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Trump adviser known for provocation. Or is it prejudice?


    Steve Bannon, campaign CEO for President-elect Donald Trump, leaves Trump Tower, Friday, in New York.

WASHINGTON >> When Donald Trump announced Stephen Bannon as his top White House strategist, critics re-erupted with allegations that Bannon was racist, sexist and anti-Semitic.

“I promise you he’s not as scary” as people said, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday. She called concerns about Bannon “very unfair.”

If history is any guide, Bannon won’t be putting those fears to rest anytime soon. As a conservative media brawler who became Trump’s campaign chief executive, Bannon has discarded norms for discussing race, gender and religion, often framing even abstract political fights in deliberately inflammatory terms.

“What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party,” Bannon said in a 2010 radio interview.

For a man aggrieved with elite educational, business and media institutions, Bannon has risen to the top of some of them. Born into a Norfolk, Virginia, family of Catholic Democrats, Bannon served in the U.S. Navy before attending Harvard Business School. Afterward, he went to Goldman Sachs, leaving to start his own media-focused boutique investment banking firm. After selling the business to French banking giant Societe Generale, he became a film producer.

Though he created successful Hollywood films, the groundwork for his future career in politics came from a Reagan biopic, “In the Face of Evil,” which introduced him to conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart and author Peter Schweizer.

After Breitbart died unexpectedly in 2012, Bannon took the helm of a relaunch of his news site. Breitbart grew quickly, from 12 million monthly page views to more than 192 million by August of this year, according to the site.

During the Republican Convention, Bannon said Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right,” a loose group espousing a provocative and reactionary strain of conservatism. Heavily influenced by the shock-based rhetoric of internet chat boards, the alt-right includes strains of white nationalism and aggressive anti-feminism.

The alt-right’s mainstream apologists describe those themes as a demonstration of free speech rather than a full-throated endorsement of prejudice.

In interviews, Bannon has acknowledged that the alt-right may attract some racists, homophobes and anti-Semites, but said that he does not share those opinions — and that the left harbors undesirable elements as well.

Yet Breitbart actively cultivates some of those themes, and Bannon has shown little patience for adjusting the site’s tone to pacify critics.

Under Bannon, Breitbart kept a running tab of news stories titled “black crime,” which catalogued the activities of supposed “black rape gangs” and “black mobs.” The site used a slur for transgender people in headlines and stories. And during the campaign — a period in which Bannon stepped aside from running the site — sometimes went out of its way to identify Trump critics as Jews.

“I’ve known and worked with Steve Bannon, and he has traditional conservative non-racist, non-prejudiced views about the world,” said Joel Pollak, a senior editor at large at Breitbart, who called The Associated Press in response to a request for comment from Bannon on this story. “Lately, media conventions have determined that some of the traditional views of most of Western civilization are offensive.”

Bannon has publicly disavowed tolerance for prejudice. But allegations of anti-Semitism have also followed Bannon into his personal life as well. In 2007, his ex-wife alleged in court documents from their divorce that Bannon expressed open anti-Semitism, declaring that he didn’t want their two daughters “going to school with Jews.” Bannon disputed saying this.

In a 2011 radio interview, Bannon declared that conservative women, including Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, infuriated liberals because they “would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children.” He contrasted that against a slur for lesbians.

Regardless of Bannon’s personal views on race and gender, he has heartily endorsed using inflammatory rhetoric to incite Breitbart’s readership. In a December 2014 internal Breitbart email obtained by the Daily Beast, Bannon and an editor discussed a traditional Washington slight — the possibility that Breitbart might not have been invited to a press conference by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The conversation quickly spiraled into rage at the Republican political establishment.

He compared leadership figures to women’s genitalia. “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.”

Such opinions make Bannon an odd pairing with Reince Priebus, the Republican chairman whom Trump has named his chief of staff. Senior members of Trump’s camp have downplayed the prospects for conflict.

“When you’re out there just criticizing, it’s one thing,” Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said. “When you actually get on the inside, there’s a certain weight of responsibility to the American people that is on your shoulders. And I think Steve Bannon is the kind of guy who gets that.”

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  • Bannon sounds like a bad guy but given the source of this article it’s hard to form an opinion. I’ll come to my own decision over time. Also, where were these critics when Al Sharpton was/is spewing his racist venom? The media would be more believable if they were more objective instead of again showing their pro-progressive/liberal bias.

    • IRT AhiPoke, fully agree with your post. All the “reports” thus far are 3rd party comments and not tied directly to Mr. Bannon. I also will make up my own decision.

    • Nice to see that there are those who don’t immediately take what the media chooses to print as fact. Since hearing about Bannon, who I know nothing about, I’ve been pouring over things and weeding out all the garbage to get to the man himself. Reading this article actually helped to dispel one accusation that I have seen spread over and over by the majority of media outlets where they have labelled Bannon as an anti-Semitic for “declaring that he didn’t want their two daughters “going to school with Jews.”” Today, here are those same words, in the correct context: “In 2007, his ex-wife alleged in court documents from their divorce that Bannon expressed open anti-Semitism, declaring that he didn’t want their two daughters “going to school with Jews.” Bannon disputed saying this.” Taking liberties to so obviously deceive people is why many have no faith in the media.

    • Don’t you think there is a difference between being politically correct and being a bigot? Was that W.V. official being politically incorrect, or a bigot?

      • Unfortunately in order to ridicule overt correctness the comments often go too far in the opposite direction, which seems to be the category Bannon frequently occupies. This lady in WV isn’t involved in that back and forth, she’s simply a foolish individual who’s paying the price for her personal prejudices. Having differing expressed opinions within an overriding ideology may tend to encourage overall balance, and that’s really the best we can hope for with Trump’s selections so far.

        • Fair enough, I can respect your position related to, “balancing”. Guess we’ll have to wait and see on this guy.

      • IRT Advertiser1, Hawaii born President Obama was a Progressive Liberal Community Organizer and Mr. Bannon is a Conservative Community Organizer. Both are from different ends of the political spectrum. Is Hawaii born President Obama being politically correct and a bigot? Both are Americans.

  • The Dems. still can not come to terms with their loss. Get on board the Trump Train or get left behind. The biggest racist in Washington is about to leave, Obama divided this country like no other before him, Trump has got his hands full just trying to clean up Obamas mess. Democrats stop your whining and belly aching get behind Trump and what he is trying to do for the country or you might find yourselves without a job come next election.

  • stephan bannon is a smart conservative guy and honorable
    he is not a racist as the libs are trying to portray him
    with all the commies that barry had in his admin
    why they screaming?

    • Yet the negative articles keep coming. It would be nice to have the opposing viewpoint of the other half of the country, but it doesn’t appear to be happening soon. I believe the “fair and balanced” concept of Fox News is the logical way to report news. They have 50-50 conservative/ liberal pundits, which allows viewers to hear a variety of viewpoints. That’s probably why they’re the most watched. When you have only one side, such as MSNBC, the problem is , at least for me, it is simply boring. I find it hard to listen to them for more than 5 minutes. I believe they’ve done a disservice to Democrats because viewers can see through there nonsense. CNN, NBC and ABC primarily show bias through omission; not reporting anything that doesn’t fit the Democrats agenda. If anyone believes there is not bias from the major networks, just look at the personal relationships between those in the White House and executives in the networks.

    • Valarie Jarrett, the Chief Staff to Obama was born in Teheran while her parents worked in Iran. After their return she embraced the Muslim faith. Yet we Republicans have not gotten excited over her religious preference as the Democrats have over Trumps choice of Bannon. Personally, Trump was last choice among the original 16 campaigners.

  • Star Advertiser known for biased, rumor mongering, provocation. Didn’t this paper learn anything from this Presidential election? Maybe you should check and see if the New York Times is still in business? Cancel or reduce your subscription to get more BALANCED reports.

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