Steve Bannon: White nationalists ‘clowns’ and ‘losers’

Trump’s chief strategist, facing uncertain future, says no solution to N Korea nuclear threat

During a press conference in August 2017, US president Donald Trump responds to questions from the media regarding his chief strategist Steve Bannon. Video: The White House


Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has claimed the far right was a “collection of clowns”, the left’s focus on racism would allow him to “crush the Democrats” and that there is no military solution for North Korea.

Mr Bannon, who has been called the mastermind behind the US president’s nationalist agenda, made the remarks to Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, a leftwing political magazine, in an interview published Wednesday.

The candid comments - which included the claims that he would oust his rivals in the federal government, who were “wetting themselves” - come at a time when Mr Bannon faces an uncertain future at the White House.

There have been increasing calls from the left and the right for the removal of the former editor of Breitbart News.

When Mr Trump was asked at a press conference this week if the chief strategist would remain in his position, he replied: “We’ll see.”

It is unclear why Mr Bannon chose to call Kuttner, who wrote that he had not requested the interview and was “stunned” to hear from him.

However, after publication stories circulated that Mr Bannon was unaware he was providing an interview.

There have been recent reports of internal conflicts and power struggles within the administration, and Mr Bannon made the call amid an intense backlash related to Mr Trump’s links to the far right and the president’s comments that there were “very fine people” at a violent white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virgina.

Heather Heyer, an anti-fascist protester, was killed when a car driven by a member of one of the right wing groups, James Fields (20), ploughed into a crowd. He has since been charged with second degree murder.

‘Economic war’

In the American Prospect story, headlined ‘Steve Bannon, unrepentant’, Mr Bannon said: “We’re at economic war with China. It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

Contradicting Mr Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” on North Korea, Mr Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Mr Bannon was also asked about the white nationalism epitomised by the violence in Charlottesville and Mr Trump’s reluctance to condemn it.

He dismissed the far right as “irrelevant”, and told Kuttner: “Ethno-nationalism - it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more ? These guys are a collection of clowns.”

Regarding the Democrats, Bannon said: “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Off the record

Kuttner wrote that he had never spoken to Mr Bannon before and that the question of whether the call was on or off the record never came up.

Anthony Scaramucci, Mr Trump’s short-lived communications director, was recently fired after he called up a reporter and launched a foul-mouthed rant against senior colleagues, including Mr Bannon.

The aide has attracted significant controversy during his time at the White House, where he was blamed for the failed implementation of the travel ban, which was quickly blocked by the courts.

It has been reported that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have long urged Mr Bannon’s dismissal.

The president tried to downplay Mr Bannon’s influence on his campaign at the recent press conference, saying: “I like Mr Bannon. He’s a friend of mine. But Mr Bannon came on very late.”

Guardian service