Bannon defends his freewheeling interview: It ‘drew fire away from’ Trump and ‘changed the narrative’
Chief White House adviser Steve Bannon on Thursday defended his controversial interview with the American Prospect, praising himself for “[drawing] fire away from” Donald Trump and “[changing] the narrative” around the president equating a white supremacist rally with counter-protestors who stood against racism and bigotry.
Bannon on Wednesday made headlines after he called the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner to talk about everything from ethno-nationalists to North Korea. In the aftermath of that interview, aides to the chief White House strategist told Axios Bannon—who’s been labeled a “leaker” by several current and former administration officials—thought the call was off the record.
“This is DEFCON 1-level bad,” one of Bannon’s colleagues told Axios.
Now, Bannon is reportedly thanking himself for that interview, telling the Daily Mail he “drew fire away from POTUS” and “changed the [media] narrative” from nonstop coverage of the president’s Charlottesville response, albeit briefly.
In that interview with the American Prospect, Bannon appeared to undercut the White House position on North Korea, arguing “there’s no military solution” to deal with the rogue nuclear power. He also called ehtno-nationalists “losers,” adding “it’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it.”
Bannon—who was described as in “high spritis” during the call—further insisted he’s “got” Democrats as long as they talk about what he described as “identity politics.”
“The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em,” Bannon told the American Prospect. “I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Bannon echoed that sentiment in a decidedly on-record interview with the New York Times, inviting the left to “tear down more statues.”
“The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist,” Bannon told the Times. “Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”
It’s unclear how the American Prospect interview writ large is playing with Trump, but at least one administration praised Bannon for his criticism of Democrats and ethno-nationlists.
“The president doesn’t like all the Democrats’ focus on racism, and it’s good that Steve mocked it as politically stupid,” an aide told the Daily Mail. “Plus, distance from actual racists is a good thing.”