Bannon at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference
|White House Chief Strategist|
January 20, 2017 – August 18, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Senior Counselor to the President|
January 20, 2017 – August 18, 2017
|Served with||Kellyanne Conway
(Counselor to the President)
(Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives)
|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)
Investment banker (mergers);
Electronic media news/opinion editor;
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1976–1983|
Stephen Kevin Bannon (born November 27, 1953) is an American media executive, political thinker, and former investment banker, who is executive chairman of Breitbart News. He served as the White House Chief Strategist (a newly created position) in the administration of US President Donald Trump during the first seven months of his term. In this capacity, he attended the Principals Committee of the U.S. National Security Council from January 28, 2017 to April 5, 2017.
On August 17, 2016, in the later months of the campaign, Bannon joined Trump's 2016 presidential bid, taking the position of chief executive officer. Prior to taking a leave of absence in August 2016, he had been 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 left his position in the Trump administration on August 18, 2017; he then rejoined Breitbart News.
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 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 became 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; he produced 18 films between 1991 and 2016.
Stephen Kevin Bannon was born on November 27, 1953, in Norfolk, Virginia, to Doris (née Herr), a homemaker and Martin Bannon, who worked as an AT&T telephone lineman, later in middle management. His working class, Irish Catholic family was pro-Kennedy, pro-union Democrat. Bannon attended Benedictine College Preparatory, a private, Catholic, military high school in Richmond, Virginia graduating in 1971.
After graduation from high school, Bannon attended Virginia Tech and served as the president of the student government association. During the summers, when Bannon was attending Virginia Tech, he took a job working at a local junk yard, often coming home so dirty his mother made him rinse off with a hose before being allowed into the house.
Bannon graduated from Virginia Tech in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in urban planning. He later[when?] earned a master's degree in national security studies from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985, Bannon earned 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, 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 failure of the mission 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 that, "I wasn’t political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter f---ed 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 f---ed up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster."
After his military service, Bannon worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. In 1987, Bannon relocated from New York to Los Angeles, to assist Goldman to expand their presence in the entertainment industry. He stayed at this position with Goldman in Los Angeles for two years, leaving with the title of vice president.[b]
In 1990, Bannon and several colleagues from Goldman Sachs launched 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 CNN, 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.
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 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. 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 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 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 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. He has also worked as vice president of Cambridge Analytica's board, a data-analytics firm owned largely by the Mercer family; that family is also co-owners of Breitbart News.
Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online right-wing news, opinion and commentary website. Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, say the site has "pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right". Bannon rebuts that Breitbart's ideological mix includes libertarians, Zionists, the conservative gay community, same-sex marriage opponents, economic nationalists, populists, as well as alt-right, the alt-right consisting of a very small proportion overall. Conceding the alt-right holds views with "racial and anti-Semitic overtones," Bannon says 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 White House employment.
On August 17, 2016, 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 victory, 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, 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 Rabbi 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 had made bigoted statements against Muslims, women, and others. The ADL said "we are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon. Shapiro, who previously worked as an editor-at-large at 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". Bannon had referred 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, saying 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.
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."
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.”
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."
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 was removed from his NSC role in early April 2017 in a reorganization by U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who Bannon had helped select. Some White House officials said Bannon's main purpose of 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 had only attended one NSC meeting.
It has been reported that he has intentionally published stories to undermine H.R. McMaster. Bannon has allegedly done this by leaking information to the alternative media, including alt-right writer Mike Cernovich. It has been also reported that the Trump administration retroactively granted Bannon a blanket exemption from federal ethics rules that would allow 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".
Bannon's employment in the White House ended on August 18, 2017 less than a week after Charlottesville's 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 was reported to have come from "White House Chief Strategist Steve 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 "energizes that sentiment" through his current position within the White House.
In an interview with Sara A. Carter of Circa News, Bannon stated that he was not fired but rather submitted his two-weeks resignation on August 4, 2017. He reminded The Weekly Standard that he'd 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. Other sources state 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. 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 calls Bannon, using his personal cell phone and only calling when chief of staff Kelly is not around.
After working in the White House, Bannon resumed actively running Breitbart.
Bannon accepted an invitation by the UC Berkeley student organization Berkeley Patriot to participate in events scheduled for September 24–27, 2017, which the group calls "Free Speech Week". According to the September 12 New York Times, the university had not yet received information from Berkeley Patriot required for safety provision.
Bannon has advocated reductions in immigration, and restrictions on free trade, particularly with China and Mexico. He 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 was a strong opponent of the Paris climate agreement within the administration, successfully persuading the President to withdraw from it.
He is 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. As White House Chief Strategist, Bannon had reportedly opposed the 2017 Shayrat missile strike, but was overruled by Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner. 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. However, he strongly favors U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
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".
Bannon is supportive of several foreign right-wing movements such as the French National Front, the Dutch Party for Freedom, Alternative for Germany, the Freedom Party of Austria, and the UK Independence Party, as well as the Narendra Modi government in India. Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP, once presented Bannon with a portrait of Bannon dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte.
Bannon's political and economic views have been described by others as nationalist, right-wing populist, and paleoconservative. He describes himself 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 nationalist leader Richard Spencer as a "self promoting freak" and a "goober". Trump has previously referred to him as "more of a libertarian than anything else", although some libertarian commentators have disputed this claim.
Bannon describes himself as an economic nationalist, criticizing crony capitalism and the libertarian capitalism of Ayn Rand, which he believes seeks to "make people commodities, and to objectify people."
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.
An autodidact, former practitioner of Zen meditation, and a nominal orthodox Roman Catholic, Bannon's political thinking has been influenced by the politics of American populism exemplified by Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Teddy Roosevelt, and Donald Trump; by Pope Pius XI’s socio-political philosophy of subsidiarity, as expressed in the 1931 papal encyclical, Quadragesimo anno; and by René Guénon's Traditionalism, extolling the social efficacy of "primordial" faith traditions such as Vedanta, Sufism, medieval Christianity. Bannon has also cited Alexander Dugin's variant of Traditionalism called Eurasianism. Bannon has been described as a "policy intellectual".
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. 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 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 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 1973 French novel The Camp of the Saints, which depicts immigration destroying Western civilization. German film director Leni Riefenstahl is said to have influenced Bannon's filmmaking techniques, with Bannon describing himself as the "Riefenstahl of the GOP".
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.
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 same-titled Peter Schweizer book Clinton Cash|
|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 to the President
Served alongside: Kellyanne Conway, Dina Powell
|New office||White House Chief Strategist
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