The White House has announced that former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon is leaving his position the chief strategist to President Trump.
Even before he joined the Trump campaign a few months before last year’s election, Bannon had been working to shape Trump into the figurehead of what he calls the “nationalist, populist movement” for which Breitbart had become the country’s chief propaganda outlet.
Last year, The Washington Post listened to a series of interviews that Trump had given to Bannon when Bannon was still hosting Breitbart’s daily radio program. Those interviews, The Post reported, showed “Bannon often coaxing Trump to agree to his viewpoint, whether on climate change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in Congress” and gently pushing the candidate into using more effective talking points.
Eventually, Breitbart became an essential propaganda arm for Trump’s campaign, serving as what one former Breitbart writer described as “Trump’s personal Pravda.”
Once inside Trump’s orbit, Bannon continued the project. As Brian wrote last year:
Bannon, when he was serving as CEO of Trump’s campaign, helped develop the candidate’s message about a world struggle between “nationalists” and “globalists,” and a fight between “real Americans” and the evil anti-sovereignty schemes of cosmopolitan elites, international financiers, the media, immigrants, minorities and progressives. Such views, which Bannon describes as “populist-nationalist,” have been typical of fascist movements throughout history, and Bannon has even reached out to neo-Fascist parties like France’s National Front and favorably compared himself to Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.
While providing glowing coverage of Trump’s presidential bid, Breitbart has also continued to focus on “black crime,” the supposed link between immigration and security risks, criticism of “political correctness,” and anti-Semitic hit pieces against Jewish members of the media.
It’s hard to even scratch the surface of success that Bannon had in pushing his worldview in the Trump White House. Trump nominated anti-immigration crusader and voting rights foe Jeff Sessions, whom Bannon once lauded as “one of the intellectual, moral leaders of this populist, nationalist movement in this country,” as attorney general. Stephen Miller, a former Sessions aide who had had a close relationship with Breitbart, also made it to the White House, where he notoriously worked with Bannon on Trump’s disastrous travel ban.
But when Trump began to stray from the Bannon worldview, Bannon’s allies at Breitbart did not hesitate to attack the president and his administration, such as with the site’s relentless campaign against national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Since the news broke that Bannon is leaving the White House, Breitbart writers have been making it clear where their allegiance lies:
— Raheem 🇬🇧 (@RaheemKassam) August 18, 2017
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) August 18, 2017
Soon after the news of Bannon’s departure was announced, the site had a piece up warning that without Bannon “Donald Trump Risks Becoming Arnold Schwarzenegger 2.0.”:
Bannon was not just Trump’s master strategist, the man who turned a failing campaign around in August 2016 and led one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in political history. He was also the conservative spine of the administration. His infamous whiteboard in the West Wing listed the promises Trump had made to the voters, and he was determined to check as many of them off as possible. Steve Bannon personified the Trump agenda.
With Bannon gone, there is no guarantee that Trump will stick to the plan. That is why — too late, in retrospect — conservative leaders wrote to the president Friday to advise him that Bannon and campaign manager-turned-counselor Kellyanne Conway were too valuable to lose. Bannon had delivered for the movement, reportedly convincing President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, and to visit Israel on his first trip abroad.
Bannon may no longer have an office in the White House, but he still has incredible influence over a powerful propaganda machine that can shape White House policies.
Update: Bannon has returned to his position at Breitbart, telling The Weekly Standard: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” He added: “I feel jacked up. Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”