Steve Bannon is now a household name. The Breitbart executive-turned Trump advisor has been in the news for more than a week, as liberals condemn the president-elect for hiring an alleged “white supremacist.”
Bannon is now famous (or infamous) enough to be an unfunny joke on Saturday Night Live: last weekend, their fake news anchor quipped that, “Trump has hired a chief strategist who hates Jews.”
The appointee has already gone public in a major media forum to try to set the record straight, sitting down with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal:
He acknowledges that the site is “edgy” but insists it is “vibrant.” He offers his own definition of the alt-right movement and explains how he sees it fitting into Breitbart. “Our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment.”
But he says Breitbart is also a platform for “libertarians,” Zionists, “the conservative gay community,” “proponents of restrictions on gay marriage,” “economic nationalism” and “populism” and “the anti-establishment.” In other words, the site hosts many views. “We provide an outlet for 10 or 12 or 15 lines of thought—we set it up that way” and the alt-right is “a tiny part of that.” Yes, he concedes, the alt-right has “some racial and anti-Semitic overtones.” He makes clear he has zero tolerance for such views.
Was this a wise move on Bannon’s part? Too often, when someone on the right tries to “clarify” their views by cooperating with the mainstream media, it simply makes them look vulnerable and gives their critics a legitimacy they don’t deserve.
Bannon is a genius of a strategist, as Trump’s success have proven, but maybe granting this interview with the Wall Street Journal was a mistake. It doesn’t seem to have lowered the volume of the hysterical complaints about him.
Let’s hope he isn’t asked to turn down the White House job after all, for being, as the boilerplate tends to put it, “a distraction.”