Donald Trump‘s announcement on Sunday to make Steve Bannon his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House was met with immediate criticism.
Although Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus was also picked as chief of staff, Bannon got top billing throughout the announcement and the Trump team cast them as “equal partners.” Many are concerned that Bannon’s ultra-conservative views will be harmful in the White House, and Priebus has already started defending him.
In response to claims that Bannon is anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist, Priebus said, “The guy I know is a guy that isn’t any of those things,” on NBC’s Today show Monday. On Fox and Friends, he added, “I haven’t seen any of these things that people are crying out about.”
Bannon is a former U.S. Navy officer with an MBA from Harvard University and a master’s in national security studies from Georgetown University.
Learn more about Steve Bannon below:
1. Bannon was the head of Breitbart.com, a conservative news site
Bannon is a controversial figure in part due to his close associated with the “alt-right” movement, which openly reject immigrants, feminism and multiculturalism. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart embraced anti-Semitic and nationalist views as well as faced regular criticism for its pro-Trump slant.
Even some of his own former employees have spoken out against him. Ben Shapiro, who served as editor-at-large of Breitbart News for four years, wrote a piece for The Daily Wire calling out his former boss.
Shapiro wrote, “I quit Breitbart News when it became clear to me that they had decided that loyalty to Donald Trump outweighed loyalty to their own employees, helping Trump smear one of their own reporters, Michelle Fields, by essentially calling her a liar for saying that she had been grabbed by then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.”
Among some of the most controversial headlines from Breitbart.com are:
- Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy
- The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off
- There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech; They Just Suck At Interviews
It’s unclear what role Bannon will play in Breitbart in the future.
2. He was tapped to be Trump’s campaign CEO
Bannon was with Breitbart until August, when he was tapped by Trump to became his campaign CEO with just 82 days left in the election.
Bannon, selected to help “bolster the business-like approach” of Trump’s campaign, was “once recognized by Bloomberg Politics as the ‘most dangerous political operative in America,’ ” the announcement said. He “will oversee the campaign staff and operations, in addition to strategic oversight of major campaign initiatives.”
3. Bannon is battling claims he is anti-Semitic
Bannon’s ex-wife said he made anti-Semitic remarks when the two battled over sending their daughters to the Archer School for Girls, an elite private school in Los Angeles, nearly a decade ago, according to court papers obtained by New York Daily News.
“He said that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews,” Mary Louise Piccard wrote in a 2007 declaration during their divorce. “I told him that there are children who are Jewish at (a competing school), and he asked me what the percentage was. I told him that I didn’t know because it wasn’t an issue for me as I am not raising the girls to be either anti-Semitic or prejudiced against anyone.”
A spokesperson for Bannon denied the remarks, noting that his daughters did attend the school.
4. His appointment to chief strategist was immediately met with objection
Many political strategists took to social media to share their disapproval for Trump’s pick.
John Weaver, a top strategist for Ohio Governor John Kasich, took to Twitter with a warning to the nation.
“The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office,” he wrote. “Be very vigilant America.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, also shared their objection in a statement Sunday evening, calling Bannon’s appointment “a sad day.” denounced Bannon as “hostile to American values.”
Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen also released a statement expressing disapproval over the decision.
“In his victory speech, Trump pledged to be the president for ‘all Americans’ and to ‘bind the wounds of division’ in our country,” he wrote. “Appointing someone like Bannon, who will have the president-elect’s ear every single day, makes a mockery of that pledge.”
5. He invested in Seinfeld and finances movies about Republican leaders
Bannon’s business endeavors – he was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and founded his own firm – landed him a role as a stakeholder in the television series Seinfeld after he negotiated the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner.
In addition, Bannon has financed multiple movies about Republican leaders. In 2004, he made a Ronald Reagan documentary, In the Face of Evil, and reportedly put up $1 million dollars to finance The Undefeated, a 2011 film about Sarah Palin’s political journey.