After his very public defenestration at the behest of White House chief of staff John Kelly, right-wing rabble-rouser and erstwhile senior White House strategist Steve Bannon has returned to his roost atop Breitbart News. The move ensures the supply of online vitriol and borderline incitement won’t run out any time soon.
In fact, the range of targets for the inflammatory site may become even wider. Bannon has hinted he plans to hold Donald Trump to promises he made to his nationalist base. That means more sniping at Trump associates who don’t toe the nationalist line.
Bannon was shown the door amid backlash against Trump’s comments comparing neo-Nazis and counter-protesters in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, which some interpreted as Trump pandering to racist supporters at the encouragement of Bannon, a populist and nationalist.
After the latest controversy erupted, Bannon tried to distance himself from white supremacists. He described them as “clowns” and “losers” in a phone call with the co-editor of The American Prospect. But these reversals apparently came too late to placate Kelly, who indicated he is determined to bring more order and discipline to Trump’s administration. Kelly was visibly displeased with Trump’s apparently off-the-cuff remarks last Tuesday.
Equally important was growing suspicion in the Oval Office that Bannon was behind a series of leaks and attacks on his rivals in the administration, often published in Breitbart. In recent months, the site went after Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor, who favors free trade in contrast to Bannon’s own ideology of “economic nationalism.”
According to his own account, Bannon knew he was on the way out several weeks ago, claiming he submitted his resignation to Trump on August 7.
Bannon always retained a position as executive chairman of Breitbart News and quickly reinserted himself into day-to-day operations, attending the news site’s Friday evening editorial meeting. Speaking to Joshua Green of Bloomberg News, Bannon portrayed his mission as one of support for Trump: “I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.”
Bannon told The Weekly Standard: “I feel jacked up. Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons.”
However, in practice, it is equally likely Bannon will be a thorn in Trump’s side, thanks to his inside knowledge of the administration and adversarial stance toward Trump advisors, like Cohn, whom he views as too liberal or pro-globalization. Bannon is also said to be readying attacks on Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
Breitbart news editor-in-chief Alex Marlow stated: “The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today. Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.”
The combative Bannon warned The Weekly Standard that Trump was in danger of selling out, suggesting open confrontation is on the way: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.”
Though blacklisted by thousands of advertising clients — more than 2,500 advertisers total, according to Sleeping Giants — Breitbart News remains popular in certain circles. That’s thanks, in large part, to social media. The publisher claims to have the 13th-most-popular Facebook page in the world.