|Intro||American media executive and former White House Chief Strategist for Donald Trump|
|Is||Film producer Film director Publicist Political advisor Politician Screenwriter Financial professional Banker Political scientist Investment banker Radio personality Media Executive|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Business Film, TV, Stage & Radio Finance Journalism Politics|
|Birth||27 November 1953, Norfolk, Virginia, USA|
Stephen Kevin Bannon (born November 27, 1953) is an American media executive, political strategist, former investment banker, and the former executive chairman of Breitbart News. He served as White House Chief Strategist in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump during the first seven months of Trump's term. He served on the board of Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm involved in the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After his military service, he worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker, and left as vice president. In 1993, he became acting director of the research project Biosphere 2. In the 1990s, he became an executive producer in Hollywood, and produced 18 films between 1991 and 2016. In 2007, he co-founded Breitbart News, a far-right website which he described in 2016 as "the platform for the alt-right".
In August 2016, Bannon was named the chief executive officer of Trump's 2016 presidential bid. Following Trump's victory, Bannon was appointed Chief Strategist in the Trump administration. He left this position on August 18, 2017, and rejoined Breitbart. In January 2018, Bannon was disavowed by Trump for critical comments reported in the book Fire and Fury, and left Breitbart.
After leaving the White House, Bannon opposed the Republican Party establishment and supported insurgent candidates in Republican primaries. Bannon's reputation as a political strategist was questioned when Roy Moore, with Bannon's support, lost the 2017 United States Senate election in Alabama. Bannon has declared his intention to become "the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement." Accordingly, he has supported many national populist conservative political movements around the world.
Early life and education
Stephen Kevin Bannon was born on November 27, 1953 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Doris (née Herr), a homemaker, and Martin J. Bannon Jr., who worked as an AT&T telephone lineman and as a middle manager. He grew up in a working class family which was pro-Kennedy and pro-union Democrat. He is of Irish, and some German, descent. Much of his mother's side of the family settled in the Baltimore area, a hotspot for German arrivals to America throughout the 19th Century.
Bannon graduated from Benedictine College Preparatory, a private, Catholic, military high school in Richmond, Virginia, in 1971, and then attended Virginia Tech, where he served as the president of the student government association. During the summers he worked at a local junk yard.
He graduated from Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies in 1976, with a bachelor's degree in urban planning. While serving in the navy, he earned a master's degree in national security studies in 1983 from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985, Bannon earned a Master of Business Administration degree with honors from Harvard Business School.
Service as naval officer
Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s; he served on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet, and afterwards stateside as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Bannon's job at the Pentagon was, among other things, handling messages between senior officers and writing reports about the state of the Navy fleet worldwide. While at the Pentagon, Bannon attended Georgetown University at night and obtained his master's degree in national security studies.
In 1980, Bannon was deployed to the Persian Gulf to assist with Operation Eagle Claw during the Iran hostage crisis. The mission's failure marked a turning point in his political world-view from largely apolitical to strongly Reaganite, which was further reinforced by the September 11 attacks. Bannon has stated, "I wasn't political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter fucked things up. I became a huge Reagan admirer. Still am. But what turned me against the whole establishment was coming back from running companies in Asia in 2008 and seeing that Bush had fucked up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster."
At the time of his separation from the Navy, Bannon held the rank of lieutenant (O-3).
After his military service, Bannon worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. In 1987, he relocated from New York to Los Angeles, to assist Goldman in expanding their presence in the entertainment industry. He stayed at this position with Goldman in Los Angeles for two years, and left with the title of vice president.
In 1990, Bannon and several colleagues from Goldman Sachs launched their own company Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank specializing in media. In one of Bannon & Co.'s transactions, the firm represented Westinghouse Electric which wanted to sell Castle Rock Entertainment. Bannon negotiated a sale of Castle Rock to Turner Broadcasting System, which was owned by Ted Turner at the time. Instead of a full adviser's fee, Bannon & Co. accepted a financial stake in five television shows, including Seinfeld, which was in its third season. Bannon still receives cash residuals each time Seinfeld is aired. Société Générale purchased Bannon & Co. in 1998.
In 1993, while still managing Bannon & Co., Bannon became acting director of the earth science research project Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona. Under Bannon, the closed-system experiment project shifted emphasis from researching human space exploration and colonization toward the scientific study of earth's environment, pollution, and climate change. He left the project in 1995.
Entertainment and media
In the 1990s, Bannon ventured into entertainment and media, and became an executive producer in the Hollywood film and media industry. Bannon produced 18 films, from Sean Penn's drama The Indian Runner (1991) to Julie Taymor's film Titus (1999). Bannon became a partner with entertainment industry executive Jeff Kwatinetz at film and television management company The Firm, Inc., 2002–2003.
In 2004, Bannon made a documentary about Ronald Reagan titled In the Face of Evil. Through the making and screening of this film, Bannon was introduced to Reagan's War author Peter Schweizer and publisher Andrew Breitbart, who would later describe him as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement. Bannon was involved in the financing and production of a number of films, including Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman (2010), The Undefeated (2011), and Occupy Unmasked (2012).
Bannon persuaded Goldman Sachs to invest, in 2006, in a company known as Internet Gaming Entertainment. Following a lawsuit, the company rebranded as Affinity Media, and Bannon took over as CEO. From 2007 through 2011, Bannon was the chair and CEO of Affinity Media.
In 2007, Bannon wrote an eight-page treatment for a new documentary called Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism (sic) in America. The outline states that "although driven by the 'best intentions,' institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic." In 2011, Bannon spoke at the Liberty Restoration Foundation in Orlando, Florida, about the Economic Crisis of 2008, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, and their impact in the origins of the Tea Party movement, while also discussing his films Generation Zero (2010) and The Undefeated.
Bannon was executive chair and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization (where he helped orchestrate the publication of Breitbart News senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash), from its founding in 2012 until his departure in August 2016. For the years 2012 through 2015, he received between $81,000 and $100,000 each year; the organization reported that he worked an average of 30 hours per week for the organization. He has also worked as vice president of the board of Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics firm which allegedly used illegal tactics to target American voters in the 2016 election and is owned largely by the Mercer family, the family that also co-owns Breitbart News.
In 2015, Bannon was ranked No. 19 on Mediaite's list of the "25 Most Influential in Political News Media 2015".
Bannon also hosted a radio show (Breitbart News Daily) on the SiriusXM Patriot satellite radio channel.
Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, a right-wing news, opinion and commentary website. Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time have said that the site has "pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and antisemitic material into the vein of the alternative right". Bannon said that Breitbart's ideological mix included libertarians, Zionists, the conservative gay community, same-sex marriage opponents, economic nationalists, populists, as well as alt-right, the alt-right comprising a very small proportion overall. Conceding the alt-right holds views with "racial and anti-Semitic overtones," Bannon said he has zero tolerance for such views.
In March 2012, after founder Andrew Breitbart's death, Bannon became executive chair of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of Breitbart News. Under his leadership, Breitbart took a more alt-right and nationalistic approach toward its agenda. In 2016, Bannon declared the website "the platform for the alt-right". Speaking about his role at Breitbart, Bannon said: "We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class."
On August 18, 2017, Breitbart announced that Bannon would return as executive chairman following his period of employment at the White House. On January 9, 2018, he stepped down as executive chairman.
Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor and colleague of Bannon, called Bannon a "bully" who "sold out [Breitbart founder] Andrew's mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump."
Donald Trump campaign
On August 17, 2016, with 88 days until the 2016 presidential election, Bannon was appointed chief executive of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Bannon left Breitbart, as well as the Government Accountability Institute and Cambridge Analytica, to take the job. Shortly after he assumed the chief executive role, the chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, was dismissed.
On November 13, following Donald Trump's election to the presidency, Bannon was appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to the President-elect. His appointment drew opposition from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and some Republican strategists because of statements in Breitbart News that were alleged to be racist or antisemitic. A number of prominent conservative Jews, however, defended Bannon against the allegations of anti-Semitism, including Ben Shapiro, David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, Bernard Marcus of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Morton Klein and the Zionist Organization of America, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Alan Dershowitz at first defended Bannon, saying there was no evidence he was antisemitic, but then in a later piece stated that Bannon had made bigoted statements against Muslims, women, and others. The ADL stated "We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon." Shapiro, who previously worked as an editor-at-large at Breitbart, said he had no evidence of Bannon being racist or an antisemite, but that Bannon was "happy to pander to those people and make common cause with them in order to transform conservatism into European far-right nationalist populism". Bannon had referred to French National Front (now National Rally) politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen as "the new rising star".
On November 15, 2016, U.S. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island released a letter to Trump signed by 169 Democratic House Representatives urging the President-Elect to rescind his appointment of Bannon. The letter stated that appointing Bannon "sends a disturbing message about what kind of president Donald Trump wants to be", because his "ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well documented"; it went on to present several examples of Breitbart News' alleged xenophobia. Bannon denied being a white nationalist and claimed, rather, that he was an "economic nationalist."
On November 18, during his first interview not conducted by Breitbart Media since the 2016 presidential election, Bannon remarked on some criticisms made about him, saying, "Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing." The quote was published widely in the media.
In an interview with The New York Times in late November, Trump responded to the controversy over Bannon's appointment, saying, "I've known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him."
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Bannon said that his role was to "recalibrate" the campaign which had at that point lost its message. He "stepped in and got the campaign refocused", but he rebuffed the idea that he was the reason Trump won the presidency, saying "Trump is unique in American political history, he's his own closer". But that his role was to make sure that Hilary Clinton was held up as a "guardian of a corrupt and incompetent establishment" and this that was key to winning votes in states that Trump needed to win.
Reuters reported on October 31, 2018 that the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting a "wide-ranging" investigation of Bannon's activities during the campaign, including knowledge he may have had about any contacts between Russia and two campaign advisors, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, as well as his role with Cambridge Analytica.
Upon his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to be his Chief Strategist, a newly created position. The title made him a counselor to the president, nearly equivalent in authority to the Chief of Staff. As a staff member in the Executive Office of the President, the position did not require Senate confirmation. Breitbart News editor Julia Hahn followed Bannon to the White House, where she was appointed as Bannon's aide, as well as Special Assistant to President Trump.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Bannon analogized his influence to that of "Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors".
Several days after Donald Trump's inauguration, Bannon told The New York Times, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this: the media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."
Bannon, along with Stephen Miller, was involved in the creation of Executive Order 13769, which resulted in restricted U.S. travel and immigration by individuals from seven countries, suspension of the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days, and indefinite suspension of the entry of Syrians to the United States. According to The Economist, a British news magazine, Bannon and Miller "see Mr [Vladimir] Putin as a fellow nationalist and crusader against cosmopolitanism."
In February 2017, Bannon appeared on the cover of Time, on which he was labeled "the Great Manipulator". The headline used for the associated article was "Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?", alluding to Bannon's perceived influence in the White House.
In 2018, Michael Lewis published a quote ascribed to Bannon, made while the transition team for Trump was supposed to be preparing for the next administration, and The Guardian has used it twice in the title of an excerpt from the 2018 Lewis book entitled, The Fifth Risk. The book examined the difference between the transition preparations provided by the administration that was exiting and what did or did not occur, and it revealed a profound lack of preparedness and concern, as expressed in the quote.
In a March 14, 2019 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross was questioned about his conversations regarding the adding of a citizenship question to the 2020 census surveys, which he had with Bannon, who in turn had referred him to immigration hardliners Kris Kobach and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Missouri Democratic Representative Lacy Clay accused Ross of being "complicit" regarding his efforts to weaken minority group voting rights, additionally accusing him of committing perjury with respect to those contacts. Clay called for Ross to tender his resignation, saying, "You lied to Congress. You misled the American people and you are complicit in the Trump administration's intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population." Ross said the change was in response to a request by the Justice Department for statistics to protect voting rights. On April 23, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding appeals of rejections by three circuit courts of the proposed inclusion of the survey question.
It was reported that he intentionally published stories to undermine H.R. McMaster. Bannon allegedly did this by leaking information to the alternative media, including alt-right writer Mike Cernovich. It was also reported that the Trump administration retroactively granted Bannon a blanket exemption from federal ethics rules that allowed him to communicate with editors at Breitbart News, which according to former Breitbart consultant Kurt Bardella would be proof of the administration's intent to allow him to continue being "the de facto editorial director of Breitbart".
National Security Council
At the end of January 2017, in a departure from the previous format of the National Security Council (NSC), the holder of Bannon's position, along with that of the Chief of Staff, were designated by presidential memorandum as regular attendees to the NSC's Principals Committee, a Cabinet-level senior inter-agency forum for considering national security issues. The enacted arrangement was criticized by several members of previous administrations and was called "stone cold crazy" by Susan E. Rice, Barack Obama's last national security adviser. In response, White House spokesman Sean Spicer pointed to Bannon's seven years experience as a Navy officer in justifying his presence on the Committee.
Bannon was removed from his NSC role in early April 2017 in a reorganization by U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, whom Bannon had helped select. Some White House officials said Bannon's main purpose in serving on the committee was as a check against former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, who had resigned in February 2017 for misleading the vice president about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Hence, with Flynn gone, Bannon was no longer needed. Bannon reportedly opposed his removal from the council and threatened to quit if president Trump went forward with it, although Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer urged him to stay. The White House said Bannon had not attempted to leave, and Bannon said any indication that he threatened resignation was "total nonsense". Bannon only attended one NSC meeting.
Departure from the White House
Bannon's employment in the White House ended on August 18, 2017, less than a week after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally which degenerated into violence and acrimony. Whereas members of both political parties condemned the hatred and violence of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, The New York Times noted that Trump "was the only national political figure to spread blame for the 'hatred, bigotry and violence' that resulted in the death of one person to 'many sides'". The decision to blame "many sides" was reported to have come from Bannon. The NAACP released a statement saying that while they "acknowledge and appreciate President Trump's disavowment of the hatred which has resulted in a loss of life today", they called on Trump "to take the tangible step to remove Steve Bannon – a well-known white supremacist leader – from his team of advisers". The statement further described Bannon as a "symbol of white nationalism" who "energized that sentiment" through his current position within the White House.
Some sources stated that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked Bannon on August 18, 2017, to submit his immediate resignation in lieu of being fired. Bannon, however, stated he was not fired but rather submitted his two-week resignation notice on August 4, 2017. He reminded The Weekly Standard that he had joined then-presidential candidate Trump's campaign on August 14, 2016, and said he'd "always planned on spending one year," but that he stayed a few more days due to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In an official statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."
The same day, Breitbart News announced that Bannon would return to the site as executive chairman. Several weeks after his departure it was reported that Trump still called Bannon using his personal cell phone, and was only calling when chief of staff Kelly was not around. The Washington Post reported in October 2017 that Trump and Bannon remained in regular contact.
Post-Trump administration activities
After leaving the White House, Bannon declared his intention to become "the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement." Accordingly, he has supported many national populist conservative political movements around the world. These include France's National Front (now the National Rally), Hungary's Fidesz, the Italian League, the Five Star Movement, the Brothers of Italy, Alternative for Germany, the Polish Law and Justice, the Sweden Democrats, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Swiss People's Party, the UK Independence Party, the Flemish Vlaams Belang, the Belgian People's Party, Spain's Vox, the Finns Party, the UK Conservative Party, the pan-European identitarian movement, Republika Srpska's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, the Brazilian 2018 Jair Bolsonaro presidential campaign, and the Israeli Likud. Bannon believes that these movements – along with Japan's Shinzo Abe, India's Narendra Modi, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia's Mohammad bin Salman, China's Xi Jinping, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and America's Donald Trump, as well as similar leaders in Egypt, the Philippines, Poland, and South Korea – are part of a global shift towards nationalism.
Bannon supports the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and drafted a leadership course curriculum for the organization.
In October 2019, Bannon began co-hosting War Room: Impeachment a daily radio show and podcast to nudge the White House and its allies into taking a more focused and aggressive posture to counteract the Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.
In November 2019, Bannon was compelled to testify in the trial of Roger Stone. Bannon testified that Stone was the wikileaks access point for the Trump campaign, to establish that Stone lied to Congress. Stone was subsequently convicted on all charges.
On June 3, 2020, Bannon and Chinese businessman Guo Wengui participated in declaring a "New Federal State of China" (also called "Federal State of New China"). It was proclaimed that they would overthrow the Chinese government. In New York City, planes were seen carrying banners which said "Congratulations to Federal State of New China!".
Republican Senate primaries
Bannon has made efforts to unseat incumbent Republican members of Congress he deemed to be insufficiently supportive of Trump's agenda. In October 2017, Bannon said he planned to sponsor primary challenges against six of the seven incumbent Republican senators in the 2018 elections. He said he had two requirements for a candidate to earn his support: they must pledge to vote against Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader and to end the Senate filibuster.
Bannon received credit for helping Roy Moore defeat incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the September Republican primary for the 2017 special Alabama Senate election, despite Trump's having endorsed Strange. After nine women alleged sexual misconduct, Bannon doubled down on his support for the candidate, raising doubt about the veracity of the accusations. When Ivanka Trump condemned Moore's campaign in Alabama, saying "there's a special place in hell for people who prey on children", Bannon responded, "What about the allegations about her dad and that 13-year-old?", in reference to a woman who accused Trump and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein of raping her at that age. (In August 2018, the New York Post alleged that Bannon was then trying to restore Epstein's favor for financial gain.)
In what had been considered a safe Republican seat, Moore lost in the special senate election on December 12, 2017. Bannon's reputation as a political strategist was questioned by Republican commentators.
Quotes in Michael Wolff books
In January 2018, upon the publication of Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which attributed many controversial and inflammatory statements to Bannon, Bannon and Trump became estranged and were widely seen as enemies. The book quoted Bannon as saying that Ivanka Trump was "as dumb as a brick"; that the meeting among Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and agents of Russia was "treasonous"; and that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller would cause Donald Trump Jr. to "crack like an egg on live television". Bannon also warned that investigators would likely uncover money laundering involving Jared Kushner and his family business loans from Deutsche Bank.
Trump promptly disavowed Bannon, saying that Bannon "lost his mind" when he left the White House, and attacking him in multiple angry statements. In a tweet on the evening of January 4, 2018, Trump referred to Bannon as "Sloppy Steve"; two days later, he alleged in another tweet that Bannon had "cried when he got fired and begged for his job." On January 7, 2018, Bannon expressed regret over his delayed response, declared his "unwavering" support for Trump and his agenda, and praised Donald Trump Jr. Bannon said his remarks about the campaign meeting were aimed at Manafort instead of Trump Jr., a claim which Wolff contested.
Because of the break with Trump, Bannon's position as head of Breitbart News was called into question by Breitbart's owners, and on January 9 it was announced that he had stepped down as executive chairman.
In his 2019 book Siege, Wolff wrote, "Trump was vulnerable because for 40 years he had run what increasingly seemed to resemble a semi-criminal enterprise," then quoted Bannon as saying, "I think we can drop the 'semi' part." Wolff wrote that Bannon predicted investigations into Trump's finances would be his political downfall, quoting Bannon as saying "This is where it isn't a witch hunt – even for the hard core, this is where he turns into just a crooked business guy, and one worth $50 million instead of $10 billion. Not the billionaire he said he was, just another scumbag."
In August 2018, Bannon met with Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, and served as informal advisor to the Bolsonaro campaign in the Brazilian presidential elections that year. In February 2019, the younger Bolsonaro joined Bannon's organization The Movement as its representative in South America. In March 2019, Bannon met with both Bolsonaros in Washington, D.C.
Bannon told journalist Michael Lewis in February 2018, "We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall. This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls." He added, "The Democrats don't matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit."
A self-described economic nationalist, Bannon advocates for reductions in immigration and restrictions on free trade with China and Mexico. Bannon is a skeptic of military intervention abroad and has opposed proposals for the expansion of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela. He has referred to himself as a "proud Christian Zionist" in reference to his support of Israel. He has been described as a white nationalist, but rejects the description.
Bannon is in favor of raising federal income taxes to 44% for those earning incomes over $5 million a year as a way to pay for middle class tax cuts. He also supports significantly increasing spending on infrastructure, describing himself as "the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan". Bannon is opposed to government bailouts, describing them as "socialism for the very wealthy". He generally believes in reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy, declaring at the Conservative Political Action Conference he favored the "deconstruction of the administrative state". However, he does support increased regulation of Internet companies like Facebook and Google, which he regards as akin to utilities in the modern age. He opposed the merger between Time-Warner and AT&T on antitrust grounds. He was a strong opponent of the Paris climate agreement within the administration, successfully persuading the President to withdraw from it.
Bannon has broken from Trump on the issue of high-skilled immigration, which Bannon has strongly criticized, claiming, "two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia ... A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society."
Bannon is the chairman of We Build The Wall, an organization involved in the construction of a privately-funded border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
On overseas military intervention
He is generally skeptical of military intervention abroad, opposing proposals for the expansion of U.S. involvement in the War in Afghanistan, the Syrian Civil War, and the crisis in Venezuela.
In Afghanistan, he supported a proposal by Erik Prince for the deployment of private military contractors instead of the U.S. military. He believes "there is no military solution" to the 2017 North Korea crisis.
Bannon has described U.S. allies in Europe, the Persian Gulf, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, as well as South Korea and Japan, as having become "protectorates of the United States" that do not "make an effort to defend [themselves]", and believes NATO members should pay a minimum of 2% of GDP on defense.
He also supports repairing United States-Russia relations and opposes upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
On the Middle East
Bannon strongly favors U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and was supportive of the approach taken by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis and the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge. He believes Qatar is "no less dangerous" than North Korea.
Bannon believes Iran, Turkey and China are forming a "new axis" to challenge the West, and has described Turkey as "the greatest danger facing the United States" and "far more dangerous than Iran".
During his tenure as White House Chief Strategist, Bannon opposed the 2017 Shayrat missile strike, but lost the internal debate on the matter to Kushner. He also expressed skepticism about the 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, questioning whether it was "necessary to kill this guy and to kill him now and to exacerbate the military issues", and warned that an escalation with Iran could undermine Trump's support with "working-class, middle-class people, particularly people whose sons and daughters actually fight in these wars."
Bannon reportedly speaks often with Trump donor Sheldon Adelson, and has been alarmed at a push for a renewed Middle East peace process. He has described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a "terrorist". He has advocated giving the land in the West Bank to Jordan and in Gaza to Egypt.
On the UK
Although Bannon initially favored the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) in the United Kingdom, he later backed the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
After former EDL leader Tommy Robinson was sentenced to 13 months in prison for contempt of court, Bannon has called for his release, describing Robinson as the "backbone" of Britain.
Bannon has also called for a revolt in the United Kingdom should the country adopt a soft Brexit, stating, "If I was in middle England and said this wasn't what I voted for I would rise up and make sure the guys in parliament knew it." When asked whether this should be interpreted as a "call to arms", he replied: "Absolutely".
Bannon has met with Jacob Rees-Mogg, describing him as "one of the best thinkers in the conservative movement on a global basis."
Bannon also urged current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who Bannon said in July 2018 that he had known "over the last year" and was "very impressed" with, to challenge then-Prime Minister Theresa May. According to a Buzzfeed News report, Bannon was in private contact with Johnson during his visit to Britain that month, and the two men were previously in text communication during their respective tenures as White House Chief Strategist and British Foreign Secretary.
Bannon gave a talk at the Institute for Human Dignity, a conservative Catholic group based in Rome, at a Vatican meeting in 2014 via Skype from Los Angeles. He expressed a belief that traditionalists see Russia as an ally. Bannon said they "believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he's trying to do it in a form of nationalism—and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country. They want to see nationalism for their country" rather than a "pan-European Union". Bannon, wrote Isobel Thompson in Vanity Fair in July 2018, "has been busy cultivating a new generation of nativist, pro-Russian leaders in Europe to invert the continent's current liberal-democratic orientation". However, in the 2014 speech, Bannon insisted: "I'm not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy."
In July 2018, Bannon announced plans to launch a new political operation beginning with an attempt to unite populist parties across Europe before the 2019 European Parliament election. With the project to be based in Brussels, he indicated he would spend 50% of his time in Europe from the following November working at locations throughout the continent. Bannon formed a foundation around 2018 for nationalist parties called The Movement.
Bannon is supportive of European right-wing populist national conservative movements such as the Hungarian Fidesz, the French National Front (now National Rally), the Spanish Vox, the Dutch Party for Freedom, Alternative for Germany, the Italian Northern League, the Brothers of Italy, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Sweden Democrats, the Finns Party, the Flemish Vlaams Belang, the Belgian People's Party, the Polish National Movement, and the Swiss People's Party.
Bannon called Chinese people "the salt of the earth — hardworking, decent, family-oriented", but he believes that Xi Jinping's communist regime in Beijing presents "the greatest existential danger" ever to the United States "because we have never faced an opponent with the scale and ambitions of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party". Bannon criticized China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
In his talk delivered to a small conference in the Vatican during 2014, Bannon said: "If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places ... it bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West". He is reputed to believe Putin's Russia and Trump's America are Christian allies against the Islamic State and "radical Islamic terrorism".
Overview and influences
Bannon's political and economic views have been described by others as nationalist, right-wing populist, and paleoconservative. He self-identifies as a conservative. He rejects allegations that he is a white nationalist, calling white nationalists "losers", a "fringe element", and a "collection of clowns", and describing white supremacist Richard Spencer as a "self promoting freak" and a "goober".
At a party congress in March 2018, Bannon gave members of the French right-wing populist National Front (NF) what has been described as a "populist pep talk". Bannon advised the party members to "Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it like a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker. ... History is on our side and will bring us victory." Bannon's remarks brought the members to their feet. Critics expressed concern that Bannon was "normalizing racism." Bannon generally considers charges of racism made against the right to be the result of a biased media.
Donald Trump has previously referred to Bannon as "more of a libertarian than anything else", although at least one libertarian commentator has disputed this claim. Bannon has been described as a "policy intellectual".
Bannon often describes himself as an economic nationalist, criticizing crony capitalism, Austrian economics, and the Objectivist capitalism of Ayn Rand, which he believes seeks to "make people commodities, and to objectify people." However, he has also stated that he generally considers himself a free market capitalist, believing it to be "the underpinnings of our society", while noting that he believes America is "more than an economy". He has referred to himself as a "proud Christian Zionist" in reference to his support of Israel.
Bannon's strategic thinking has been influenced by Neil Howe's and William Strauss's Fourth Turning theory, which proposes that "populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise, not just in America but around the world. [... Once one strips] away the extraneous accidents and technology, you are left with only a limited number of social moods, which tend to recur in a fixed order. [...] Forests need periodic fires; rivers need periodic floods. Societies, too." The book is said to have been a major influence on Bannon's film Generation Zero.
Bannon's political thinking has been influenced by the politics of American populism exemplified by Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, and Trump; by Pope Pius XI's socio-political philosophy of subsidiarity, as expressed in the 1931 papal encyclical, Quadragesimo anno, defending that political matters ought to be handled by the lowest, least centralized competent authority; and by René Guénon's Traditionalism, extolling the social efficacy of spiritual ideas transmitted by "primordial" faith traditions such as Vedanta, Buddhism, Sufism, and medieval Christianity, which it argued were under attack by Western secularism. Bannon was particularly influenced by the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita and the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War. Bannon has also cited Alexander Dugin's Russian nationalist variant of Traditionalism called Eurasianism, and described himself as a fan of Dugin's book, The Fourth Political Theory. However, Bannon has urged Dugin to abandon his anti-American and Sinophile views. Bannon has also described Brazilian Traditionalist thinker Olavo de Carvalho as "one of the great conservative intellectuals in the world".
Lebanese-American author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin and conservative intellectual Michael Anton have been pointed out as three of the main influences in Steve Bannon's political thinking. Bannon is an admirer of paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Bannon's favorite columnist is academic Walter Russell Mead. Political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke has also been described as a major influence on Bannon's ideological outlook. In a 2014 speech to a Vatican conference, Bannon made a passing reference to Julius Evola, a twentieth-century, Nazi-linked Italian writer who influenced Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism and promoted the Traditionalist School, described by a New York Times writer as "a worldview popular in far-right and alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are poisonous illusions." Bannon's interest in the ideas of the Traditionalist School was driven by Evola's book Revolt Against the Modern World, and Guénon's books Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta and The Crisis of the Modern World. In March 2016, Bannon stated he appreciates "any piece that mentions Evola." In referring to the associated views of Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Evola follower Dugin, Bannon stated "We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he's talking about as far as Traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism." He has likewise quoted French anti-Enlightenment writer Charles Maurras approvingly to a French diplomat. Bannon has also repeatedly referenced the controversial French novel The Camp of the Saints (1973) by Jean Raspail, which depicts Third World immigration destroying Western civilization. He has embraced what BBC News describes as Savitri Devi's "account of history as a cyclical battle between good and evil". Bannon told an interviewer in 2018 that he is "fascinated by Mussolini", noting: "He was clearly loved by women. He was a guy's guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms." A former Breitbart writer has claimed Bannon stated in 2015 that alt-right publication American Renaissance was "fighting the same fight" as him.
German film director Leni Riefenstahl, who produced propaganda films for the regime in Nazi Germany, is said to have influenced Bannon's film-making techniques, with Bannon once describing himself to writing colleague Julia Jones as the "Riefenstahl of George Bush", modifying the ending as "the GOP" when Jones was horrified. The opening of Bannon's documentary film The Hope & The Change (2012) consciously imitated Riefenstahl's film The Triumph of the Will (1935), which depicted the Nuremberg Rally held in 1934.
According to The Guardian (London) in January 2018, Bannon's ideology is substantially similar to that of Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, Benny Johnson, Raheem Kassam and Matthew Boyle, the latter two having been protégés of Bannon at Breitbart.
Bannon has been married and divorced three times. He has three adult daughters. His first marriage was to Cathleen Suzanne Houff. Bannon and Houff had a daughter, Maureen, in 1988 and subsequently divorced.
Bannon's second marriage was to Mary Louise Piccard, a former investment banker, in April 1995. Their twin daughters were born three days after the wedding. Piccard filed for dissolution of their marriage in 1997.
Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness in early January 1996 after Piccard accused Bannon of domestic abuse. The Santa Monica Police Department crime report states that after Piccard called 911, an officer arrived at their home and observed red marks on Piccard's wrist and neck. The charges were later dropped when Piccard did not appear in court. In an article in The New York Times Piccard stated her absence was due to threats made to her by Bannon and his lawyer:
Mr. Bannon, she said, told her that "if I went to court, he and his attorney would make sure that I would be the one who was guilty" ... Mr. Bannon's lawyer, she said, "threatened me," telling her that if Mr. Bannon went to jail, she "would have no money and no way to support the children." ... Mr. Bannon's lawyer ... denied pressuring her not to testify.
Piccard and Bannon divorced in 1997. During the divorce proceedings, Piccard alleged that Bannon had made antisemitic remarks about her choice of schools, saying he did not want to send his children to The Archer School for Girls because there were too many Jews at the school, and Jews raise their children to be "whiny brats". Bannon's spokesperson denied the accusation, noting that he had chosen to send both his children to the Archer School.
Bannon's third marriage was to Diane Clohesy; they married in 2006 and divorced in 2009.