The alt right is a loose network of individuals and groups that promote white identity and reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Often by leveraging social media and the Internet, alt right adherents express opposition to multiculturalism, immigration and often claim that there is a Jewish conspiracy to advocate for “white genocide.”
Bannon “proudly” told a reporter at the 2016 Republican National Convention “we’re the platform for the alt right.” In the same interview in Mother Jones magazine, he denied that the alt right is inherently racist or anti-Semitic, although a vast majority of people affiliated with that movement hold racist and anti-Semitic views.
In addition, under Bannon, Breitbart News published an article co-authored by Milo Yiannopoulos, a figure who is associated with the alt right, that played down the racism of some of the alt right’s main ideologues. In The Daily Beast in August 2016, alt right figure Richard Spencer, said: “Breitbart has elective affinities with the alt-right and the alt-right has clearly influenced Breitbart. In this way, Breitbart has acted as a ‘gateway’ to alt-right ideas and writers.” Bannon has also been embraced by white supremacists for his views in recent days.
Numerous well-known white supremacists weighed in on President-elect Trump’s appointment of Bannon as his chief strategist. David Duke called the selection of Bannon “excellent,” adding that Bannon was “basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.” Peter Brimelow, who runs the racist site VDare, said that the Bannon hire was “amazing.”
Jared Taylor of American Renaissance and Brad Griffin who runs the Occidental Dissent website both said that Bannon would help hold Trump to his campaign rhetoric on immigration and other issues. Rocky Suhayda of the American Nazi Party voiced the same view. In addition, Bannon has reportedly reached out to far-right figure and French politician Marion Le Pen. She tweeted that he had invited her to work together with the new Trump administration.
Bannon has been on leave from Breitbart since August 2016, when he took over as CEO of the Trump campaign. In his absence, the right-wing “news” site has continued to publish a stream of inflammatory, creatively-sourced “stories.” Many of the Breitbart headlines published under Bannon’s tenure illustrate the website’s virulently anti-Muslim, misogynistic, worldview, including: “Planned Parenthood’s Body Count Under Cecile Richards is Up to Half a Holocaust,” “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” and “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.” As Bannon’s defenders have pointed out, these headlines are designed to attract attention and readers, and are not necessarily evidence that Bannon himself is an anti-Semite, a misogynist or an anti-Muslim bigot.
However, under Bannon, Breitbart News has provided a platform for anti-Muslim extremists such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and others to advocate their agendas. More recently, the website published a number of articles attacking the family of Capt. Humayun Khan, who died while serving in Iraq, and accusing his father Khizr Khan of having “deep ties to the government of Saudi Arabia—and to international Islamist investors.” Advocating for the Muslim immigration ban, which president-elect Trump suggested during his presidential campaign, the website called it an “‘Extraordinary, Brilliant’ Move” and published articles defending its constitutionality.
While still the head of Breitbart, Bannon made a number of comments about the West being at war with Islam. At a speech at the Vatican in 2014, he said, “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism.” On recordings of the Breitbart News Daily radio show in 2015 and 2016, he also called Islam “the most radical religion in the world” and alleged that “Islamist sympathizers had infiltrated the U.S. government and news media,” according to an article in USA Today.
In addition, according to a report in The Washington Post, Bannon planned on making a three-part movie in 2007 that imagined radical Muslims taking over the United States and remaking it into the “Islamic States of America.” A draft of the outline for the movie focused on “the culture of intolerance” behind Sharia law and also pointed to a “Fifth Column” made up of “Islamic front groups” as well as enablers, including the American Jewish community, which allowed for the rise of “Islamic fascism” in America.
Bannon appears to be populist and anti-elite. An August 2016 article in The Atlantic cites Bannon’s talk to a gathering of conservatives in Washington, DC in 2013, in which he promotes a populist uprising against the GOP establishment. He said, “We don’t believe there is a functional conservative party in this country and we certainly don’t think the Republican Party is that. It’s going to be an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment, and it’s going to continue to hammer this city, both the progressive left and the institutional Republican Party.”
In an interview about a film he wrote and produced in 2010, “Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman,” Bannon distinguished conservative women like Michele Bachmann and Ann Coulter from women on the left. He said, “These women cut to the heart of the progressive narrative. That's one of the unintended consequences of the women's liberation movement––that, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be feminine, they would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn't be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools."
Before Bannon was appointed as chief strategist of the new Trump administration and took on the role of chief executive officer of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he was best known as the executive chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon took on that position in 2012. That same year, Bannon co-founded the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), whose stated mission is “to investigate and expose crony capitalism, misuse of taxpayer monies, and other governmental corruption or malfeasance.” Bannon has also produced and financed a number of documentary films on right-wing figures, including Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin. He was also the chairman of Affinity Media for a number of years and formerly worked for Goldman Sachs.
While there is a pattern of evidence that Breitbart served as a platform for a wide range of bigotry and there is some controversy related to statements from Mr. Bannon’s divorce proceedings in 2007, we are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements made by Bannon himself. In fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterization of him and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism. Some have pointed out that Breitbart Jerusalem was launched during his tenure.
Nevertheless, Bannon essentially has established himself as the chief curator for the alt right. Under his stewardship, Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.