Profile on the Right: Steve Bannon

About Erin Kelly

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Steve Bannon at the Bloggers Briefing in October 2010. Photo: Don Irvine via Creative Commons.

Stephen Bannon is the former CEO of Brietbart News Network—which he promotes as “the platform for the Alt Right”1—and is now Donald Trump’s chief strategist and a key player on national security issues. Bannon has a history of antisemitism and has been called “one of the foremost peddlers of white supremacist themes and rhetoric.”2 He has expressed admiration for anti-Muslim hate groups, ridiculed the Black Lives Matter movement by remarking that “some people … are naturally aggressive and violent,” and likened civil rights advocacy to Communism.3

Bannon is a key player among a team of advisors who helped Trump develop an “action plan” for his first weeks in office, which included weakening Obamacare, putting a freeze on federal hiring, strengthening immigration enforcement, and preventing refugees and visa-holders from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.4 The ACLU has called Trump a “one-man constitutional crisis,” and said that his policy proposals—largely developed and backed by Bannon—“blatantly violate the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution.” Taken together, the policies enforced by Trump and Bannon violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.5

Under Bannon’s leadership, Brietbart News has promoted racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant ideals, and has published such articles as “The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage,” “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture,”6 and ”Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,”7 among others. When Bannon was named Trump’s chief strategist, former KKK leader David Duke called it an “excellent selection.”8

During his first week as president, Trump gave Bannon a full seat on the principals committee of the National Security Committee. Trump’s order places Bannon alongside secretaries of state and defense and downgrades the roles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence.9 Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Bannon’s appointment a “radical departure” and said Trump’s “reorganization” was concerning. CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto said it “raises questions about whose voices will be most prominent about key national-security decisions in the country.” 10

In addition to Bannon’s history of racism and xenophobia, he has—unsurprisingly—engaged in misogynistic rhetoric. With Bannon’s guidance, Brietbart News published such pieces as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women … They Just Suck at Interviews,” “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”11 In 1996, Bannon’s then-wife accused him of domestic violence. In a 2011 radio interview, Bannon likened the women’s movement to “a bunch of dykes,” and in 2015, Brietbart News compared Planned Parenthood to Hitler.12 He was caught on tape calling one of his female employees a “bimbo,” and saying he was going to give her a “reality check,” “kick her ass,” and “ram [her accusations] down her fucking throat.”13

In a 2014 speech to a Christian conservative group, Bannon criticized then praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the “Judeo-Christian West” should take cues from Putin, particularly on issues of nationalism. “Strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors,” Bannon said. These statements came after Bannon claimed the Alt Right is “the voice of the anti-abortion [and] traditional marriage movement [and] we’re winning victory after victory after victory.”14

Is Bannon a White supremacist? Does he seek to infiltrate the administration with White supremacist views and normalize the Alt Right as a patriotic and political movement, rather than a racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic platform? Bannon has gone to great lengths to avoid the “White supremacist” label, and those close to him disavow claims that Bannon has racist and misogynistic attitudes.15 It’s important to note that Bannon refers to White supremacists as “White nationalists,” which fuels the nationalistic beliefs he touted in 2014 while normalizing the ideals of White supremacy.  This is also the man who called for every flagpole in the South to proudly fly the Confederate flag—remarks that came just days after nine African Americans were murdered at an historic Black church in Charleston.16

Bannon, a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs’ New York office, earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University and attended Harvard Business School. After leaving Goldman Sachs, he launched a boutique investment firm, which he eventually sold. Bannon is also a former naval officer. Prior to working with Trump, he had no political experience.17

As Bannon increasingly bends Trump’s ear and shifts national focus toward dangerous and alarming ideologies, it’s critical that the American people—and the global community—understand the man behind Trump’s curtain and the potential and irreparable damage his power has already caused—and will continue to cause—until and unless he is overhauled from his position of influence.

Endnotes

[1] Sarah Posner, “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, August 22, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news.

[2] “Stephen Bannon: White House Role for Right-Wing Media Chief,” BBC News, November 14, 2016,  http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37971742.

[3] Sarah Posner, “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, August 22, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news.

[4] Josh Dawsey, Eliana Johnson, Annie Karni, “The Man Behind Trump? Still Steve Bannon,” Politico, January 29, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/donald-trump-steve-bannon-234347.

[5] “The Trump Memos: The ACLU’s Constitutional Analysis of the Public Statements and Policy Proposals of Donald Trump,” ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/report/trump-memos.

[6] Milo Yiannopoulos, “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” Breitbart, December 8, 2015, http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2015/12/08/birth-control-makes-women-unattractive-and-crazy/.

[7] David Horowitz, “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” Breitbart, May 15, 2016, http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/05/15/bill-kristol-republican-spoiler-renegade-jew/.

[8] David Horowitz, “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” Breitbart, May 15, 2016, http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/05/15/bill-kristol-republican-spoiler-renegade-jew/

[9] Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, “Bannon is Given Security Role Usually Held for Generals,” January 29, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-national-security-council.html

[10] Natasha Bertrand, “Trump Just Made an Unprecedented, Radical Change to the National Security Council,” Business Insider, January 29, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-steve-bannon-national-security-council-2017-1.

[11] Heather Saul, “Steve Bannon: Some of the Worst Breitbart Headlines Published Under Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist,” The Independent, November 14, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/steve-bannon-breitbart-donald-trumps-chief-strategist-a7416606.html.

[12] Kate Storey, “Who is Steve Bannon? 15 Things to Know About Trump’s Chief Strategist,” Cosmopolitan, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a8288455/who-is-steve-bannon-trump-chief-strategist/

[13] Claire Landsbaum, “Trump Campaign Chief Caught on Tape Calling a Female Employee a ‘Bimbo,’” September 1, 2016, http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/steve-bannon-once-called-a-female-employee-a-bimbo.html.

[14] “Business Insider: Bannon’s 2014 Vatican Speech Strikes Fear on Wall Street,” Brietbart, November 16, 2016, http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/11/16/business-insider-bannons-2014-vatican-speech-strikes-fear-wall-street/.

[15] Ian Tuttle, “Steve Bannon is Not a Nazi,” National Review, November 14, 2016, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442189/steve-bannon-trump-administration-alt-right-breitbart-chief-strategist

[16] Casey Michel, “Steve Bannon’s Dangerous Campaign to Rebrand Racism as American ‘Nationalism,’” Quartz, November 18, 2016, https://qz.com/841036/is-steve-bannon-a-white-supremacist-trumps-advisor-wants-to-rebrand-racism-as-american-nationalism/.

[17] Kate Storey, “Who is Steve Bannon? 15 Things to Know About Trump’s Chief Strategist,” Cosmopolitan, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a8288455/who-is-steve-bannon-trump-chief-strategist/

Erin Kelly is a former journalist based in Philadelphia. She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and women’s studies from McNeese State University and a master’s degree from Rosemont College. Kelly, a longtime writer and editor, is a contributor to the Library Journal, where she specializes in historical non-fiction, social science, and religious non-fiction.