One of the co-founders of right-wing opinion and news website Rebel Media says he’s quitting the organization.
Well known conservative commentator Brian Lilley made the decision in the wake of racist violence in Charlottesville Va., and growing criticism of Rebel Media for its association with the so-called “alt-right.”
Lilley, who spent years with the Sun News network before it folded and currently hosts a talk radio show on CFRA in Ottawa, joined guest host Drex on The Jon McComb Show to explain his decision.
Lilley said he originally helped start Rebel Media after Sun News went under because he felt there was a need for a conservative voice in Canadian media.
“Like us or not at Sun News, there was an audience, there was a place for it, and it was presenting news and opinion from a mainstream conservative point of view,” he said.
But his decision to pull the plug came after watching Rebel move further and further away from its original mission in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, Lilley said.
He likened the evolution to starting a high school garage band with friends.
“You start a band with your buddies, you just want to play rock and roll and punk, you want to play three chords and the truth. Well I’ve still got my guitar, I’m still playing three chords and the truth but they’ve decided they want to go start a polka band. And I’m not interested in playing polka.”
Lilley said he doesn’t have a problem with Trump supporters in general, but has grown concerned watching Rebel’s tone and focus change after the president’s rise to power.
“I really hope they right their ship, because right now it’s not a ship that I want to be on,” Lilley said.
In the wake of the Charlottesville violence Rebel’s other co-founder and self-styled “Commander” Ezra Levant published a piece rejecting the alt-right, and rejecting the allegations he is a neo-Nazi or racist.
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Lilley said he takes Levant at his word about not being a racist, and said he believes other key commentators on the site aren’t bigots either.
“I don’t think Faith Goldy is, although she was making very strange comments on the weekend,” Lilley said.
Goldy had a front seat to the tragedy and was live streaming just mere meters from where a car, driven by James Alex Fields Jr., slammed into a crowd of protesters killing one and injuring 19 others.
In a video posted to Twitter after the incident, Goldy condemned the killing and denied being a white supremacist or neo-Nazi, but said she believes the west is currently undergoing a “rising in white racial consciousness.”
“I don’t think these guys are racist, but I think there’s… ahh, it’s getting too close for these guys,” said Lilley.
“I get activist journalism, but activist journalism for someone like Richard Spencer, to me, is simply denouncing the guy because he’s a Nazi.”
Lilley’s departure comes as a number of prominent conservatives publicly cut ties with the organization.
Alberta United Conservative leadership hopeful Doug Schweitzer publicly rejected the organization on Monday, saying Rebel had offered “soft support to the white nationalists.”
On Tuesday, veteran conservative commentator Barbara Kay also cut ties with the site over “contributors whose message and tactics have tarnished the Rebel brand.”
“There’s been too many games of footsie, too much getting close to these things,” said Lilley.
“[Nazism is] a vile ideology. Don’t flirt with it, don’t flirt with people that believe it. Denounce it. And if that loses you fans, well guess what, you don’t want Nazis as your followers anyway.”
Lilley said he’s been getting a range of responses from people about the exit, with many people lauding the decision – while others criticize him for either taking too long, or claiming they don’t believe him.
But he said a long career in media has taught him to have a thick skin.