I started writing about the alarming hire of Steve Bannon back in August when it was announced. The critique is not manufactured partisan spin after the election. Many Republicans were horrified by the hire in August. Where was the media back then? Why was this not a bigger deal during the campaign? Here is what I wrote on Aug. 18 upon hearing that news:
“This is the bottom line of the Trump campaign shake-up:
This campaign is going to get even uglier and nastier. Bannon is a bare-knuckle Tea Party brawler who runs right-wing Breitbart Media, and he has been pushing for more anti-Clinton attacks, conspiracy theories, and white nationalism.
Bannon has been calling Trump [by phone] this summer to urge more “bare-knuckles brawl,” “brutal fights,” “gloves off,” full-scale populism/nationalism. Trump decided that the Manafort people were trying to restrain him and keep him on script, but Bannon wants to “Let Trump Be Trump!” Bannon is also known for wanting to burn down the GOP establishment, so that should be fun.
Insiders expect Bannon to push for Monica’s-blue-dress attacks and old Clinton conspiracy theories. Breitbart himself called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party.”
Republicans say giving Bannon access to classified briefings is “insane,” and they want Obama (or the FBI or State Dept.) to move to block Trump’s briefings. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro wrote that under Bannon’s leadership, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.” He said that Breitbart under Bannon embraced “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.” I have followed Breitbart closely since the 2008 campaign. It started out as a right-wing news source with a pro-Israel spin. It has changed dramatically into the home of the alt-right. Bannon proudly claimed that under his leadership, Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” And finally, we all know what alt-right means.
I have read too many stories and racist/anti-Semitic statements in Breitbart to list them all. I have heard from apologists claiming that because Bannon was an early investor in “Seinfeld,” he can’t be an anti-Semite or a racist. Investing in Seinfeld means nothing, except to say that he is a savvy and lucky investor in a show that made fun of New York City. I loved the show. At the same time, a small part of me worried about how the rest of the country interpreted it and what the rest of the country was laughing with… or laughing at?