SACRAMENTO -- The launch of a new political website in California, intended to highlight conservative success stories in the Golden State, quickly ran into trouble on Monday when controversial promotional images cost the organization one of its highest-profile contributors.
The images, including a Photoshopped depiction of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on all fours in a bikini with her tongue hanging out, prompted House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) to ask that his column be taken off the website.
“We didn’t condone them,” said Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, referring to the website’s pictures. “We thought it was the right thing to do to ask for the column to be removed.”
Another image on the website, called Breitbart California, superimposed Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg's face on a topless female body. The picture's tag line says the website will be "covering Cali-sized IQs & cup sizes." Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was shown with a body builder’s muscle-bound physique.
Breitbart California is a spinoff from the larger constellation of websites named for the late Andrew Breitbart, the popular conservative writer and provocateur who was born in Los Angeles.
"For years, California has been written off by conservatives as too far past the point of return, but the truth is every single day there are stories worth telling about the successes of the conservative movement in California and the failures of the left-wing establishment," said Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon in a statement.
Breitbart California generated its own controversy with the image of Pelosi (D-San Francisco), which the Democratic National Committee criticized as “demeaning and sexist.”
Jon Fleischman, a conservative blogger well-known in Sacramento circles who is the new website's politics editor, said critics "need to get over it."
"The folks at Breitbart have always been known as edgy," he said. "They made sure there was an element of that in the launch.”
Fleischman declined to answer questions about the removal of McCarthy’s column, and a spokesman for Breitbart, Kurt Bardella, referred inquiries to the congressman’s office.
Republican candidates for governor are using the website to publicize their platforms.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) wrote a column criticizing Democrats’ education policies, including a recent attempt in the Legislature to restore affirmative action to university admissions in California.
[Updated 9:58 p.m. Donnelly said Monday he had not seen the Pelosi image, but he was happy to have his column gain a wide audience.
"That was my goal," he said. "It isn’t my job to censor a news organization.”]
Former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari contributed a piece saying voters are seeking economic prosperity that can be delivered with Republican policies.
"Breitbart California’s launch can only help amplify the message and help us hold Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats accountable for their record of failed leadership," he wrote.
A spokeswoman for Kashkari had no comment.
Ron Nehring, former chairman of the state Republican Party and a candidate for lieutenant governor, wrote his own column about how conservatives need to go on the offensive in California.
Asked about the picture of Pelosi, Nehring said, “I have not seen the image in question. If it is in poor taste, it should of course be taken down.”
Other columns came from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a potential 2016 presidential contender.
Fleischman said he hopes the website can "change the narrative and change the debate" in California.
“There is more to America than ultra-liberal policies," he said. "But here in California, that’s what is dominating. Our goal is to show there are other ideas.”
Twitter: @chrismegerianCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times