respond. I’ve worked with Steve Bannon in close quarters for five years. Steve Bannon not only has never said anything against Jews or any other person, but has in fact been overly sensitive toward concerns…

Justin Webb: Hmm.

Joel Pollak: ...affecting Jewish communities around the world. So...

Justin Webb: Okay.

Joel Pollak: fact your statement is actually libellous and defamatory.

Justin Webb: I hear what you say about that...erm...Let me put to you another sentence, a sentence that was in a Breitbart report recently about the newspaper columnist, who's well know in Britain, Anne Applebaum: "Hell hath no fury like a Polish Jewish American scorned". What's the purpose of the word 'Jewish' in there?

Joel Pollak: I don't know. You should ask the Jewish author of that sentence *.

Justin Webb: But...erm...what do you think it was?

Joel Pollak: I have no idea. You should ask the Jewish author and you should ask the Muslim editor who edited that piece. 

Justin Webb: But can you not see that....?

Joel Pollak (interrupting): I mean, what's the implication?

Justin Webb: Well, I take it...

Joel Pollak (interrupting): So identifying someone as 'Polish' and 'American' is not prejudicial but 'Jewish' is? I mean, the point is you're cherry-picking sentence, written by the way by a Jewish author, in case I haven't said it enough, and you're accusing that Jewish author of antisemitism. I mean, you're going to have to go some way towards substantiating that claim a little bit more effectively.

Justin Webb: No, I'm not, I'm not accusing you of antisemitism, I'm just saying it's a strange sentence to...I mean, that word 'Jewish' doesn't seem to... 
Joel Pollak (interrupting): You are, you are in fact accusing us of antisemitism because that's the implication of your question, just like you said Steve Bannon doesn't like Jews. 

Justin Webb: Yeah. I'm just wondering what the purpose...

Joel Pollak (interrupting): I mean, have you got anything else? Have you got anything else? 

Justin Webb: I'm just wondering what the purpose of the attribution of the word 'Jewish' is in that sentence.

Joel Pollak: Well, what's the purpose of lying about somebody on the airwaves in Britain? You want to scare British people away from the incoming Trump administration by inventing innuendo and accusations? I mean, I don't know if this is the standard of journalism in Britain. I did expect better.

Justin Webb: Let's turn to the wider point about him...erm, which is that he is an angry person, Steve Bannon, that the website is angry, and that that isn't necessary the right approach to bring into the White House, to bring into government? 

Joel Pollak: Well, I think the attitude of the website is to be happy warriors. I mean, Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the website, founded it to take on the mainstream media, to take on the institutional Left and to take on the Republican Party establishment. So there is, in a sense, a populist undercurrent in the website, but that's no angry. Andrew and Steve both emphasise enjoying what we do and, in fact, I've just returned from a demonstration in downtown Los Angeles - 500 people screaming their lungs out against Steve Bannon, based largely on false reports like the one we've narrowly avoided here, and, you know, was happy to do so. I mean, it's fun. You kind of leave with the sense of excitement because by recording what's going on you are in effect enabling ordinary people to fight back against some of the lies that are perpetrated by the media. So I don't feel a sense of anger. Sometimes there's a sense of frustration because you have to keep correcting the same things over and over again when you know they're false.

Justin Webb (interrupting): But do you don't think he has a sense of anger when...because he's obviously a driven guy, and the website has been successful, etc, etc, and is often humorous and plainly a lot of the headlines are humorous...but, on the other hand, when you think of immigrants' groups and others who feel themselves to be put under pressure by the website...I suppose the issue is whether or not you can take that to the White House and still govern for all Americans. 

Joel Pollak: Well, I'm an immigrant. I don't feel under pressure about the website. I mean, my family came here from South Africa, and the reason we came to the United States was because South Africa did not allow the rule of law. It was an unequal society, and we've come to the United States. And the problem we have in the United States is that there's a huge amount of illegal immigration. So, the proposal by the Left is merely to allow those people to stay without any sort of consequence. That to me is a violation of the rule of law and, in a sense, it defeats the point of emigrating. I think that people don't feel under pressure. There's a lot of immigrants who support Trump. Trump got more black votes, more Hispanic votes than Mitt Romney or John McCain. So, you know, I think people do feel represented by Donald Trump and I think he's done a lot...certainly a lot more than previous Republican candidates to reach out to minority groups. I saw him on the campaign trail speaking to a group of almost entirely white farmers in Iowa, talking about what he was going to do to help black people in the inner city. I mean, that's not something you ordinarily  ordinarily see from Democrats or anybody. So I think he's tried to be a president for all people. And whether he is or not will remain to be seen. We'll have to hold him accountable. But I think he's certainly tried, and I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt as we do try to give that benefit to every president.

[* The Jewish author of that Breitbart article was Matthew Tyrmand.]

P.S. Here's Guido Fawkes's take on the encounter:


  1. That was a master class in how all interviewees should stand up to dishonest or malicious interviewing. Mr Webb was made to sound very insignificant, foolish and insincere. We salute you Mr Pollack! :)

  2. Just wanted to echo David Jones earlier- thanks for transcribing this (and also for all the transcripts in previous posts). I think it's important to keep a record of these things, especially since the Today programme's public archive was discontinued.

  3. Based on his response to Samira Ahmed about this, it's obvious he thinks he had given Pollack enough rope to hang his website as anti-Semitic. He will feel he met the Paxman Gold Standard by repeating the same question over and over. Never mind that it was a fatuous, dishonest question. Webb's mind was closed, he didn't get the answer he wanted, and so kept at it without any cognizance whatsoever.

    A similar episode happened to R. Emmett Tyrell, editor of the American Spectator (not anywhere near the quality of the British original) last Friday. He was brought on to defend Trump, and some Nigerian writer by the name of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was brought on to attack him and half the US. To open the segment, Stage Performer Maitlis asked Tyrell the following question:

    "The first ever black president will be followed by a president who was endorsed by the KKK....Where does that leave you?"


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.