Roy Moore may have lost, but Breitbart’s Steve Bannon has a field of awful candidates ready for 2018
Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT
In the December special election for Alabama’s open Senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore. Moore was singularly unfit for office and perhaps the only Republican capable of losing a Senate race in such a deep-red state, a privilege he earned not only due to allegations of child molestation, but also as a result of his long history of unfettered bigotry. Moore built a career on odious opinions, often taking racist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and misogynistic stances, sometimes doing so while flouting the law. And yet, despite Moore’s obvious and profound flaws as a candidate, he drew loyal and ferocious support from the toxic right-wing website Breitbart.com and its executive chairman, Steve Bannon.
Bannon was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Moore’s campaign, starting with the Republican primary in which Moore faced then-Sen. Luther Strange. Strange had the backing of the Republican establishment and the endorsement of President Donald Trump, but Bannon continued to stand by Moore, campaigning for him as Breitbart worked to paint Strange as the choice of the swampy Republican establishment.
On November 9, just over a month before the general election, Breitbart warned its readers that The Washington Post planned on “targeting” Moore by accusing him of “inappropriate conduct with four teenage girls 34 years ago” in an article descriptively titled “After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos’s Washington Post Plans to Hit Roy Moore with Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign.” The outlet functioned essentially as Moore's outsourced public relations partner, enthusiastically defending Moore up until election day, and Bannon even journeyed to Alabama to campaign for him. It was to no avail, of course. Bannon and Breitbart went to the mat for Moore, but they lost.
In the aftermath of the Alabama election, many conservatives blamed Bannon for the embarrassing loss. Yet Bannon’s attempts, however bumbling, to shake up American politics and wage a “bloody civil war” against the Republican “establishment” didn’t end with Moore. Here are some of the other racist, conspiratorial, and misinforming candidates Bannon has thrown his weight behind.
Former state senator and right-wing favorite Kelli Ward is running for the Senate seat in Arizona currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced his retirement in October. Ward challenged Sen. John McCain for his seat in 2016 but lost the Republican primary.
Ward has a long history of cozying up to far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, and serial misinformers. In March 2016, she appeared on Alex Jones’ extremist show Infowars, where Jones often makes conspiratorial and revolting claims, including that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an “inside job.” Ward promised to return to Infowars after her election as a U.S. senator. Several months later, Ward, as a guest on on Trunews, a radio show hosted by Rick Wiles, claimed that Americans living along the U.S. southern border were being “terrorized” by immigrants. Wiles is a conspiracy theorist who, according to Right Wing Watch, argued that the Ebola epidemic could “be a good thing if it ends up giving an ‘attitude adjustment’ to all the gays and atheists, along with people who use pornography or have had an abortion.” Wiles also attempted to cast former President Barack Obama as the “antichrist” and a “stealth jihadist.”
In July 2016, Ward appeared at the pro-Trump “America First Unity Rally” in Cleveland, OH. The rally featured speakers and hosts who, as Media Matters noted at the time, had previously made racist and sexist attacks against opponents, called for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ executions, openly discriminated against minorities, led the movement that claims the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job," and alleged that Obama and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were not American citizens.
Beyond her associations, Ward has a history of supporting extremist policies and making inflammatory statements. While serving in the Arizona state legislature, Ward tried to prohibit enforcement of federal gun laws in the state and asked then-Gov. Jan Brewer to send the Arizona National Guard to the state’s borders to “prevent busloads full of illegal aliens from entering Arizona.” In 2015, Ward compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery.
In the aftermath of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, during which a neo-Nazi allegedly murdered a young woman named Heather Heyer, Ward called for “both sides” to stop the hate, violence, & rhetoric.” Ward’s failure to appropriately condemn white nationalist violence is particularly poignant given that William Johnson, a white nationalist political party leader, claimed that Ward called him during her 2016 campaign to ask for his support.
In October, Bannon endorsed Ward’s current run for Senate, and has appeared alongside her on the campaign trail. Ward also often appears on Breitbart’s bigoted and misogynistic morning radio show, Breitbart News Daily.
In April 2014, Grimm was charged with tax evasion in relation to a Manhattan restaurant he had owned. He initially pled not guilty and refused to resign, even getting re-elected that November. A month after his re-election, however, Grimm pled guilty to tax evasion and resigned from Congress. He served seven months in prison. Grimm has painted a conspiratorial picture of his indictment. In 2017, he suggested to New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was offered that job in exchange for his prosecution. “Anyone who thinks it’s an accident or a coincidence that two months into my indictment, she’s the attorney general, is not realistic,” he told Nuzzi, who noted that Grimm first aired this theory on a Breitbart radio show. Before his indictment, in 2012, according to The New Yorker, Grimm also “publicly insinuated that political forces arrayed against him had broken into his office to gain access to computer files,” when the break-in was actually the doing of a teenager who did not touch the computers.
Despite his high-profile resignation, Grimm might be better known for a different controversy. In January 2014, following Obama’s State of the Union address, Grimm was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter off the “fucking balcony,” saying, “You're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.” Grimm later apologized to the reporter for “overreact[ing].” The New Yorker reported that years earlier, during his time as an FBI agent, Grimm had been accused of improperly flashing his weapon in a nightclub, and urging all “white people” to leave as things escalated.
Despite Grimm’s problematic history, Bannon endorsed him in October.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo is running for governor of Colorado in 2018. Tancredo has close ties to white supremacists and has a long history of racist and bigoted behavior.
This will be Tancredo’s third bid for Colorado’s highest office. During Tancredo’s time in the House, he repeatedly proved himself to be a racist, anti-immigrant bigot. Tancredo once said that undocumented immigrants are “coming here to kill you and to kill me and our families” and proposed legislation that would have temporarily barred all legal immigration. In 2007, Tancredo suggested that the United States declare that if there was another terrorist attack in the country, the U.S. would bomb “the holy sites in Mecca and Medina” in Saudi Arabia. And during his laughable presidential campaign, he aired campaign ads that claimed “open borders” were responsible for “vicious central American gangs” and “jihadists who froth with hate” roaming freely in the United States.
Since leaving office in 2009, Tancredo has embedded himself into right-wing media circles. He is a columnist at Breitbart, and, according to Bannon, is “one of the top immigration experts in this country” whose columns “for Breitbart are just amazing.” The columns Bannon praised regularly demonize immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders, with headlines such as “Mexico Is Sending Us Colonists, Not Immigrants,” “European Colonization, Not Refugee Resettlement,” and “Illegal Alien? Congratulations! You Get a Get Out of Jail Free Card!”
In addition to his work at Breitbart, Tancredo has also written extensively for right-wing conspiracy site WND (WorldNetDaily), and has been published at VDare, an anti-immigrant site that multiple news outlets and the Southern Poverty Law Center have identified as “white nationalist.” Tancredo had also been scheduled to appear at two VDare conferences, but both events were canceled when the venues learned more about the organization. After the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado pulled out of an agreement to host VDare’s 2018 conference, Tancredo blasted the state's Republican Party for failing to speak out in defense of VDare’s right to “free speech.” Tancredo told the website Colorado Politics that he was “so mad” at Republicans for failing to speak out that he was mulling a run for governor, claiming that it wouldn’t “take much to push” him into the race.
While Bannon has not yet formally endorsed Tancredo, he did meet with him to discuss a run before Tancredo announced his candidacy. Breitbart noted the meeting in an article about Tancredo’s decision to run, referring to the former congressman and Breitbart columnist as a “strong advocate against illegal immigration.”
Republican Scott Wagner is running for governor of Pennsylvania in 2018 after spending his tenure in the state legislature attacking the media and spreading misinformation.
In May 2017, police were called after Wagner forcibly took the video equipment of a tracker (a person paid by opposition forces to shadow opposing candidates, a routine practice during campaigns) during a campaign event. After Wagner grabbed the camera, the tracker approached the candidate while filming on his phone. Wagner attempted to stop the man from filming him and the tracker accused Wagner of assault and claimed that the state senator had bloodied his finger. The police were called after the incident, but no charges have been filed. After receiving criticism for his actions, Wagner condemned the “fake news media” for “attacking” him and attempted to use the incident to grow his email listserv.
Wagner is also a climate change denialist. According to Wagner, climate change may be the result of the Earth “moving closer to the sun,” as well as, “heat coming off” human bodies. (PolitiFact has rated Wagner’s claims as false.) In 2014, the state senator also compared unions to Adolf Hitler and Russian President Vladimir Putin, later apologizing for the “unfortunate analogy." Wagner has also drawn ire for referring to Democratic donor George Soros as a "Hungarian Jew" with a "hatred of America.” Despite being called out for the anti-Semitic remark, Wagner refused to apologize, claiming he meant no offense and that “everyone's getting their knickers around their ankles.”
Bannon has openly supported Wagner’s run; he told a crowd in September that “we’re going to start taking” back the country “in November when Scott Wagner runs.”
Corey Stewart is running for Senate in Virginia after losing the 2017 Republican gubernatorial primary.
Stewart, who was Virginia state co-chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has heavily courted the “alt-right.” Shortly after he was fired from his position in October 2016 for taking part in a protest against the Republican National Committee, Stewart gave an interview to Mike Cernovich, a far-right troll who has a history of promoting conspiracy theories. During the interview, Cernovich said that “he calls establishment Republicans ‘cucks’ because ‘they like to see Trump get screwed over by the media, that's what they get off on.’” Stewart replied, “Yeah, I would agree.” The term “cuck,” short for “cuckservative,” is widely used within “alt-right” circles. Stewart additionally did a question-and-answer session on the subreddit “r/The_Donald,” a far-right forum. In February 2017, Stewart attended an event put on by “Unity & Security for America,” a group run by white supremacist Jason Kessler who would, months later, organize the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.
Stewart himself drew condemnation for his response to the rally in Charlottesville. According to The Washington Post, Stewart “said white nationalists had been unfairly singled out for their role in the weekend chaos,” and “blamed ‘half the violence’ on counterprotesters.” Stewart also slammed fellow Republicans who he claimed “couldn’t apologize fast enough” after the rally. Stewart’s comments, which inspired local NAACP leaders to call for his resignation from the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, are particularly noteworthy in light of his stalwart defense of the confederate flag and other confederate symbols. During his campaign for governor, he brought a confederate flag into a shot while recording a Facebook live segment, and declared, “Folks, this is a symbol of heritage. It is not a symbol of racism. It is not a symbol of slavery.” Stewart later claimed “ISIS has won” after a confederate monument was taken down in New Orleans.
Bannon has praised Stewart extensively. In November, Bannon claimed that “Stewart is the reason” Ed Gillespie, who defeated Stewart in the Republican gubernatorial primary before losing the general election, “is going to win” because “it was the Trump-Stewart talking points that got Gillespie close and even maybe to victory. It was embracing Trump’s agenda as personified by Corey’s platform.” Bannon also said, “The only way to beat [Virginia Sen. Tim] Kaine next year is with a full-on Trump agenda, and by nationalizing the race with a candidate like Corey Stewart.”
Bannon also supported Paul Nehlen, a Wisconsin House candidate with a record of white nationalism and anti-Semitism, until recently
One soldier in Bannon's war on the establishment, Wisconsin congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, recently lost Breitbart and Bannon's public support after a series of explicitly bigoted tweets. Nehlen is running for Congress in 2018, the second time he has tried to unseat Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Breitbart and Bannon enthusiastically supported Nehlen, who has a long and well-established record of unapologetic bigotry and extremism, during his 2016 run against Ryan. In the run-up to that election, Breitbart published close to 30 pieces of content shilling for Nehlen, and Bannon referred to him as the “David to Paul Ryan’s Goliath.” In the aftermath of Nehlen’s overwhelming loss, Bannon hosted him on his radio show, treating him “like a hero” and literally professing his love for him. Breitbart’s love for Nehlen apparently ended, however, after Nehlen fired off a series of anti-Semitic tweets, drawing the condemnation of pro-Trump conservatives. Rebel TV host John Cardillo claimed he’d “spoken to Team Bannon” and said they "were shocked and disgusted.”
Despite the reported shock of his loyal supporter, Nehlen’s anti-Semitism was anything but sudden. His ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right” have long been clear, as reported by HuffPost and Salon. Nehlen has a habit of aggressively responding to his critics with arguments such as “eat a bullet” or “self deport,” and his bigotry can also be seen in his approach to national security policies. Nehlen even campaigned with Bannon for Moore in Alabama on the night before Moore's defeat.