Donald Trump stepped on his own 60 Minutes interview talking points with the near-simultaneous announcements of two cabinet picks. This morning’s news cycle is heavy with Trump surrogates defending his Steve Bannon appointment as chief strategist and senior counselor, leaving less time to talk about Trump’s 60 Minutes kumbaya moments.
Trump’s new chief of staff Reince Priebus, for instance, spent a good-ish portion of his Good Morning America interview deflecting George Stephanopoulos’ Bannon questions. Bannon is a “very, very smart person” who the public should “give a chance,” Priebus said. Bannon, exec chairman of ultra-conservative website Breitbart until joining Team Trump, has been blasted by outgoing Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, as well as the Anti-Defamation League.
“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that White Supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” Reid rep Adam Jentleson said Sunday in a statement. ADL’s statement ran along same lines.
“I don’t know where they’re coming from,” Priebus said. “That’s not the Steve Bannon that I know. I have sat with him for months” and “never one time experienced that,” Priebus insisted.
“They’re looking at the Breitbart site,” Stephanopoulos explained, stating the obvious.
“You have to look at the person,” Priebus countered, leaving Breitbart off Bannon’s resume and instead describing the man’s life accomplishments in terms of having been a Naval officer, Harvard business school grad, etc. “I find him not to be the way he’s being accused.”
CNN’s New Day, meanwhile, booked former Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella to debate Bannon’s appointment with CNN’s Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord. Bardella described Breitbart as representing “a world view that is incredibly dangerous and divisive. Breitbart has gone from being the propaganda arm of the Trump campaign to the propaganda arm of the federal government.”
“For the next four years, free press is going to be under assault, under attack… [T]hat should be incredibly worrisome to anybody who cares about the fabric of our country,” Bardella said. “One of the fundamental tenants that our nation was built upon, the ability to have a free press…that can ask the questions on behalf of the American people and report the truth, that that’s going to come under assault every minute of every day directly by the President.”
Meanwhile, CBS News today unveiled some of the bits it did not air from Lesley Stahl’s interview with our 45th POTUS, Trump, including his having told her of his election: “The press has shown that it’s much weaker than people thought; because nobody has ever been hit by press like I have, and I’m here.”