Former allies and associates of ousted White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon say that his triumphant tone last week — in which he crowed that his hands were “back on my weapons” at “f*cking killing machine” Breitbart.com — was empty bluster.
According to Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast, Bannon’s return to the far-right website was anything but triumphant and that the website’s former CEO only returned to its helm because he had no other options.
“Bannon had no other place to go except for Breitbart,” said conservative pundit and former Breitbart News editor Ben Shapiro, who left the website in 2016 over its fawning tone over then-nominee Donald Trump. Shapiro has emerged as a critic of Breitbart News and its decision to become Trump’s Pravda.
Bannon, Shapiro said, “is not going to be the head of a think tank. He’s not going to be a personality or a talk radio host. He’s not qualified for any of those things.”
The former Goldman Sachs executive and B-movie producer‘s sharp elbows during his time in Washington have virtually ruined Bannon’s chances of landing a sinecure think tank position and even allies are skeptical that he has what it takes to build out a TV brand associated with Breitbart News.
“Steve’s not a TV person. He doesn’t like TV; he loves radio,” said Chris Ruddy, CEO of conservative website Newsmax. “He may entertain notions of building a TV channel, but that’s very challenging to do from scratch. God bless him if he could do that with any speed.”
White House staffers told the New York Times that Bannon became increasingly unstable and erratic as his months in the White House passed.
“Mr. Bannon’s physical appearance was crumbling, and his mood swings had become pronounced,” White House personnel reported.
It was a rambling weeknight call to a writer at progressive magazine The American Prospect that sealed Bannon’s fate. In it, he trashed colleagues and jubilantly confided which members of the administration he was about to fire, boasting that his enemies were “wetting their pants.”
That bluster proved to be entirely baseless and empty when Bannon was fired and ordered out of the White House last Friday.
Breitbart News welcomed back Bannon with a banner calling him a “populist hero.” The former CEO even sat in on Friday evening’s editorial staff meeting.
However, Breitbart News is not the media behemoth it was even five months ago. The site’s traffic has cratered since the 2016 election and an effective boycott campaign has cost the white nationalist hub 90 percent of its advertisers.
The site lost its most visible rising star when provocateur Milo Yiannapoulos was caught on video questioning society’s taboo against pedophilia and crediting the priest who molested him with his skill at performing fellatio. A group of Breitbart staffers threatened to walk off the job unless Yiannopoulos was shown the door and he subsequently resigned.
Furthermore, in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, VA, public awareness of the racism, vicious misogyny and anti-LGBTQ hate swirling around the so-called “alt-right” has spiked, effectively poisoning the Breitbart brand.
So, while Breitbart staff may give their own exuberant interviews about their excitement at having the “captain” back aboard their “pirate ship,” it appears that ship is smaller now and its captain may be balancing on a wooden leg.