Former Breitbart.com CEO turned top White House aide Stephen K. Bannon said on Wednesday evening that the news media is Pres. Donald Trump's real "opposition party" and told the press it's time to "keep its mouth shut" and "listen for awhile."
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Bannon said in a telephone interview with the New York Times.
“I want you to quote this,” he said. “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.”
The shot across the press' bow comes at a particularly tense time between the new administration and any media outlet that does not obsequiously shower Trump with praise.
Trump has reportedly spent his first week in office fuming that the media reported his inaugural crowds were a third of the size of the throng that were on hand in 2009 when Pres. Barack Obama was sworn in. Trump has returned to the topic again and again, even as key aides reportedly urge him to drop it and move on.
Bannon spoke to the Times to praise Press Secretary Sean Spicer's performance in the opening days of the nascent administration, but ended up complaining bitterly about the treatment his boss is getting from the "elite media."
“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” said Bannon of November's election. It was, he said, “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”
“The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Bannon went on. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.”
“That’s why you have no power,” Bannon taunted the Times. “You were humiliated.”
When Bannon was asked if Spicer damaged his credibility with the press on Saturday by uttering the verifiable falsehood that Trump's inauguration was the "largest ever witnessed," Bannon defended Spicer. “Are you kidding me? We think that’s a badge of honor. ‘Questioning his integrity’ — are you kidding me? The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work.”
“You’re the opposition party,” Bannon said. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”
“The paper of record for our beloved republic, The New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated,” he ranted. “They got it 100 percent wrong.”
Bannon is the former CEO of "alt-right" hub Breitbart.com, which has become a nexus of far-right conspiracy mongering, white nationalism, feminist-bashing and online bullying.
Trump and his aides have taken a pugilistic tone with reporters since inauguration. Sean Spicer promised at a heated press conference on Saturday that the media will pay "a tremendous price" if it continues to report unflattering stories about Trump.
In a Wednesday night interview with ABC's David Muir, Trump scolded CNN for its critical coverage of him and urged Muir to take a page from Fox News' book.
"Turn on Fox," he said. The network has covered him "very accurately," Trump insisted.
"(I)f you would've looked," at Fox's coverage of his speech at the CIA on Saturday, Trump said, "all of the people that were calling in they're saying, 'We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree.' They're very smart people."