Joel Pollak

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Joel Pollak
Joel Pollak.jpg
Born Joel Barry Pollak
(1977-04-25) 25 April 1977 (age 41)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Residence Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality American
South African
Citizenship American
Education Social Studies and Environmental Science & Public Policy (AB)
Jewish Studies (M.A.)
Law (JD)
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Cape Town
Occupation Attorney, journalist, writer
Employer Breitbart News
Organization Breitbart News
Hudson Institute
Known for Nominee for Representative for Illinois's 9th congressional district
Political party Republican
Movement Conservatism
right wing politics
Spouse(s) Julia Inge Bertelsmann
Children 1

Joel Barry Pollak (born 25 April 1977) is a South African-American conservative political commentator, writer, and attorney. He currently serves as the senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News.[1][2] In 2010 he was the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress from Illinois's 9th congressional district, losing decisively to incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky with 31% of the vote.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Pollak was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa. His parents moved to the United States in 1977 and became United States citizens in 1987.[4] He grew up in the Chicago suburbs, principally in Skokie. He attended Solomon Schechter Day School and Niles North High School,[5] where he was the class valedictorian in 1995.[6] Pollak attended Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude in 1999 with a joint degree in Social Studies and Environmental Science & Public Policy (ESPP).[6] He earned a master's degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Cape Town in 2006. From 2002 to 2006 he was chief speechwriter for Tony Leon, leader of the Democratic Alliance, and is a family friend of Leon's successor Helen Zille.[7] He then enrolled at Harvard Law School. He married Julia Inge Pollak (née Bertelsmann) in December 2009.[8] They have a daughter named Maya (b. 1 February 2012).

Pollak was politically liberal in his early life, being active in groups "which were the forebears of today's ANTIFA or Occupy movement."[9] His political views began to shift toward the right after several experiences as a student in South Africa which he described as waking him up "from a left-wing worldview."[9]


Public office[edit]

In 2010 Pollak was the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress from Illinois's 9th congressional district, challenging incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky, whom he had voted for while still a Democrat (prior to 2006).[5]

He lost, garnering 31.1% of the votes to Schakowsy's 66.3%.

Pollak was endorsed by the Chicago Tea Party and refers to himself as a Tea Party Republican.[10]

Breitbart News[edit]

After losing the election, Pollak was asked by Andrew Breitbart to become in-house counsel at his websites, and Pollak moved to California. He later became editor-in-chief of the website.[2][11]

After Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields alleged she was attacked by Donald Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, leaked internal memos showed that Pollak ordered staffers to stop defending Fields.[12][13]

Pollak also posted a lengthy article to the website questioning Fields's account of the incident.[13] Fields and fellow editor Ben Shapiro resigned over the incident, and questioned the site's support of Trump.[13]


Pollak's first book,[14] The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in the New South Africa (Double Storey, 2009), is based on his master’s thesis and uses debates involving the Jewish community, particularly Ronnie Kasrils, as a window onto minority politics in general in post-apartheid South Africa. His second book,[15] Don't Tell Me Words Don't Matter: How Rhetoric Won the 2008 Presidential Election (HC Press, 2009) is self-published and describes the role played by speeches in Barack Obama's victory over John McCain. Pollak's third book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths The Left Can't Handle,[16] was released in 2016. He coauthored How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution with Larry Schweikart in 2017.[17]

Pollak has written numerous op-eds and articles. While in law school, he wrote for the Harvard Law Record and alleged on his blog that Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat faked his blood donation for the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.[18]


  1. ^ Byers, Dylan (17 October 2013). "Breitbart News shakes up masthead". Politico. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Felsenthal, Carol (1 March 2012). Andrew Breitbart's Right-Hand Man: Skokie-Bred Joel Pollak, Chicago
  3. ^ "Joel Pollak, Republican Candidate for Congress, 9th District of Illinois". Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  4. ^ Zippor, Amihai (27 June 2010). "Republican Challenger, Joel Pollak Inspired by Jewish Values". Retrieved 19 August 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Felsenthal, Carol (12 April 2010). "So What's a Nice Jewish Boy from Skokie Doing with Tea Partiers?". Chicago magazine. 
  6. ^ a b "Joel Pollak, About". Archived from the original on 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2010-06-18. [self-published source]
  7. ^ Andersen, Nic (8 February 2017). "Joel Pollak: A closer look at Trump's potential US ambassador to SA". The South African. Retrieved 19 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Alumnae News: Wedding: Julia Bertelsmann & Joel Pollak". St. Cyprian's School. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Zippor, Amihai (22 December 2017). "How an Orthodox Journalist went from Far-Left Activist to Breitbart Editor". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  10. ^ Pollak, Joel B. (10 June 2010). "Why I'm Running as a Tea Party Republican". The Wall Street Journal. 
  11. ^ Felsenthal, Carol (30 September 2011). Joel Pollak on Anthony Weiner, Andrew Breitbart, and Why Sarah Palin Could Be the First Jewish President, Chicago
  12. ^ "Breitbart Editor Ordered Staffers To Stop Defending Michelle Fields". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2016-03-14. 
  13. ^ a b c Kaplan, Sarah (14 March 2016). "Reporter who says she was manhandled by Trump campaign manager resigns from Breitbart". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-03-14. 
  14. ^ Pollak, Joel B. (2009). The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa. [Cape Town]: Double Storey. ISBN 978-1919895079. 
  15. ^ "Don't Tell Me Words Don't Matter Official Site". Archived from the original on 22 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  16. ^ Pollak, Joel B. (2016). See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths The Left Can't Handle. 
  17. ^ Pollak, Joel B.; Schweikart, Larry (2017). How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution. 
  18. ^ "Guide to the Perplexed". 17 January 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 

External links[edit]