Northam Yearbook Photo Was Unearthed by Outlet Associated With White Nationalists

Big League Politics was founded by ex-Breitbart staffers who thought the site was too mainstream.

A screenshot of the Big League Politics site.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

The yearbook photo that could bring down the Democratic governor of Virginia was first posted online by young web outlet best known for defending white nationalists.

Big League Politics was founded in 2017 by a group of former Breitbart News staffers, who decided that the nationalist media outlet previously run by Steve Bannon had gotten too mainstream. BLP started as the media arm of a pro-Trump, “populist nationalist” political action committee, which bills itself as the “attack dogs” for the American First Agenda. The site is now owned by North Carolina political consultant Reilly O’Neal, who worked for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate whose run was derailed by child molestation charges, and Corey Stewart, a Republican from Virginia popular with white supremacists for his support of Confederate monuments. Last year, Stewart unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and the site covered his race extensively.

The man who first posted the Northam yearbook photo is BLP editor-in-chief Patrick Howley, a former reporter and provocateur for Breitbart and Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller. Howley has made news in the past, but for more ignoble reasons. In 2014, he and Carlson were forced to apologize to reporter Rosie Gray, then at BuzzFeed, after Howley tweeted a pair of gross, sexist comments about her. Breitbart also suspended Howley in 2016 after he publicly questioned whether one of his co-workers had lied when she said she’d been manhandled by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a press event. 

Under Howley’s leadership, BLP has published stories attacking anti-fascist activists and trying to downplay the role of neo-Nazi violence in the death of Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. It went so far as to falsely blame an anti-racism activist and professor from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for her death. The site also wrote favorably about the white nationalist Paul Nehlen, who unsuccessfully challenged former House Speaker Paul Ryan in his GOP primary in 2018. The Daily Beast reported that Nehlen was a client of the site owner’s fundraising firm. 

Howley has tried to fashion BLP into an investigative reporting outfit, and the Northam yearbook photo would certainly qualify as a big scoop. But Fox News contributor Dan Bongino said the photo had been kicking around in conservative circles for months before Howley finally posted it Friday, after Northam came under heavy fire from conservatives for his comments supporting a bill in the legislature that would have loosened restrictions on late-term abortions in the state.

Bongino tweeted Friday that he’d been sent a copy of the photo in October 2018 but couldn’t independently verify that Northam was one of the men in the photo. 

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.