Breitbart’s own biography describes maxims like the “free open exchange of ideas” and “unwavering commitment to America” as integral to its journalistic mission. Its monthly viewership of 23 million visitors is comparable to The Hill or twice the size of MSNBC’s audience. While Breitbart brags about its media presence across radio, web, and social media, its reporting leaves some readers wanting. Given the criticism of its 2016 news coverage and the subsequent cancellation by many major advertisers in 2017, The Factual asks: how biased and factual is Breitbart? 

What Is The Factual and How Does It Score Articles? 
The Factual identifies the most informative and least opinionated articles from thousands of sources across the political spectrum. It does this by using a consistent and transparent rating algorithm to evaluate articles based on their sources, writing tone, author expertise, and publishing site, ultimately producing a grade between 0 and 100 for each article. The Factual uses this data to explore trends across the media ecosystem as well as to inform our daily newsletter. To learn more about how we score articles, visit our How It Works page.

How Factual Is Breitbart? 

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, Breitbart scored an average Factual Grade of 54.3%. This is below the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed. This places Breitbart in the 17th percentile of our dataset.

These low scores are due to a number of factors. Partially they are explained by articles written by authors with lower topical expertise or sometimes no assigned author at all. In circumstances where there is no assigned author, The Factual is unable to confirm whether the author has any relevant experience with the topic. Additionally, articles tend to use few or low-quality sources, and many articles have no external links. This lack of verifiable evidence undermines article credibility.

Like any news source, scores for articles from Breitbart varied widely. For example, some scored above 70%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is Breitbart? 

The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first-person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

Breitbart had an average score of 0.69, placing it in the 71st percentile in our dataset. This shows that articles from Breitbart are actually fairly neutral in their tone, suggesting that they tend to use more unbiased language on average. The entire dataset scored an average Writing Tone of 0.56, so Breitbart’s writing tone scores are above average.

What Is Breitbart’s Political Bias?  

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification comes from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check. Based on this data, The Factual assigns Breitbart a Right bias.

MBFC ranks Breitbart as a “questionable” news source with a Right bias. This is based on failed fact-checks and the publishing of propaganda and conspiracies. This increased scrutiny came after Breitbart’s outsized and biased coverage of Trump during the 2016 election. Another example of bias includes an extensive series of stories that appeared to support “anti-muslim” sentiment

Likewise, AllSides assigns a “Right” bias rating to Breitbart. This is based on an editorial review, third-party analysis by Pew Research, and a blind survey. For example, an AllSides blind bias survey of 1,279 respondents found a significant majority of news content as biased to the right, with 62.4% of respondents stating a “Right” bias and 25.5% stating a “Lean Right” bias.

Who Owns Breitbart? 

Breitbart News LLC owns Breitbart. In 2016, Larry Solove (the current CEO) revealed there were four private owners of Breitbart news: himself, Andrew Breitbart’s widow, Susie Breitbart, and the Mercer family, with the Breitbart family as the largest stakeholder. The company is privately held, obscuring the ownership structure, though a 2017 piece by Vanity Fair describes how the Mercer family used $60 million dollars to fund the site. Numerous reports point to the precipitous drop in readership in 2017 as an indication of Breitbart’s failure, yet this contrasts with other evidence that the media company still is very popular among its readers and used by large advertisers like Amazon and Facebook.

The extent of the Mercer family’s influence in conservative media was revealed in a news report released in early 2021. It details a “dark money” network comprised of high-profile conservative media organizations that investigated or pushed claims of election fraud. Furthermore, the report shows the Mercer family donated $20 million in 2019. Rebekah Mercer is a partial owner and has a history of coordinating similar efforts. It has continued to publish stories sowing doubt about election integrity. 

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Why Does It Matter? 

News articles are bound to have a bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, from cited evidence to author expertise, to the writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Published by Zain Bali

Zain is a researcher, writer, and marketer at The Factual. He is interested in policy, mass media, and politics. Before joining The Factual, he earned a B.S. in public health from Ohio State University. He has worked as a social media manager for a healthcare advocacy group and food science researcher.