Until he was named the surprise new CEO of the Trump campaign, Steve Bannon had worked as executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, and his leadership there proved highly controversial. Under Bannon's leadership, say former Breitbart employees, the site has deteriorated into a "cesspool" of racism and anti-Semitism and "a gathering place of white nationalists."
That's a harsh charge. If true, it's deeply troubling that such a man has been placed in charge of a national presidential campaign. But in the midst of the political season, with inflammatory language and exaggerations everywhere, assessing the validity of such claims can be difficult. And disgruntled ex-employees aren't always the most reliable sources of information.
Fortunately, we don't need to rely upon second- or third-hand accounts to reach a judgment. You can hear it straight from Bannon's own lips.
For example, in a Breitbart radio show back on May 24, Bannon was thrilled to have a man by the name of Curtis Ellis as his guest. Ellis had just published a column at World News Daily that Bannon lauded on air as "quite frankly, a stunning piece ... so provocative." The headline of the piece read "The Radical Left's Ethnic Cleansing of America," and it got worse from there.
According to Ellis, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs once held by working-class white Americans has been no accident, no unexpected side effect of globalization and robotics. It was the plan all along. That's right, "the radical left, the Clinton family and Wall Street deliberately liquidated the white working class of America."
"The decimation of America’s middle class and industrial strength is a case of murder, not accidental death," Ellis charged in that column. "It was done with premeditation, malice and forethought." He further alleged that "race warriors, displaying group solidarity or guilt, were pleased to see the jobs of white Americans moving to the Third World. ... the death of American working-class whites was planned by the radical left and carried out with willing executioners at the highest levels of American politics, academia and business."
Bannon lauded all that nonsense as "a magnificent column." And when Ellis noted a rise in death rates among rural and white working-class Americans and suggested that it too was evidence of a huge anti-white conspiracy, Bannon jumped in to agree. "Mainstream media are being kind of celebratory when they report this phenomenon," he told Ellis. "You can almost see their smiles when they report this."
Again, don't rely on the judgments of others. Take a listen yourself:
After wading through an archive of Bannon's past radio shows at Breitbart, I can report that such comments are not at all unusual and are in fact rather tame compared to some of his other ideas.
For example, Trump's new campaign chief has argued on air that Khizr Khan is not the proud American Gold Star father that he might seem, but instead might be a Muslim Brotherhood plant who is plotting to impose Sharia law on the United States. Bannon has also suggested that in his job as immigration attorney, Khan is helping to smuggle jihadists and Islamic supremacists into the country to further the cause of an Islamic takeover.
Bannon is also good buddies with Trump associate and conspiracy-monger Roger Stone. (If you don't know his work, Stone was most recently in the news for claiming that Chelsea Clinton has had four cosmetic surgeries to make her look more like Bill Clinton and less like her actual father, the late Webb Hubbell.)
In a radio show back in June, Bannon and Stone eagerly traded theories that Huma Abedin, the top aide to Hillary Clinton, is either a Muslim Brotherhood secret agent or a spy for the Saudis. They agreed that Abedin's success in gaining a top security clearance is evidence of a widespread pro-Muslim conspiracy at the top levels of government to undermine America.
"Do you think there's a fifth column, both in the media and in the government, a fifth column that is bought and paid for by our enemies?" Bannon eagerly asked Stone, who of course replied that it's a very real possibility.
Bannon is also a big fan of lunatic anti-Muslim activists such as Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The latter two are co-founders of groups condemned for anti-Muslim bigotry by the Anti-Defamation League and have been banned from travel to Great Britain because of their racist rants. Spencer, for example, has long crusaded against the Muslim Brotherhood and accuses the group of carrying out "a plan to do nothing less than conquer and Islamize the United States." He too believes that Khizr Khan might be an agent in that plan.
In an interview Aug. 9, Bannon and Spencer celebrated the fact that 50 top Republican foreign-policy experts had just released a letter that described Trump as unfit to be president and commander in chief. The letter didn't matter, the two men agreed, because Trump had already concluded that the Republican foreign policy establishment had been a total failure, and that as president he would turn to other sources for guidance.
Trump had used similar language himself, without specifying who those "other sources" might be. But Bannon and Spencer thought they knew.
"The reason that you saw 'the Failed Fifty' throw down yesterday ... is because Donald J. Trump is starting to listen to the people who had heretofore been put on the sidelines," Bannon said. "Guess what? They were right and the establishment was wrong. The voices of people like Robert Spencer, who understand the enemy that we're fighting and who have solutions about how we can win, are now coming to the forefront."
Ordinarily, it might be ludicrous to suggest that the Republican nominee for president would be turning to the likes of Spencer, Geller and Frank Gaffney for guidance in how to undertake the war on terror. That argument becomes harder to make when you remember that eight days later, Bannon himself was named CEO of the entire Trump campaign.