Content warning: abuse, sexual misconduct
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon has long attempted to shape his reputation as a political strategist around supporting anti-establishment Republicans, often throwing his support behind right-wing figures with abusive and violent pasts. Now, Bannon is using his War Room: Pandemic podcast to platform alleged abusers and to discredit accusations of assault against them.
Bannon himself has been accused of perpetrating violence against women and was charged with “misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness” in 1996 for an incident involving his then-wife. Bannon pleaded “not guilty” and the charges were later dropped when the case was dismissed.
Bannon’s current faction of GOP candidates he promotes on his show includes disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, and Pennsylvania lieutenant governor candidate Teddy Daniels, all of whom have been accused of abuse or sexual misconduct.
This strategy for the 2022 elections is part of a long-standing pattern. Bannon was blamed for pushing Trump to endorse former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s disastrous 2017 special election Senate run, then doubled down after Moore was accused of preying on underaged girls. His relationship with Chinese fugitive Miles Guo, and his support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh also fit into Bannon’s larger pattern of supporting alleged abusers.
Here is a breakdown of alleged abusers Bannon has backed or supported:
Greitens, who is currently seeking a Senate seat in Missouri, was first elected to the governor’s office in 2016 but forced to abruptly resign from his position in 2018 following accusations of sexual assault, blackmail, and campaign finance violations.
Greitens allegedly forced his hairdresser “to perform oral sex, undressing, kissing and touching her without her consent, and threatening to release a nude photo of her if she told anyone about their encounter, which took place in 2015.” Greitens claimed to have had a consensual extramarital affair but denied the abuse and blackmail allegations. (The sexual misconduct and campaign finance charges against Greitens were later dropped after he left office.)
In March, Greitens’ ex-wife filed court documents in an ongoing custody battle for their children that accused the former governor “of knocking her down, taking away her cellphone and keys, physically abusing their children and repeatedly threatening suicide if she did not publicly support him during the 2018 scandal that led to his resignation.”
Since the report of his alleged abuse was released, Greitens and his lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, have appeared on Bannon’s War Room to discredit his ex-wife’s claims and to purport that establishment Republicans were involved in the affidavit detailing his alleged abuses against her and her children.
Prior to announcing his run for Senate, Greitens hosted a since-canceled show on Real America’s Voice, the QAnon-linked far-right outlet known for carrying War Room: Pandemic. Media Matters previously reported how Greitens launched his Senate bid on the back of appearing on Bannon’s show.
On the day the news broke of his ex-wife’s abuse claims against him, Greitens appeared on War Room to argue that the accusations are “baseless” and that there are “political operatives who are behind this.”
“Your audience has seen this,” he told Bannon. “You’ve seen the lies against President Trump. You saw the lies against Brett Kavanaugh.”
“You’re going to be able to connect the dots directly to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Greitens later claimed. “You’re going to be able to connect the dots directly to the RINO swamp who always does this. This is their game. They work to push out false allegations.”
“The people financing this are going to be exposed, and they are going to be exposed on this show,” Bannon later added.
Bannon hosted Parlatore to continue pushing Greitens’ narrative that establishment Republicans including Karl Rove are behind the abuse allegations against him.
During Parlatore’s April 5 appearance, he asserted that “the affidavit that she submitted is so full of further lies.”
Bannon claimed that “what they’re trying to do is just get Greitens caught up in the spin” as part of “a tough primary,” and later asked, “Is Karl Rove potentially guilty of a crime here?”
“It really depends,” Parlatore responded. “If he is encouraging her to embellish the story for his own political purposes – and I don’t know if he has, we’re going to find that out – but anybody who encourages a witness to falsely embellish a story for a courtroom so that they can gain advantage in a political campaign? Yeah, that person is guilty of a crime and they should go to jail.”
Greitens’ ex-wife claims that she has photo evidence and documents that support her abuse allegations and that she did not consult with anyone on her affidavit other than her legal counsel.
Charles Herbster is a Trump-endorsed Nebraska gubernatorial candidate, Republican donor, and beauty pageant judge. Former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is currently serving as a senior adviser to his campaign.
Herbster is accused of sexually assaulting eight women, including GOP state Sen. Julie Slama. Slama described the incident as “one of the most traumatizing things I’ve ever been through.” Per a report by the Nebraska Examiner, the state outlet which broke the story, the victims ranged in age from teenagers to their mid-20s during the time of the incidents. Herbster denies the accusations.
On the April 19 edition of Bannon’s show, Herbster was invited to discredit the reports of sexual misconduct and blame “establishment” Republicans for any wrongdoing.
During the interview, Bannon set up Herbster to suggest that current Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was behind the allegations.
Bannon asked, “Do you think the governor, Ricketts, is in back of this?”
Herbster responded, “There’s no question in my mind about it. He is in back of this. This has been circulating for a year, it came from him. There’s no question this is part of the establishment.”
On April 23, Bannon invited Conway to discredit the reports of Herbster’s sexual misconduct.
Bannon opened the interview by suggesting that “all of these people somehow that are making these allegations and their family members work for Gov. Pete Ricketts or the Republican Party up there.”
Conway asserted that “Ricketts has tried everything he could” and claimed that Ricketts’ team was “shopping this around for a very long time, we know that as fact.”
A bipartisan statement signed by all 13 women in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature declared that Herbster's “highly credible, corroborated allegations of sexual assault” are “completely unacceptable” and “render him unfit to serve.”
Teddy Daniels is a former police officer and a Pennsylvania lieutenant governor candidate who was present at the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
In the past, Daniels was accused of failing to pay child support by two of his ex-partners and his ex-wife claimed in court that he had been “physically and mentally abusive.” In April, Daniels was removed from his home after his current wife asked for emergency protective services. Per court documents reported by Rolling Stone, “Daniels’ wife accuses him of stalking her and being verbally abusive, as well as threatening her, their young child, and the family dog.”
In one appearance, after playing the candidate’s entire campaign ad, Bannon described Daniels as a “fighter” and someone “who can focus on fights that matter.”
In another interview, Bannon described Daniels’ campaign as “common sense Americanism.”
Daniels later told Bannon that his War Room listeners “are coming in big for me” and “I can’t thank your viewers enough” for supporting his campaign.
Bannon spearheaded Moore’s 2017 special election campaign for Senate, even after reports that Moore allegedly groped, forcibly kissed, and made nonconsensual advances toward various women. He was also accused of twice sexually assaulting a then-14-year-old girl by taking her to his home in the woods and forcibly touching her. Moore was 32-years-old at the time of the incident.
Bannon’s endorsement of Moore went against his former boss Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who both endorsed Moore’s rival Luther Strange during the Republican primary.
After the news broke of Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct, Bannon did everything he could to save the Moore campaign from total catastrophe.
As executive chairman of Breitbart News, Bannon dispatched reporters to Alabama to “sow doubt about the accusations against Moore and to push the claim that his accusers are lying.” Under Bannon’s supervision, these reporters worked to “attack Moore’s critics and churn out a fusillade of stories designed to raise doubts about the motives of Moore’s accusers and the mainstream reporters covering them.”
Bannon attempted to establish his favorite counter-narrative, blaming the mainstream media and establishment Republicans for the allegations while claiming Breitbart reporters were “finding some collusion going on in stories about Judge Moore.”
During a rally for Moore in Fairhope, Alabama, Bannon said, “This whole thing was a setup. This whole thing was weaponized, right?”
Bannon suggested that NBC News’ Chuck Todd colluded with McConnell and The Washington Post to push out allegations, calling it “a coordinated hit.”
Acknowledging the support his campaign received from Breitbart, Moore described Bannon as “the master strategist.”
In reality, Bannon’s strategy completely fell apart as Democrat Doug Jones narrowly won the special election against Moore in the deep-red state of Alabama.
Since the Moore saga, Bannon has backed a QAnon-linked smear campaign of false allegations against now-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown.
In 2017, Guo was accused of rape by a Chinese national who was Guo’s former assistant. According to a lawsuit against Guo, he “lured” the woman to New York, then held his former assistant “captive” and subjected her to “repeated acts of mental cruelty and sexual violence.” Guo described the accusations as “fake.”
Bannon’s relationship with Guo has been extensively reported, and Bannon has continued his unrelenting support for Guo over the past two years by spreading Guo-linked conspiracy theories on his show and sitting down for interviews with Guo’s followers. To this day, Bannon still plays Guo’s song Taking Down the CCP as his outro music to commercials on his show. In August 2020, Bannon was arrested by Postal Service agents on fraud charges while aboard Guo’s yacht off the coast of Connecticut.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct during his 2018 Senate confirmation hearing by three women, most notably by Christine Blasey Ford.
Despite the allegations, Bannon threw his support behind Kavanaugh. Bannon texted Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that confirming Kavanaugh is “a proxy fight for Trump's presidency” and means “America wins.”
Again showing his support for Kavanaugh, Bannon told Politico that confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would make or break Republicans’ chances of doing well during the 2018 midterms.
“There’s no walking this thing back,” Bannon said. “You get Kavanaugh, you’re going to get turnout. You get turnout, you’re going to get victory. This is march or die.”