On January 6, a group of pro-Trump insurrectionists took action, staging an attack on the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and causing the deaths of five people. Some of the rioters described it as “the beginning of another American revolution.”
During the insurrection itself, one of the insurrectionists directly echoed Bannon:
In the lead-up to the attack, Bannon used his YouTube channel to repeatedly call for violence and revolution around the 2020 election while spreading false claims that it was being stolen from President Donald Trump. I’ve compiled a noncomprehensive review of this rhetoric, from before and after the insurrection.
Two days prior to Election Day, Bannon compared the response to the 2020 election to the American Revolution and likened himself to the founders who were labeled “insurrectionists” -- what he called the “Bannon types” of the era. Co-host Jack Maxey reminded his listeners that the founders “pledged their lives and their sacred honor” to the cause, and Bannon asked, “What have you guys done out there in the audience?”
And the day before the violent pro-Trump mob overtook the U.S. Capitol, Bannon declared on his War Room: Pandemic podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
His violent talking points undermining the democratic process extend back to months before the election, and they continued in its aftermath:
- In September, he launched a national speaking tour called “The Plot to Steal 2020,” pushing various fantasies about election fraud, “lawfare,” and impending violence by liberals that would supposedly be used to elect Joe Biden to the presidency.
- On the September 21 edition of War Room: Pandemic, he described the run-up to the election as “the pre-game to the civil war in the United States.”
- During that same broadcast, he claimed Democrats are “trying to foist an illegitimate regime onto the republic of the United States. That would be Joe Biden.”
- On September 28, he told his audience on YouTube the election would “be a knife fight” and said Trump needs “knife fighters.” He also challenged them to become election officials and “contest every ballot.”
- On Election Day, before polls had closed, Bannon hosted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to declare Trump the winner. Suggesting the president would declare victory that night, Bannon said: “We're going to set the ground rules ... about not stealing this election.”
- On November 5, Bannon called for Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray to be beheaded, saying: “I'd put the heads on pikes — right? — I'd put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats.”
- He also called for Attorney General Bill Barr to “arrest Jack Dorsey today” after Twitter put ”disputed” labels on Trump’s tweets falsely claiming victory.
- Bannon declared that pro-Trump demonstrations show “we control the streets now,” comparing the situation to the American Revolution and the Civil War.
- On November 4, Bannon compared the 2020 election results to what Aaron Burr supposedly said about the duel that killed Alexander Hamilton: “‘When it came to that split second, Hamilton’s hand shook and mine didn’t, right? So whose hand is going to shake today?” The former Trump adviser then added, “I saw the war dance. We got a good war dance. Don’t need a war dance, need a war party.”
- Bannon targeted a Michigan man who stood up for voting rights, baselessly suggesting he is a domestic terrorist who should be punished like dissidents during China’s Cultural Revolution.
- With votes still being counted, Bannon appeared on Fox Business to declare that “Trump is already in his second term.”
- On November 21, he used bogus voter fraud claims to declare that “we’re not going to count all the votes.”
- Pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood appeared on War Room: Pandemic and called for Trump supporters to do what “our Founding Fathers did in 1776” and “be prepared to fight for their freedom” against “people trying to take over our country.” Bannon said Wood makes him “proud to be an American and a southerner.”
Now that his persistent fantasizing has become a painful reality, Bannon suddenly doesn’t want anything to do with it -- yet he also didn’t want to lose the hardcore audience he’s whipped up to violence. Since the events of January 6, Bannon has tried to walk a thin line:
- After the Capitol insurrection, Bannon directed Trump supporters to “color inside the lines,” meaning they should not resort to violence, and to “color boldy.”
- He also said that “you can’t justify” the violence that took place at the Capitol because “we don’t believe in taking matters into our own hands; we believe in the rule of law,” then blamed Vice President Mike Pence and “feckless Republicans” for failing Trump and inviting the riot.
- He also downplayed the violence after the fact, saying, “It looks like 99% of the people are really peaceful, staying in the plaza.”
But his objections ring hollow, especially as he’s continued to discourage his audience from changing course or reconsidering their support for Trump “because we know you’re not summer soldiers or sunshine patriots.”