This time last year, Steve Bannon was on top of the world. He had turned Breitbart News into one of the most notorious sites on the conservative Web, and parlayed that into becoming CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In the wake of Trump’s upset victory, he became Trump’s chief strategist and top political operative, and one of the most powerful men in Washington.
Now it’s all gone. Last summer, he was dumped from the West Wing after losing a power struggle with newly-installed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. And on Tuesday, he was pushed out of the post to which he triumphantly returned soon afterward–executive chairman of Breitbart.
Officially, Breitbart is billing this as a resignation. CEO Larry Solov went out of his way to praise Bannon, and stated that Bannon and Breitbart are already working to ensure a smooth transition. But this is as far from voluntary as you can get. According to The New York Times’ Jeremy Peters, who broke the story, Bannon was given a not-so-gentle push by Long Island heiress and Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer, Breitbart’s largest funder and a major shareholder.
Mercer was not pleased when excerpts from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” a shocking new book about Trump’s first year in office, quoted Bannon as questioning Trump’s fitness for office and trashing First Son Donald Trump Jr. In response, Mercer cut all political ties with Bannon, ending a relationship that was so close that Mercer was in a position to suggest Bannon as CEO and operating head of Trump’s then-flagging campaign in August 2016.
Bannon spent most of this weekend groveling before Trump and a number of conservative donors–a significant reversal, considering that over the last year-plus, Bannon was the one forcing Republicans to grovel before him. But it wasn’t enough. According to The Washington Post, Bannon’s ouster was virtually pre-ordained when Mercer cut ties with him. Apparently Mercer was of the same mind as Breitbart’s base; most of the site’s readership turned on him hard after the comments became public.
This turn came as no shock to former Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella, whose disenchantment with how closely Breitbart embraced Trump put him on a path that ultimately led him to become a Democrat. On Monday, he dropped by Bloomberg News to discuss Bannon’s declining stocks with the conservative movement. Watch here.
Bardella believes that the alt-right, as well as other Trump diehards, see loyalty to Trump as a litmus test–something Bannon found out the hard way. He believes that Bannon became a “liability” to Breitbart after word got out that he’d blasted Trump, and the site now found itself wondering if it could keep Bannon on and still keep the money flowing in from the Mercers. Less than 24 hours after that interview, it looks like the answer is “no.”
According to The Post’s Paul Farhi, Bannon now has “no evident platform to promote his views and no financial basis for his preferred candidates.” In other words, Bannon’s fall was swift, sudden, and total.
But it’s only a first step. Remember, folks, Mercer tripped all over herself to condemn Bannon and reaffirm loyalty to Trump, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything when Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow admitted that he believed one of Roy Moore’s accusers was credible–even as Breitbart went all in for Moore and helped lead a ham-handed campaign of victim shaming. While Bannon finally went down, it’s past time for Breitbart to follow him into the dumpster.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)