Approaching the one-year anniversary of the 2020 presidential election, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is continuing his campaign to undermine American democracy through his conspiratorial podcast, War Room: Pandemic.
Bannon’s falsehoods about the 2020 election results, involvement in the planning of the January 6 insurrection, advocacy of election audits across the country, and promotion of QAnon-aligned grassroots movements are all part of his attempt to corrode his audience's trust in the American electoral system. What’s more, the major platforms that feature Bannon’s show – including Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts – are complicit in spreading his lies and hateful rhetoric.
Here are the topics Bannon and his cronies have used over the past year to dismiss the truth about the 2020 election and further their attacks on American democracy:
Bannon: In 2020, Donald Trump “brought home the greatest victory in the history of this country in a presidential election.”
On the day of the election, Bannon and his associates suggested that Donald Trump should declare victory “as early as possible” – and Bannon did just that on November 5, during a Fox Business segment while votes were still being counted.
After Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Bannon spent nearly every episode of his show spewing deranged election fraud conspiracy theories and frequently pushing the lie that Trump had actually won reelection instead.
Bannon and his guests repeatedly lied about the election, often suggesting that Democrats were responsible for widespread voter fraud and cheating. He described the election as “illegal,” suggested political institutions should not count votes, claimed that there may yet be a “contingent election,” and encouraged Americans to fight and die for a second Trump term.
Pro-Trump lawyer and serial liar Sidney Powell was one of the many dishonest War Room guests during this period who used Bannon’s show to push debunked election fraud claims. Shortly after the election, Powell appeared on Bannon’s program to discuss her bogus lawsuits over “deliberate criminal fraud.”
The former Trump adviser even went so far in promoting bizarre election lies as to host right-wing conspiracy theorist and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney to baselessly claim that a U.S. government supercomputer named “Hammer” was used by Democrats to take votes from Trump and assign them to Biden.
The January 6 insurrectionist-in-chief
Bannon: Trump’s “second term is going to start with a bang, OK? That we can guarantee you. And so the fight’s in.”
Preceding the deadly attack, Bannon spent weeks bragging on-air about his behind-the-scenes role in pushing fraud misinformation and undermining the election results. According to reports from The Washington Post, Bannon was part of the Trump team’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., where legal discussions were being held on how to overturn the election results before January 6.
In the week leading up to the insurrection, Bannon hosted members of the Trump “war room,” including conservative lawyer John Eastman, to discuss his legal strategy to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the election results. This framework was outlined by Eastman in a memo that was “circulated to the White House in the days before the certification.”
In the months since the attack, Bannon has often hosted Revolver News’ Darren Beattie to push conspiracy theories about the insurrection. The two baselessly claimed the Capitol attack was a “failed intelligence operation” and the FBI was involved with militia groups who participated in the riot.
By late September, the House select committee investigating the events of January 6 issued subpoenas to Trump officials and aides – including Bannon – seeking more information on the attack. In October, Bannon cited “executive privilege” as a reason he would not comply with the subpoena and ignored the threat of criminal contempt charges while hawking holiday gifts to his viewers.
Bannon’s “executive privilege” reasoning landed flat and the House select committee voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress. Now, the prosecution will be determined by the Department of Justice.
Bannon: “The American people are going to demand full forensic audits of three November 2020 in every state. That’s what they fear.”
As an extension of his extremist election lies, Bannon spends much of his shows discussing election “audits” in battleground states with the intended goal to “decertify” election results or flip electoral votes to Trump. In reality, there is no legal pathway to decertify or change the results of a presidential election.
The discussion around election audits began with the partisan, QAnon-linked Arizona audit in Maricopa County. Bannon dove in immediately, driving narratives and backing up claims from extremists working in state legislatures who supported the audit. Bannon spent months hyping the results of the Arizona audit while simultaneously advocating for similar ventures in all 50 states and platforming various GOP extremist state representatives.
In mid-August, Bannon spoke at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “cyber symposium” in which the pillow magnate spent three days regurgitating his own baseless conspiracy theories that China had interfered with the 2020 election. Lindell attempted to lay out election fraud claims in all 50 states, so that GOP assembly persons could bring his “evidence” home and advocate for election audits in their respective states.
As Bannon spoke to the crowd, he proclaimed, “The American people are going to demand full forensic audits of three November 2020 in every state. That’s what they fear.”
Whilst focusing on bringing audits to battleground states including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, Bannon seemingly invited any conspiratorial figure he could find on to his show to spread election fraud conspiracy theories and advocate for local audits in the guest’s state.
Some of Bannon’s guests, including Lindell, promoted “canvassing” efforts in which individuals knock on doors to ask residents about their voting history. The Department of Justice warned that these sorts of efforts could violate laws against voter intimidation.
In late September, the Arizona senate released the results of its audit, concluding that President Biden actually received more votes than originally reported in Maricopa County. Bannon, with nowhere to turn, grasped at straws as he attempted to point to a vague table in the draft report to claim massive voter fraud had occurred. It hadn’t.
Recently, Bannon and his lackeys began touting another forensic audit in Arizona, this time in Pima County. Bannon’s pipe dream to decertify the election in Arizona doesn’t seem as though it will be ending anytime soon.
QAnon-aligned Grassroots Movements
Bannon: “We control this country. We've got to start acting like it.”
In December 2020, Bannon began hosting local Arizona tea party activist and attorney Dan Schultz to discuss nullifying the election results. By February, Bannon’s discussions with Schultz had pivoted away from overturning the election to instead concocting an operation to “invade” the Republican party.
Schultz’s plan – dubbed the Precinct Strategy – was simple enough: Schultz and Bannon encouraged listeners to pursue local election positions that are often left open due to lack of public knowledge. As explained by ProPublica, precinct officers are the “worker bees of political parties” that have a surprising amount of influence over how local elections are run. These positions play a role in deciding poll workers, choosing how elections are conducted, and even help determine who supervises elections, among other critical responsibilities. Bannon used his platform to promote his guest’s claims that by filling these positions, his followers could “take over” elections in counties that may otherwise not have strong far-right strongholds.
Soon after Schultz appeared on Bannon’s show, his precinct strategy made its way to far-right message boards that are often safe havens for white nationalism, hate speech, and conspiracy theories. Schultz himself appeared on a number of QAnon-connected shows to tout his plan and encourage extremist listeners to get involved in their local precincts.
In October, Schultz began hawking a QAnon-linked website for his precinct committee members to connect state by state. At this point, Bannon repeatedly advocates for the strategy and has made it clear that he believes his audience is destined to “control this country.”
Unfortunately, their plan appears to be working. Various QAnon-connected groups and individuals are continuing to push for fellow believers to become precinct committee members and advocating for election audits across the U.S.
Bannon was banned from Twitter and YouTube after repeatedly calling for violence and suggesting live on air that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray be beheaded. Now, Bannon listeners can turn to Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts to listen to his show and watch his broadcast on the QAnon-linked channel Real America’s Voice, which is platformed by ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV.
Bannon is not the loudest voice on the far-right, but his connections to GOP politicians showcase his outsized influence on Republican politics. Bannon platforms a wide range of GOP politicians who have leverage over national and state-specific policies. Appearing on Bannon’s show seems to be a “litmus test” for leading Republicans to agree with Bannon’s lies and extremist claims about the 2020 election. They always do.
Republican politicians who have appeared on Bannon’s show over the past year include: Sen. Josh Hawley, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Tim Burchett , Lauren Boebert, Claudia Tenney, Elise Stefanik, Alabama Senate candidate Rep. Mo Brooks, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann, Arizona secretary of state candidate and state Rep. Mark Finchem, Arizona state Sens. Wendy Rogers andSonny Borelli, Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania state Rep. Dawn Keefer, Georgia state Sen. Brandon Beach, Georgia lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Burt Jones, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Mayor of McAllen, Texas, Javier Villalobos.
Bannon’s extremism and calls for revolution and violence are overtly dangerous. The platforms that continue to carry his show after a year of nonstop election lies are all culpable for his erosion of American democracy.