Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Steve Bannon is using right-wing religious rhetoric about “spiritual warfare” against “demonic” Democrats

Bannon: “These are demons. ... This is a spiritual war and there's no group hug.”

Since at least 2021, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has made dangerous right-wing religious rhetoric a staple of his War Room podcast, warning of an ongoing “spiritual war” and labeling Democrats as “demons.” Religious scholars have cautioned that such rhetoric, which played a role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, could spur additional violence ahead of and during the 2024 presidential election period.

  • Bannon is a key Trump media ally ahead of 2024, and his War Room podcast plays a major role in shaping right-wing narratives

    • Ahead of the 2024 election, Bannon is once again “one of Trump’s most important advisers,” according to ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. [The Atlantic, 11/2/23]
    • Bannon “plays a crucial role shaping the narratives that are often adopted by Donald Trump and his allies,” per CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy. Darcy named Bannon among “The Most Consequential Figures of 2023,” noting that “his ‘War Room’ show is to 2024 what Breitbart was in 2016.” [CNN, Reliable Sources newsletter, 12/19/23]
    • Bannon’s War Room is the media home of Trump’s retribution plans for a potential second term. Bannon’s show serves as a major platform for Project 2025 — a sprawling right-wing effort to prepare policy and staffing plans for a potential second Trump presidency, including using the federal government to punish insufficiently loyal Republicans and opponents. [Media Matters, 11/9/23]
  • “Spiritual war” rhetoric played a role in violence on January 6, and scholars are warning about it again ahead of the 2024 election

    • “Spiritual warfare” rhetoric comes from a once fringe right-wing Christian movement called the National Apostolic Reformation, whose “followers view foes of their quest as satanic.” NAR leaders have ties to powerful Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), and “hold that the physical world is enveloped by a supernatural dimension, featuring warring angels and demons, and are convinced that demons afflict their enemies on behalf of the devil.” [Rolling Stone, 9/29/22; The New Republic, 1/23/23; NPR, 11/15/23]
    • Such rhetoric played a role in inciting violence on January 6, 2021, according to experts. André Gagné, professor and chair of the theological studies department at Concordia University, explained the connection: “It has been mainstreamed as an idea, that Christians are waging a spiritual war against demonic forces in the world that have sometimes taken over their political enemies. And spiritual warfare language leads to, eventually, the possibility of violence. It is not just spiritual; it bleeds into the real world. On Jan. 6, they were blowing shofars, a kind of ancient Jewish trumpet that was sometimes used as a rallying call for battles.” [Slate, 1/6/24; The Washington Post, 2/11/21]

    • Some religious scholars warn that right-wing political rhetoric around “spiritual warfare” and “demons” raises the specter of violence in 2024. Matthew Taylor, who has written extensively on the NAR and its growing influence, said: “At some point, if you really believe that the election's being stolen by demons and that demons are inspiring these other people to stop that — well, then it makes sense that you would try to take it over. … [I]f you have politicians who are willing to activate those animal spirits in the American populace, I would not be surprised if you saw mobilization of spiritual warfare campaigns that can tip over into actual violence again.” [Yahoo News, 2/16/23]

    • Rhetoric around “spiritual war” and “demonic entities” has recently proliferated among right-wing media personalities and Republican politicians, who have labeled LGBTQ people, gender-affirming care, and abortion “demonic.” Additionally, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk has warned that “we’re in the midst of the most consequential spiritual war” in millennia because “there is no other way to explain the campaign of arson and destruction against our country other than diabolical, spiritually dark influences that are fighting for dominion over this nation.” [Media Matters, 7/5/23, 12/7/23]
  • Bannon has characterized various news events and political developments as part of a “spiritual war” since at least 2021

    • Bannon described the 2023 House GOP speakership fight as “a spiritual war.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 10/17/23]
    • Bannon and guest Sean Feucht suggested that Republicans taking control of the House was part of a spiritual war. Feucht — a Christian nationalist singer who earlier this year partnered with Kirk’s Turning Point USA to promote a message or “spiritual war" at state capitols — told Bannon, “It's a real spiritual battle that we're in and it's time that we rise up.” [Newsweek, 2/2/23; Media Matters, 9/14/23]
    • Bannon told right-wing commentator Benny Johnson that “99%” of the issues Republicans face are part of “spiritual war,” citing “demonic forces” and “the forces of light and the forces of darkness.” Johnson asked Bannon, “How much of the battle is spiritual in the wars we’re facing today in this nation?” Bannon replied “99%,” declaring that “it’s a spiritual war when it gets down to it. Look at the demonic forces.” Bannon continued, saying, “It’s a spiritual war, obviously a spiritual war. You can see the forces of light and the forces of darkness.” [Twitter/X, 8/20/22]
    • While cheering on the House Freedom Caucus bringing the U.S. to the brink of a debt ceiling breach, Bannon asserted that “it is spiritual warfare manifested on the House floor.” [Twitter/X, 6/8/23]
    • Discussing an upcoming debt ceiling fight in 2021, Bannon declared on War Room that “it’s a spiritual war.” [The Gateway Pundit, 9/16/21]
    • Covering the Canadian trucker convoy protests in 2022, Bannon said, “At the end of the day this is a spiritual war. It’s unbridgeable.” Bannon declared, “We’re either going to win or they’re going to win.” [Gettr, 2/19/22]
    • Discussing MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s sham election cybersecurity summit in 2021, Bannon declared that we are in a “spiritual war” with “no middle ground.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/12/21]
  • Bannon has labeled Democrats and other opposition as “demons,” “demonic,” and “satanic” since at least 2022

    • Discussing the 2024 election with commentator and self-proclaimed “prophet” Lance Wallnau, Bannon lamented a “mentality of kind of an old America where they're liberal Democrats” rather than “demons.” Bannon invoked two historical Democratic politicians to make his point, saying, “Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Tip O'Neill — we're not in that. You see this. These are demons. … What we’re fighting is next level. This is a spiritual war and there's no group hug. There's no coming together.” He added that “it’s not going to be violent — it doesn’t have to be violent because we have two-thirds of the country. We’re going to win overwhelmingly like we did in 2020.” [The Lance Wallnau Show, 8/2/22]
  • Video file

    Citation From the August 2, 2022, edition of The Lance Wallnau Show

    • Bannon suggested that then-Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is “satanic.” Bannon posted on social media: “Is Fetterman satanic??…his look, his vibe, his associations … has there been anyone in the history of the country that exudes more just pure evil than this guy …the Citizens of the Commonwealth need to ask themselves— do we want someone who hangs with Satanic Groomers to represent us in the US Senate.” [Gettr, 8/17/22]
    • Bannon replied “FACT” to a post that called Joe Biden “the most satanic President in American history.” [Twitter/X, 9/4/22]
    • Bannon called Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel “a demon.” Bannon told his guest, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft, that Nessel is “the demon. When she's going around to these rooms and raising the money, she's talking about should have a drag queen show in every school.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 8/14/23]
    • Bannon has repeatedly called Rupert Murdoch “demonic.” After Fox host Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News, Bannon lamented that “the demonic Murdochs had already decided to fire [Carlson].” Later that year, while attacking Fox News for cutting away from a Trump campaign speech, Bannon referred to Murdoch as “the demon father of all this, Murdoch.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 5/1/23, 12/4/23]
    • Bannon said that a speech by Biden looked “obviously fascistic, but almost more than that, demonic.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 9/2/22]
    • Bannon attacked Speaker Johnson for passing a budget with “demonic trash” in it. Bannon said: “I don’t want to hear you’re a Christian. … I don’t want to hear any more Bible verse when you’ve allowed the transgender, you’ve allowed all that garbage — all that demonic trash — throughout the defense budget.” [Twitter/X, 12/14/23]