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? 

How Does The Factual Rate News Sources? 

The Factual analyzes more than 10,000 news stories every day to help readers find the most informative, least-biased articles. Our news-rating algorithm scores each article along four metrics: (1) cited sources and quotes, (2) publication history, (3) writing tone, and (4) author expertise. These scores combine in a weighted average we call a Factual Grade, which ranges from 0–100%. (See our How It Works page to learn more about our algorithm.)

For this study, we analyzed ~1,000 articles each from 240 news sources. The average Factual Grade for the entire dataset was 62.5%. Based on these averages, we can compare the performance of news sites across the media ecosystem. The entire dataset can be explored in greater detail here.

How Factual Is Breitbart? 

Breitbart scored an average Factual Grade of 53.8%, placing it in the 15th 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. Likewise, 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? 

One of the metrics The Factual uses is the Writing Tone, which measures how opinionated the writing is in an article. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns and unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. More neutral text receives higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

Breitbart had an average Writing Tone score of 0.65, placing it in the 59th percentile in our dataset. This shows that articles from Breitbart are fairly neutral in their tone, suggesting that they tend to use more unbiased language on average. This can be seen in article titles such as “South Korea Logs World’s Lowest Fertility Rate” and “Beto O’Rourke Refuses to Support Limits on Abortion.”

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.

This article was updated on September 15, 2022 to reflect new data.

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.