Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and ex-exec chairman of Breitbart News, slammed CNN’s Jeff Zucker today, speaking at the same conference where Zucker had earlier decried Fox News as “state propaganda.”
Bannon, interviewed on stage during the Financial Times’ FT Future of News conference in New York, said “it galls me” that Zucker earlier at the conference called Fox News a propaganda channel. “You can’t name a more propaganda outfit than CNN,” Bannon told Lionel Barber, Financial Times editor.
Bannon questioned why no one at CNN was fired for “the mess they made” of covering the presidential campaign in which Donald Trump made a surprise win. “It was a disgrace to journalism,” Bannon said.
In a discussion that ambled from the state of TV news to Mussolini’s virility, Bannon seemed intent on antagonizing the “opposition media” and returning to some place of favor with his former boss. “Donald Trump,” Bannon said, “has done more for freedom and anti-racism in this country than anybody.” And the president is the country’s greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, Bannon said.
He dismissed both the Mueller investigation and the controversy over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (where he once worked; he takes credit for coming up with the company name) as little more than left-wing excuses for losing the election. “Here’s what won it for Trump: economic nationalism,” Bannon said. He added that Trump’s “plain language” made him popular with the American people, and that Trump “won the old-fashioned way.”
Bannon denied knowing that Cambridge Analytica mined Facebook data, saying that whatever sharing occurred happened between Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and “the professor” Aleksandr Kogan, the designer of the psychological app test that produced the data mined by Cambridge Analytica.
Next to CNN and Zucker, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was savaged most by Bannon. Companies like Facebook, he said, “take your stuff for free, sell it and monetize it for huge margins.” He added, “Then they write algorithms and control your life.”
Specifying The New York Times’ recent interview with Zuckerberg, Bannon said the “opposition” media plays “patty cakes” with Zuckerberg rather than asking tough questions.
Speaking of tough questions, Barber grilled Bannon on his recent appearance at a rally for Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, in which he told the right-wingers, “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.”
“Those people are not perfect,” Bannon said, adding that “the deplorables are not perfect” either, then said something about the “Judeo-Christian” ethic holding that no one is perfect. “I didn’t sit there and say I supported everything she said,” Bannon said of the anti-Semitic Le Pen.
When asked about his recent remarks to Britain’s The Spectator that he was “fascinated by Mussolini’s virility and fashion sense,” Bannon shot back, “Do I say he’s a good guy in there?,” then bemoaned political correctness that won’t allow the understanding of historical figures. When Barber pointed out that Mussolini described Jews as pigs destined to be wiped out, Bannon said, “He was a very evil guy. That doesn’t mean he’s not fascinating.”
As for his own place in history books – or at least Michael Woolf’s Fire and Fury – Bannon said he doesn’t regret talking to the author (though he denies having read the book) and said Woolf’s access was essentially “authorized” by the White House.
And no, he doesn’t miss the proximity to power that vanished after the book’s publication.
“I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “I’m not a staffer.”
Still, he couldn’t resist taking a final look back and suggesting that the firing of Trump’s attorney John Dowd today proves that Bannon’s advice against cooperating with the Mueller investigation now seems to be gaining ground in the White House.
“I think President Trump is going to war,” Bannon said about the investigation into Russian election meddling. “He’s going to war on this.”