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The LAPD opens an inquiry into job posting on right-wing Breitbart website

LAPD Chief Michel Moore
Chief Michel Moore, pictured earlier this year, said Saturday on Twitter that the LAPD did not purchase ad space from Breitbart.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Police Department has opened an inquiry after a recruitment ad went up on the right-wing website Breitbart, saying such a job listing would conflict with the department’s “core values.”

After being peppered with questions on social media, Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday on Twitter that the LAPD did not purchase ad space from the site and was trying to determine whether the posting was meant to “discredit” the department. The LAPD’s official Twitter account said in a separate set of messages that the department was looking for ways to ensure that the situation didn’t happen again.

“We are aware that a recruitment advertisement has been circulated on a website that creates a negative juxtaposition to our core values,” department officials said in a separate Twitter message.

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Critics have repeatedly accused Breitbart of running racist and sexist content over the last decade, pointing to articles with such headlines as “The Smartest People in the World Are All Men,” “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “Data: Young Muslims Are a Ticking Time Bomb in the West.”

Asked about the LAPD tweets, Breitbart spokeswoman Elizabeth Moore issued a statement saying the company was “one of the most pro-police, pro-law-enforcement news organizations in America.”

“We have been cited by the New York Times Magazine as having one of the most diverse news rooms in the nation, with a history of promoting women and minorities into leadership positions. We also know we have strong readership among the rank-and-file in the LAPD,” the spokeswoman said.

Hours after the police chief raised concerns about the job listing — which says “Choose your future! LAPD is hiring!” — officials with the city’s personnel department issued their own statement saying their recruitment ad had wound up on “sites that do not reflect the city’s values.”

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In an interview, personnel department spokesman Bruce Whidden confirmed that his agency purchases job ads through Google on behalf of the LAPD and other city departments. The department is now reexamining its ad filters, he said.

“We have suspended all Google ad placements while we review and make sure that they are going to the places we want them to go to,” Whidden said Saturday. “We had no intention of having an ad placed on that site.”

City officials made their remarks a day after Noah Shachtman, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast, used his Twitter account to ask why LAPD recruitment ads were appearing on Breitbart, which has seen a number of advertisers flee the site in recent years.

Companies that purchase online advertising typically rely on Google, Facebook or other third parties and frequently don’t know where their messages are appearing, said Matt Rivitz, founder of Sleeping Giants, a volunteer-driven campaign aimed at targeting racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry in the media — and a frequent Breitbart antagonist.

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If those companies don’t want their ads on a website, they need to actively opt out, said Rivitz, who works professionally as an advertising copy writer.

Sleeping Giants, which has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, has waged a concentrated messaging campaign against Breitbart, regularly asking advertisers on the site whether they want their products to be associated with the site’s articles.

According to Politico, the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke ejected a Breitbart News reporter from a campaign event last month, saying the website “walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech.” The campaign also said Breitbart used to have a section devoted to “black crime.”

Breitbart objected to those statements, telling Politico: “The false accusation that Breitbart is racist, or that its award winning reporter — an Orthodox Jew, married to a black woman who serves in the military — is either racist or would make anyone at a black university uncomfortable is absurd.”

Rivitz, the founder of Sleeping Giants, said he would be surprised if LAPD brass knew its ad had been running on Breitbart. If L.A. drops Breitbart as a venue for its advertising, it would join 4,300 other companies, nonprofit groups and others that have publicly pulled their advertising from the site, he said.

“It means that advertisers are starting to take more control over where they show up online,” Rivitz said.

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The people posting on the LAPD’s official Twitter account said they had not figured out whether the job posting was connected to the department.

“We take matters like this very seriously, and have begun an initial inquiry into the matter and to determine its validity, as well as what future steps can and will be taken to avoid this situation occurring in the future,” the department said in a Twitter post.


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