In his first task as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief of staff, former RNC chair Reince Priebus made the rounds of the cable news morning shows on Monday to defend Steve Bannon, Trump’s new “chief strategist.”
Bannon was formerly the CEO of Trump’s campaign. Before that, he was the head of Breitbart News, a notoriously pro-Trump website which caters to the “alt-right,” a Twitter-era re-branding for white nationalist and white supremacist ideologies.
Bannon, however, can’t be a white nationalist because he’s too educated, Priebus said on Fox & Friends, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“He was a force for good on the campaign. He’s very wise and smart. He’s gone to the London School of Economics, Harvard Business School. People don’t know that he was a ten-year naval officer at very high levels, advising admirals in the navy,” said Priebus on Fox News. “I have not seen any of these things that people are crying out about.”
Priebus says Bannon isn't a White Nationalist b/c he went to Harvard Biz, was a naval officer, and is "very smart": pic.twitter.com/H4IrEyuTtH
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 14, 2016
Breitbart’s open embrace of white nationalism was led by Bannon, according to former Breitbart staffer Ben Shapiro. As head of Breitbart, Bannon pushed the site towards embracing and propagating these views. Under his leadership, the site published articles such as “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “6 Reasons Pamela Geller’s Muhammad Cartoon Contest Is No Different From Selma.”
Priebus, however, insists that Bannon shouldn’t be considered a white nationalist because “you judge people as you see them and not as other people have said,” as he put it on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“That’s what I would say is that it’s what people do. It’s how people act on a day-to-day basis. I’ve only seen a generous, wise person to work with. So at the end of the day, this campaign worked because factions within our party were represented,” said Priebus.
Questioned specifically on the Today Show about the headlines that Breitbart ran under Bannon’s tenure, Priebus insisted that it was okay because Bannon did not personally write the articles.
“The guy I know isn’t a guy that is any of those things,” said Priebus.
At the Republican National Convention earlier this year, Bannon himself bragged that his site was “the platform for the alt-right,” as reported by Mother Jones.
Bannon has also reportedly personally espoused anti-Semitic views, another hall-marker of the alt-right. According to a court statement by Bannon’s ex-wife, Bannon had objected to sending his daughters “to school with Jews.”
“The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend,” Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, said in a statement to the court. Bannon, who was also accused of domestic abuse, has denied the allegations.
Priebus did not specifically address the allegations of anti-Semitism, but Newt Gingrich, another of Trump’s high level advisors, did.
Gingrich too denied the allegations — by relying on anti-Semitic stereotypes.
“He was a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. He was a Hollywood movie producer. The idea that somehow he represents — I had never heard of the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it,” Gingrich told Face the Nation host John Dickerson.
Conspiracies that Jews control Wall Street and Hollywood are common tropes of the alt-right. Stereotypes alleging Jewish control of banking and the media have been common refrains and complaints of anti-Semites for decades, if not centuries.
You can watch Gingrich’s defense here:
Priebus also hinted that despite having been passed over for the top job of chief-of-staff, Bannon would have a powerful voice in the new administration. On Fox & Friends, Priebus agreed that Bannon would steer the “populist vision” of Trump’s campaign and said that he and Bannon were in agreement on most things.
“The Steve Bannon that I know is really on the same page with everything that I agree with as far as advising President-Elect Trump,” said Priebus.
In the official announcement, Bannon and Priebus are described as “equal partners to transform the federal government.”