Conservative media are defending Stephen Bannon, who was recently appointed as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, amid growing backlash over his ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists. While Bannon’s appointment has been hailed as a victory by white nationalists, the push to normalize Bannon was aided by major newspapers that downplayed and ignored his extreme ties.
Trump Taps Former Breitbart News Head As Chief Strategist
AP: Trump Appoints Stephen Bannon As White House Chief Strategist. President-elect Donald Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former executive chairman of the “alt-right” Breitbart News, as White House chief strategist and senior counselor. The Associated Press reported that Bannon’s appointment “signals the president-elect has no intention of abandoning his brash, outsider instincts as he puts together his new government.” From the November 14 AP report:
Stephen Bannon, a leading force of the far-right, a flame-throwing media mogul and professional provocateur, a man who made a career out of roiling the establishment from the outside, just landed squarely on the inside.
Donald Trump's pick for chief strategist and senior counselor signals the president-elect has no intention of abandoning his brash, outsider instincts as he puts together his new government. Trump didn't give Bannon the top White House job — that went to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Still, Trump made clear Sunday that a man many credit with righting the businessman's campaign — and one others accuse of amplifying a bigoted fringe — would have a plum position in the West Wing.
Bannon joined Trump's election team as chief executive late in the campaign, following the departure of Trump's second campaign team in August. He quickly became a member of Trump's inner circle, frequently traveling with the candidate and working to re-shape his message to emphasize Trump's populist and outsider appeal.
Bannon came from Breitbart News, an unabashedly pro-Trump outlet that had declared war on GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Trump will have to work to pass his agenda if Ryan retains his role. [The Associated Press, 11/14/16]
Bannon’s Appointment Draws Outrage From Civil Rights And Anti-Extremist Groups
CNN: Bannon’s Appointment “Set Off Alarm Bells Among Civil Rights And Anti-Extremist Groups.” Bannon’s appointment, according to CNN, “set off alarm bells among civil rights and anti-extremist groups, who are now calling on Trump to withdraw Bannon's appointment.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and People For the American Way are among the groups “lining up to oppose Bannon.” [CNN, 11/14/16]
Media Normalized Bannon In Floundering Attempt To Report On His Appointment
Major Newspapers Downplayed Bannon’s Ties To White Nationalism And Anti-Semitism. Major newspapers ignored or downplayed Bannon’s ties to white nationalism and anti-Semitism in their initial reports on his appointment. Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today made no mention of these connections in their articles. The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, and The Washington Post noted Bannon’s ties to white nationalism and the “alt-right,” but not for several paragraphs. None of the headlines for the aforementioned pieces included any indication of the extremism Bannon has championed. [Media Matters, 11/14/16]
Conservative Media Figures Line Up To Defend Bannon
Fox’s Megyn Kelly: “I Don’t Know That You Could Tar” Bannon As A White Supremacist, Even Though His Website “Definitely Appeals” To White Supremacists. During an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said, “I don’t know that there’s evidence” that Bannon is a white supremacist. Kelly admitted that Breitbart News “definitely appeals to a segment of the so-called ‘alt-right,’ which includes some white supremacists,” but added, “I don’t know that you could tar … Bannon with that brush.” From the November 15 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (CO-HOST): What do you say to those critics who say this is bringing a white supremacist into the White House?
MEGYN KELLY: I don't know that there's evidence of that. You know, I think people need to be --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Breitbart headlines?
KELLY: The Breitbart headlines, his defenders -- I mean, they're absolutely controversial -- but what his defenders say is he's not responsible for every single headline that went up on Breitbart while he was the executive chairman and that that website is known for being provocative and so they're looking for clicks. Now it definitely appeals to a segment of the so-called “alt-right,” which includes some white supremacists, but I don't know that you could tar the entire team with that brush or Steve Bannon with that brush. But having said that, there’s no question this man is controversial. [ABC, Good Morning America, 11/15/16]
CNN’s Kayleigh McEnany: “I Have No Concerns About Steve Bannon Because He Was Appointed By Donald Trump,” And Trump “Has Called For Unity.” CNN political commentator Kayleigh McEnany defended Bannon, claiming that Bannon wasn’t responsible for the outrageous headlines and stories published during his tenure at Breitbart News. McEnany added, “I have no concerns about Steve Bannon because he was appointed by Donald Trump, who is a leader who I believe in, who is someone who has called for unity time and time again.” From the November 14 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360:
ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): A lot of people point to headlines on Breitbart, you know, it could just be click bait. Controversial headlines on all these websites get more clicks than other things. Newt Gingrich I think made the point saying, look, you can't say Steve Bannon is responsible for every article that's published on Breitbart. Is that true or do you have concerns about Bannon?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: I think what Newt Gingrich said is absolutely right. Steve Bannon wrote none of those articles whose headlines we showed. To some of them, there's actually a deeper story. For instance, the renegade Jew headline, the guy came out today who wrote it, his name is David Horowitz, and he said I, myself, am a Jew, and I, myself, have sat by Steve Bannon, and I've never heard any anti-Semitic views at all, whatsoever. So I have no concerns about Steve Bannon because he was appointed by Donald Trump, who is a leader who I believe in, who is someone who has called for unity time and time again. I think that you will see the left, those in the Clinton campaign or those on the left, try to demonize Steve Bannon. They've tried to do the same thing to Ronald Reagan, tried to do it to Donald Trump. So now the new attack dog is Steve Bannon is going to be the subject of attacks. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 11/14/16]
Fox’s Mercedes Schlapp: Bannon Is “A Brilliant Strategist,” And “Not A Racist In Any Way.” Fox contributor Mercedes Schlapp defended Bannon, calling him “a brilliant strategist” and claiming that he is “not racist in any way.” Fox Business host Stuart Varney suggested Democrats are “picking on this one guy” by “calling him a white supremacist.” From the November 15 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): It seems like the Democrats are focusing their attention, picking on this one guy, calling him a white supremacist, and trying to tar the administration with this guy. Successful move or what?
MERCEDES SCHLAPP: No, it’s absolutely appalling for Sen. [Harry] Reid [(D-NV)] to make these comments about Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon’s a very private person. He’s someone that those who know him know that he is, first of all, pro-Israel. He’s not a racist in any way. And the fact is that he understands clearly the importance of America, of America as a nation state, the sense of this populist movement, of the sense of really being the voice of the working class.And anyone who’s worked with him knows that he’s a brilliant strategist. And so, I find it very disappointing. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 11/15/16]
Fox’s Laura Ingraham: Bannon “Is A Patriot” Who Is The Subject Of A “Smear Campaign.” Fox News contributor and conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham called attacks on Bannon a “smear,” asserting that Bannon is “a wonderful person” and a “patriot” who is “dedicated to improving this country.” From the November 15 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): You said you were good friends with Steve Bannon. You've known him for a long time. We had a panel of moms. One of the moms says he's a white supremacist.
LAURA INGRAHAM: Oh my god.
EARHARDT: You’ve seen that in the mainstream media. Tell us about him and is that true?
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Front page of The New York Times today.
INGRAHAM: This is what I really hate most about Washington, is this type of smear campaign that I saw going back to Justice [Clarence] Thomas. When they see someone as an ideological threat or someone who could be very powerful advancing a conservative message, close to a principle or actually in a principal position, there are the piranhas that will circle around. They hope to get a little blood in the water. And then they hope for the big fish to come in and kill him off. Steve Bannon is a wonderful person. He's someone who if you’re not feeling well, he’ll pick up the phone and say how are you doing, how are your kids, what's going on. And he also happens to be really smart. That merry band of small, you know, the small band of merry warriors over there at the Trump campaign, they pulled off the upset of the century, and there's a lot of sour grapes in Washington, D.C. There are a lot of envious people. I get that. But do not besmirch someone who is a patriot. He’s a good man, he's smart. And he's dedicated to improving this country, which frankly a lot of those people maligning him, they should have been spent a lot more time focusing on that themselves.
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Well, Laura, that’s right. A lot of people know you, they see you on television. They hear from you. Steve Bannon hasn’t had as much of a public role. He also served in the Navy for 10 years, serving his country at high levels. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/15/16]
Fox’s Sean Hannity: Media Is Attacking Bannon “As Something I Know That He’s Not.” Fox host Sean Hannity defended Bannon from what he described as “smears” and “slander,” claiming that the “corrupt” “alt-left radical media” is “attacking Steve Bannon as something that I know he’s not.” From the November 14 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I just did a long monologue, how the media’s corrupt and how wrong they got this. And what did they do today? They start feeding more false information. Who was Steve Bannon's best friend? Andrew Breitbart, he ran Breitbart, he was working with Andrew to launch Breitbart. Also Larry O'Connor, who I know was raised Jewish, Andrew was. So I guess an ex-wife or whatever makes this claim. And look at what the alt-left radical media is doing yet again. They learned nothing from their mistakes in this campaign. And they're attacking Steve Bannon as something that I know that he's not.
JEANINE PIRRO: This guy, Bannon, has done wonderful things for Donald Trump. He brought everyone together in that Trump campaign and he delivered a victory, along with a lot of other people, for Donald Trump. He will do the same for the American people. He will be able to deliver the big ideas that Donald Trump talked about, that got Donald Trump elected. And you know what? All of the left-wing coordinated effort on their part to destroy him is pathetic.
HANNITY: Smears, slander. By the way, just like they tried to do to Donald himself. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/14/16]
Fox’s Newt Gingrich: Bannon Shouldn’t Be Tied To Breitbart Content Because “The Kind Of Stuff They Did At Breitbart … Was Designed To Attract Audiences.”. Fox contributor Newt Gingrich defended Bannon, claiming that “there’s a big difference between” Bannon and “the kind of stuff they did at Breitbart, which was designed to attract audiences.” Gingrich added that Bannon “is a very serious guy” who is “very deeply concerned that Washington has grown corrupt.” From the November 14 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
NEWT GINGRICH: There's a big difference between the kind of stuff they did at Breitbart, which was designed to attract audiences and was actually very successful. I mean, lots of people tuned in partly out of amusement, it's like reading The Daily Mail everyday from London. I mean, there’s all sorts of stuff there, and --
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): It's clickbait
GINGRICH: You keep finding yourself doing it. Bannon is a very serious guy. Callista and I have worked with him on several movies. We know him pretty well. He is very deeply concerned that Washington has grown corrupt, way too large as a government, a threat to our liberties. And he feels those things very deeply. He's also a former Naval officer who has served this country very patriotically. Played a big role in the election of Donald Trump. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 11/14/16]
Fox’s Charles Hurt: It’s “Absurd” To Link Breitbart And Bannon To Anti-Semitism And Racism. Fox News contributor Charles Hurt dismissed claims that Bannon and Breitbart News are “anti-Semitic or racist,” calling the claims “absurd” and “ridiculous.” Hurt added that calling Bannon racist or anti-Semitic amounts to “cheapening racism, cheapening anti-Semitism.” From the November 14 edition of Fox News’ Special Report:
CHARLES HURT: I think it's kind of one of the most interesting things about this election has been what has kind of happened to political language. And obviously, a lot of what we’ve heard in the past 18 months has been shocking. A lot of it’s been impolitic. But political correctness has taken a huge blow in politics. And certainly Breitbart is a perfect example of that, Steve Bannon example of that, he charges for the gates. But to equate that being anti-Semitic or racist, I think, is absurd. And I think these people, they do a great discredit to themselves by cheapening racism, cheapening anti-Semitism by accusing these people of that, because it's just ridiculous. [Fox News, Special Report, 11/14/16]
CNN’s Jeffrey Lord: Bannon Has “Been Smeared.” CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord alleged that Bannon has “been smeared,” claiming that while Breitbart is “conservative,” it’s not much different “from Rush Limbaugh.” From the November 14 edition of CNN’s New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): How do you feel about Bannon?
JEFFREY LORD: I think he’s been smeared, to be perfectly candid. I read Breitbart every day.
I just disagree totally with your picture of Steve Bannon. Read Breitbart every day. I mean, it’s conservative. You’re not going to hear much difference out of Breitbart than you are from Rush Limbaugh. [CNN, New Day, 11/14/16]
CNBC’s Larry Kudlow: Bannon Is A “Force For Change.”
Liberal media trying to run Steve Bannon out of town. Not gonna happen. Nor should it. He's force for change. https://t.co/Zf6uJy9HPT
— Larry Kudlow (@larry_kudlow) November 15, 2016
Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones, Former KKK Leader David Duke, And Other White Nationalists Have Praised Bannon’s Appointment
Alex Jones: Bannon “Is Totally Awake To What’s Happening.” Radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones lauded Bannon, claiming that he “is totally awake to what’s happening.” From the November 14 edition of Genesis Communications Networks’ The Alex Jones Show:
ALEX JONES (HOST): Now he has Bannon, who is totally awake to what’s happening, over him as the chief counselor. So they do need to know, just like you want to hire the same janitor that’s worked some place for 20 years, if you buy some 20-story building you want to know where everything’s at, what’s going on. [Genesis Communications Networks, The Alex Jones Show, 11/14/16]
White Nationalist Radio Host David Duke: Bannon’s Hiring Is “A Good Sign” Because He’s Been “Right On About A Lot Of Issues.” White nationalist radio host David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK and a white nationalist radio host, called Bannon’s hiring “a good sign.” Duke claimed that the incoming chief strategist “has really been right on about a lot of issues facing European-Americans.” From the November 14 edition of Rense Radio Network’s David Duke Show:
DAVID DUKE (HOST): I think that’s a good sign because I think Mr. Bannon has really been right on about a lot of issues facing European-Americans. He’s really talked about the, and supported in some ways, the alt-right, although I think they supported some of the members or so-called members of the alt-right like Milo who is not really representative of the alt-right. At the same time, he certainly understands that immigration is a destructive force in America, the western world. They have been savagely attacking Merkel and, of course, Trump himself made some pretty powerful attacks against Merkel.
Maybe it was because if, again, if this did happen, and I’m not saying it did, maybe that he didn’t want his children to be indoctrinated with the Jewish anti-goy, anti-white narrative their entire school life about how white people are guilty of all these crimes against Jews. They don’t talk about Jewish crimes. [Rense Radio Network, David Duke Show, 11/14/16]
White Nationalist Media Have Praised Bannon’s Appointment. Bannon and Trump’s supporters within the white nationalist community -- which includes neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and proud white supremacists -- have hailed Bannon’s appointment. The white nationalist websites Infostormer and the Daily Stormer called the appointment “pure awesomeness” and said Trump has surrounded himself with “the right people.” [Media Matters, 11/14/16]