Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is now a regular columnist on the far-right news site run by President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist.
Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor who is running on a platform of combating illegal immigration, published his first article for Breitbart.com in June — a piece that tied refugees to terrorism.
He has published six more pieces since then and more are on the horizon. Kobach, who previously hosted a talk radio show in Kansas City, said Breitbart approached him about writing a regular column in June.
“I think Breitbart.com appeals to anyone who is Republican or conservative in any way,” Kobach said after disputing claims that the site caters to white nationalists. “It appeals to a broad spectrum of conservative readers.”
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Four of Kobach’s seven pieces published so far have focused on immigration policy, including his Wednesday column which was marked “Exclusive.” He called for Trump to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration policy that has allowed people who entered the country illegally as children to avoid deportation and obtain work permits.
“DACA is inconsistent with the rule of law, inconsistent with the president’s own promises, and inconsistent with the president’s principled stand against illegal immigration. It must end,” Kobach wrote in his column.
In another column, Kobach called for Congress to take action against sanctuary cities and lamented that GOP leaders in the Kansas Senate blocked his own sanctuary city bill from advancing at the state level.
“Unfortunately, many politicians don’t realize that it’s a matter of life and death,” Kobach wrote. “They seem unmotivated to act until someone else dies at the hands of an illegal alien in a sanctuary jurisdiction.
“The longer state legislators and U.S. Senators wait, the greater the likelihood that another preventable death will occur.”
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, served as the site’s executive chairman before taking on his campaign role in late 2016 and serving in the White House. The website announced Bannon’s return as executive chair after he was fired from his White House position in August.
Ben Shapiro, the site’s former editor-at-large, wrote in 2016 how under Bannon’s leadership the site embraced white nationalism despite its deceased founder Andrew Breitbart’s abhorrence of racism.
“Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with (Milo) Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers,” Shapiro wrote for the Daily Wire when Bannon was announced as Trump’s campaign CEO.
The Southern Poverty Law Center similarly described the website last year as “embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’ ”
Kobach rejected those descriptions of the site, which helped galvanize Trump’s base in the 2016 election.
“I find that criticism to be completely baseless and if Breitbart had any connection to white nationalism I would not write for the site. And the Southern Poverty Law Center regularly slanders organizations and individuals … and accuses them of having connections to white supremacy,” said Kobach, who has long faced accusations of extremism from the organization.
Kobach began writing his column before Bannon’s return to the site, but he confirmed that they’ve had conversations since then.
“I’ve gotten to know Steve very well long since before he returned to Breitbart. I have been advising the president and the White House since he (Trump) was a candidate, so I got to know Steve Bannon before President Trump took office,” Kobach said.
Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said Kobach likely is already the preferred candidate of Breitbart readers living in Kansas. Most of the voters who would be turned off by Kobach’s association with Breitbart would be unlikely to vote for him in the first place, Miller said.
He said that writing for a national website gives Kobach exposure to a national audience that will likely help with fundraising in the crowded governor’s race, which also includes Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and slew of other candidates from both parties. Breitbart had nearly 80 million page views in July, according to Similar Web, a site that tracks web traffic.
Each of Kobach’s columns has a footnote that mentions his campaign and includes the address for Kobach’s campaign website. It also touts Kobach’s role as vice chairman of Trump’s election commission.
“The link to the campaign site is more than just part of my bio. It reflects who I am,” Kobach said when asked about whether he expected this to boost his fundraising.
The footnote also calls Kobach an “expert in immigration law,” noting that he co-authored the Arizona law that requires law enforcement officers to determine a suspect’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion the person entered the country illegally. It also notes that as an attorney, Kobach represented Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who sued the Obama administration.
State Rep. Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat and one of only eight African Americans in the Kansas Legislature, said she was “surprised that someone who is running for governor would even be associated with a site like Breitbart.”
But a moment later she corrected herself that she was not surprised that this particular candidate would associate with the site, which she accused of promoting racism and sexism. In the past, Breitbart tagged stories as “black crime.”
“When we have Kobach, we know what we are getting for our buck,” Finney said, noting that he has championed voting restrictions that critics say have made it harder for minorities in Kansas to vote.
Kobach, who also is running a private-sector law firm on top of his duties as secretary of state and serving on a presidential commission, said he writes his columns in his spare time — usually after dinner — and they do not interfere with his official duties.
“I get paid for my columns … just like you’re paid,” Kobach said when asked about compensation without specifying the amount he receives per column.
Kobach repeatedly rebuffed his Democratic opponent’s calls to release his tax returns in the 2014 secretary of state’s race and disclose his income from sources outside his official duties.