Trump pick for chief advisor, Steve Bannon, 'disastrous for America'
On 60 Minutes, he said he was going to bring the country together. But apparently, he's going to divide it a little more first.
As you may have heard, President-elect Donald Trump has started naming his White House inner circle. His chief of staff will be Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. It's a pretty safe choice. Especially compared to who he's chosen as his chief strategist and senior advisor: Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News.
It's pretty much never back down, always forge forward, never concede, never admit any mistakes and, if anyone questions you, run them over.- Kurt Bardella, former Breitbart spokesperson
Bannon took over as the CEO of Trump's campaign in August. His website has been accused of peddling conspiracy theories and outright hate with headlines like, "Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?" and "How Muslim migrants devastate a community."
Kurt Bardella was a spokesperson for Breitbart and spoke with As It Happens about why he thinks the appointment could be "disastrous for America." Here is part of their conversation.
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Kurt Bardella: I think he'll continue to have a very strong influence with the president-elect. Steve is one of the hardest-working, smart, savvy operators in Washington. Much like Donald Trump, he has a knack for being able to touch the pulse of big issues that resonate with a certain segment of the electorate and putting that into a vocabulary that motivates them to act, to get passionate and mobilized. I think as president, Steve understands more than anything that so much of that job is being able to communicate effectively. I expect Steve's role to really be taking the reins of shaping that message and crafting, almost like a director would in a film, what the Trump presidency will look and sound like.
CO: What are the values that they share?
KB: Their approach to confrontation and conflict is very similar. It's pretty much never back down, always forge forward, never concede, never admit any mistakes and, if anyone questions you, run them over. This is someone who spoils for a fight. He loves conflict and he just doesn't ever stop. There is no off switch for Steve.
CO: What are some of the things that he said during editorial meetings at Breitbart that you found uncomfortable?
KB: I try to stay away from talking in detail about things that I heard in confidence while I was representing them. Overall really what I found concerning was the idea that a media entity would become a de facto propaganda arm of a political campaign. As we transition now into the White House, we have, for the first time in our country's history, a media entity that's positioned to be the propaganda vehicle for the president. We've never had that before. I think there's going to be a massive conflict between the free press and that arm that works within the West Wing now. There is no line of separation now. The person who has been running Breitbart for years is now the virtual co-chief of staff of the Trump presidency.
CO: Some of the things that Mr. Trump has said about women, minorities and Muslims — did Steve Bannon help shape those remarks?
KB: Yes, I think that Steve's influence was very much using a vocabulary to try to pit different groups of Americans against one another and to cater to the most passionate audience that he had at his disposal to motivate them to support Donald Trump. I think they did that very effectively, unfortunately. In some ways, they are very masterful at trolling that audience with headlines to try to bait them into continuing to be on their front lines.
CO: What was the occasion when you felt that you could just not support what these people were doing?
KB: I think it was during the primary when they very fully just began to become advocates of the Trump campaign. For me, Donald Trump was not a candidate that I could ever get behind and support in any way. His divisive rhetoric, his record of having misogynistic, racist attitudes, even making fun of a disabled reporter — these are things that are just indefensible.
CO: You've said that when you joined it was a different organization. Did Steve Bannon bring that change to the organization?
KB: Well, I think they saw an opportunity in a figure head in Donald Trump that they could coalesce around and achieve the goal of becoming more influential and powerful. That's what they did and I think that's what changed.
CO: How do you think Mr. Bannon will get along with Reince Prebius, the new chief of staff?
KB: Oh, I think that's a doomed union. Three, six, nine months from now, one of those two won't be there anymore.
CO: Which one do you think will be left standing and what does that mean for the president's office of the United States?
KB: I think Steve will. I think it means what you see is what you get and that the Trump that we've seen for the last year is the Trump we will see as president.
CO: How would you characterize that?
KB: Oh, disastrous for America. Anytime that you have someone who is comfortable taking on the free press, who promotes people taking matters into their own hands, who promotes the idea of investigating and incarcerating your political opponents and adversaries — these are all signs of someone who has a dictatorial perspective in governing. I think that's a very dangerous thing to have.
CO: Do you think Steve Bannon will encourage the president to do those kinds of things?
KB: I think that he'll continue to encourage Trump to be exactly who he has been this entire campaign and that won't change whether they are in the Oval Office or anywhere else for that matter. I think they'll continue to be what they have been — which is the propaganda arm of the administration.
For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Kurt Bardella.