Bannon at the 2017 CPAC
|White House Chief Strategist|
January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Senior Counselor to the President|
January 20, 2017
Serving with Kellyanne Conway
|Preceded by||John Podesta (2015)|
|Born||Stephen Kevin Bannon
November 27, 1953
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Cathleen Houff Jordan
Mary Piccard (1995–1997)
Diane Clohesy (divorced 2009)
|Education||Virginia Tech (BA)
Georgetown University (MA)
Harvard University (MBA)
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1976–1983|
Stephen Kevin "Steve" Bannon (born November 27, 1953) is an American political aide, and former media executive and film producer, who is currently Assistant to the President and White House Chief Strategist in the Trump administration. In this capacity, he has been a regular attendee to the Principals Committee of the U.S. National Security Council since January 28, 2017. Time magazine has called Bannon "the great manipulator".
Before assuming the White House position, Bannon was the chief executive officer of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Before his political career, he was executive chair of Breitbart News, a far-right[i] news, opinion, and commentary website which he described in 2016 as "the platform for the alt-right".[I]
Bannon has been a naval officer, banker, radio host, research director, film producer and media executive. He was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as well as at the Pentagon. After his military service, he worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. When he left the company, Bannon held the position of vice president. In 1993, he was made acting director of the Earth-science research project Biosphere 2. In the 1990s, he became an executive producer in the Hollywood film and media industry and has produced 18 films since 1991. Bannon holds two master's degrees.
Stephen Kevin Bannon was born on November 27, 1953, in Norfolk, Virginia, to Doris (née Herr) and Martin Bannon, a telephone lineman, later in middle management. His working class, Irish Catholic family were pro-Kennedy, pro-union Democrats. After serving as president of the student government association, he graduated from Virginia Tech in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in urban planning and holds a master's degree in national security studies from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985, Bannon received a Master of Business Administration degree with honors from Harvard Business School.
Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet and stateside as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Upon his departure he was ranked as a lieutenant (O-3).[a]
After his military service, Bannon worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. When he left the company he held the position of vice president.[b] In 1990, Bannon and several colleagues from Goldman Sachs launched Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank specializing in media. Through this company, Bannon negotiated the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner. As payment, Bannon & Co. accepted a financial stake in five television shows, including Seinfeld. Société Générale purchased Bannon & Co. in 1998.
In 1993, while still managing Bannon & Co., Bannon was made 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.
In the 1990s, Bannon ventured into the entertainment and media industry. He became an executive producer in the Hollywood film and media industry. Bannon produced 18 films, from the 1991 Sean Penn drama The Indian Runner to Julie Taymor's 1999 film Titus. Bannon became a partner with entertainment industry executive Jeff Kwatinetz at The Firm, Inc., a film and television management company.
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. He was involved in the financing and production of a number of films, including Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman, The Undefeated, and Occupy Unmasked.
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 describes Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America as "cultural jihadists". Bannon wrote the outline himself, and it labels the Washington Post, the New York Times, NPR, "Universities and the Left", the "American Jewish Community", the ACLU, the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and the White House as "enablers" of a covert mission to establish an Islamic Republic in the United States. 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 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 Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash, from its founding in 2012 until he left 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.
Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has "pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right".
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. Bannon declared the website "the platform for the alt-right" in 2016. Bannon identifies as a conservative. Speaking about his role at Breitbart, Bannon said: "We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class."
In 2016, Ronald Radosh claimed in The Daily Beast that Bannon had told him earlier, in a book party on November 12, 2013, that he was a Leninist, in that "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment". While Snopes considers this claim unproven, other media such as Time magazine and The Guardian have reported or discussed it.
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 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." In referring to the associated views of Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Evola follower Aleksandr 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.
Following the successful campaign, on November 13 Bannon was appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump. This appointment drew opposition from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and some Republican strategists, because of statements in Breitbart News that were alleged to be racist or antisemitic.
Ben Shapiro, David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, Bernard Marcus of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Morton Klein and the Zionist Organization of America, and Shmuley Boteach defended Bannon against the allegations of antisemitism. Alan Dershowitz first defended Bannon and said there was no evidence he was antisemitic, but in a later piece stated that Bannon and Breitbart had made bigoted statements against Muslims, women, and others. The ADL said "we are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon", while adding "under his stewardship, Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate." Shapiro, who previously worked for Breitbart, said that he has no evidence of Bannon being racist or an antisemite, but that he was "happy to pander to those people and make common cause with them in order to transform conservatism into European far-right nationalist populism", an assertion supported by other sources and by gestures like his alluding to Front National 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 him 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 is 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 stating that "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.
Trump responded to the ongoing controversy over Bannon's appointment in an interview with The New York Times by 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."
Several days after Donald Trump's inauguration, Bannon told an American newspaper, “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.”
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 interagency forum for considering national security issues. The enacted arrangement was criticised 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.
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 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".
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.
Bannon has been married and divorced three times. He has three adult daughters.
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 charges were later dropped when his now ex-wife 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 choice of schools, saying that 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 divorced in 2009.
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, alongside the William Strauss and Neil Howe book The Fourth Turning (which directly inspired Bannon's film Generation Zero).
Bannon has been a producer, writer or director on the following films and documentaries:
|1991||The Indian Runner||executive producer|
|2004||In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed||director, co-producer, writer||based on the 2003 book Reagan's War by Peter Schweizer|
|2005||Cochise County USA: Cries from the Border||executive producer|
|2006||Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration||executive producer|
|2007||Tradition Never Graduates: A Season Inside Notre Dame Football||executive producer|
|2009||The Chaos Experiment||executive producer|
|2010||Generation Zero||director, producer, writer||based on the 1997 book The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe|
|Battle for America||director, producer, writer|
|Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman||director, producer, writer|
|2011||Still Point in a Turning World: Ronald Reagan and His Ranch||director, writer|
|The Undefeated||director, producer, writer||about Sarah Palin|
|2012||Occupy Unmasked||director, writer|
|The Hope & The Change||director, producer, writer|
|District of Corruption||director, producer|
|2014||Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power||executive producer|
|2016||Clinton Cash||producer, writer||based on the similarly titled Peter Schweizer book|
|Torchbearer||director, producer, writer||features Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson|
'We're [i.e., Breitbart News is] the platform for the alt-right,' Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.
... the unmistakable imprint of Breitbart News, the 'alt-right' website...
Another major alt-right platform is Breitbart.com, a right-wing news site...
Bannon's Breitbart distinguished itself from the rest of the conservative media in two significant ways this cycle... The second was through their embrace of the alt-right...
Breitbart News, declared 'the platform for the alt-right' last month by then-chair, Steve Bannon.
This Facebook group is for an outfit called Vigilant Patriots, which claims its goals are defending and upholding the Constitution and preserving "our history and culture." As of Friday morning, it listed nearly 3,600 members, including Stephen Bannon, who apparently joined the group seven years ago.
Bannon graduated from the Harvard Business School in 1985.
If established Hollywood conservatives welcome the energy of this new group, some nonetheless fear that it is heading down the wrong path. ... Even the outspoken Mr. Bannon thinks that little will be gained if conservative ideology moves too far in front of conservative art. 'We have the money, we have the ideas,' he said. 'What we don't have – and what the left has in spades – are great filmmakers.'
Written and directed by Stephen K. Bannon
Title last held byJohn Podesta
as Counselor to the President
|Senior Counselor and Chief Strategist to the President
Served alongside: Kellyanne Conway, Dina Powell