Last week, Buzzfeed published an explosive report that confirmed what many of us have long suspected–Breitbart News doesn’t just give succor to racists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. We now know beyond all doubt that in his bid to make Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right,” Steve Bannon was willing to countenance collaboration with some of the worst people in the world.
In light of this report, there are a lot of prominent Republicans who have a lot of explaining to do for their cozy relationships with the likes of Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and other Breitbart personalities. But one Republican in particular owes the American people a full accounting for cozying up to this noxious site and its equally noxious impressario. Namely, Donald Trump.
Anyone who reads through Joseph Bernstein’s story will find ample evidence of the extent to which Breitbart was willing to crawl into bed with racists in order to mainstream their agenda. For instance, we now know how Bannon weaponized Milo in his effort to “save western civilization.” And we also know that when Milo wrote his now-infamous guide to the alt-right, he did so while actively collaborating with three of the most noxious racists in the alt-right–Daily Stormer sysop Andrew “Weev” Auerenheimer, neofeudal activist Curtis Yarvin, and white nationalist publisher Devin Saucier.
If Bernstein was able to dig this up, how did those vetting Bannon for a post on the Trump campaign team not do so? And if Bernstein was able to dig this up, how did the Trump transition team not do so? These are not idle concerns. After all, had this been known, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Bannon would have become campaign CEO. And had this been known, there is literally no scenario under which Bannon would have been tapped as Trump’s chief strategist.
As it was, based on the evidence spelled out by Bernstein and Buzzfeed, we now know that a man who was at the very least willing to collaborate with out-and-out Nazis became operating head of a major-party presidential campaign. And for seven months, that same man shared the top position in the White House org chart with Trump’s original chief of staff, Reince Priebus. That should send a chill down the spine of any fair-minded American, regardless of party.
To be sure, there were already numerous reasons why Bannon had no business being within an area code of the Trump campaign or the Trump White House. He has documented ties to white nationalists and white supremacists at both home and abroad. He frequently quotes from one of the most racist books ever written. According to several former Breitbart writers, Bannon’s editorial meetings sounded like white supremacist rallies, and he more or less twiddled his thumbs while the comment sections turned into cesspools of hate. But Bannon would have theoretically been able to talk his way out of those situations. He would not have been able to explain the documentation of how far he went to make hate and racism mainstream.
In light of Bernstein’s reporting, a number of Trump’s moves after Bannon took over the campaign have to be seen in a new and disturbing light. Take his final campaign ad, for instance. It was easily one of the most anti-Semitic ads in recent American political history. In case you missed it, watch here.
The audio was taken from a speech Trump gave the previous month in West Palm Beach, which literally overflowed with anti-Semitic dog whistles. For instance, he ranted about “international banks” being in cahoots with Hillary to derail his campaign. And just in case there was any doubt what Trump was trying to do, one of his campaign’s quasi-official Twitter accounts blasted out this hours after Trump left the stage.
"@HillaryClinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich" her donors. – DJT
— Official Team Trump (@TeamTrump) October 13, 2016
The ad was no different. It juxtaposed a number of blatantly anti-Semitic statements with images of prominent Jews–George Soros, Janet Yellen, Lloyd Blankfein. While Trump’s campaign blew a number of anti-Semitic dog whistles before Bannon came aboard, in hindsight the West Palm Beach speech and the final campaign ad bear Bannon’s fingerprints.
Bernstein’s reporting also casts serious doubt on the Trump transition team’s vetting process. There were already questions about how Bannon got the security clearance that he needed to serve in the White House, given his rather, um, checkered past. But based on what we now know, there was no defensible reason for Bannon and the other prominent Breitbart personality in the White House, now-former counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka, to have even been considered for the West Wing. After all, you would think that associating with Website that openly collaborates with racist thugs would be automatically disqualifying.
Admittedly, this is not a normal administration. But surely you would think that even this administration would have had limits. The man responsible for setting those limits was now-Vice President Mike Pence, who took over as head of the transition team just two days after Trump’s upset victory. At some point, the man at the top has to take responsibility for serious breakdowns. And you can’t get more serious than allowing Bannon into the administration given his many red flags.
Bernstein’s story went live on Thursday afternoon. In the six days since then, Trump has seen fit to bully the NFL into pressuring its players not to take a knee, engage in a Twitter feud with Senator Bob Corker, and threaten to take NBC off the air. And yet, no one has seen fit to offer an explanation for how a man who openly collaborated with racists, white supremacists, and Nazis was allowed to get a policymaking position in the White House. This cannot stand.
Trump said on numerous occasions at the tail end of his campaign, as well as in his inaugural address, that he intended to replace a government controlled by elites with “a government controlled by you, the American people.” Well, Donald, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. You owe the American people a full accounting for how Bannon was allowed to get into your administration despite his unsavory past and his efforts to normalize racism and hate. And you also owe us an explanation for what steps you are taking to ensure this never happens again. Unless you are willing to do so, you and Pence should do us a favor and get out.
(featured image courtesy White House Facebook)