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White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called white nationalists and neo-Nazis a bunch of “losers” and “a collection of clowns” during an interview published Wednesday by progressive magazine The American Prospect.
Asked about the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, where white nationalist rallies led to a white supremacist ramming his car through a crowd of people, killing one person and injuring roughly 20 more, Bannon called “ethno-nationalism” a “fringe element” of the right and dismissed the far right as irrelevant.
The Prospect’s Robert Kuttner also asked Bannon about the connection between his platform of economic nationalism and white nationalism.
“Ethno-nationalism – it’s losers,” Bannon, who reportedly did not think he was giving an interview to Kuttner, said. “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,” he added.
Following the Charlottesville incident, President Donald Trump came under fire for making some of the most widely panned remarks of his presidency.
After initially blaming the violence on “both sides,” Trump condemned the racist movements on Monday. But during a Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, Trump reverted to his earlier position, claiming that the “alt-left” was at least partially responsible for the violence as well and wondering whether the counterprotesters have any “semblance of guilt.”
The president also said that although “you had some very bad people in that group,” you “also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
Other outlets were reporting Wednesday that Bannon was one of the lone top White House officials who was pleased with the president’s wild Tuesday press conference. Axios reported Wednesday evening that Bannon was thrilled, telling friends and associates that “globalists” were freaking out over the comments. The chief strategist called the press conference a “defining moment” for Trump, one in which the president sided with “his people,” a source said.
“Steve was proud of how [Trump] stood up to the braying mob of reporters,” the source told Axios.
Prior to joining the White House and Trump’s campaign, Bannon served as the chairman of Breitbart, the far-right news site that Bannon himself once called “the platform of the alt-right,” the movement that brought together white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other fringe groups on the right.
In his interview with The Prospect, Bannon said he wants the Democrats to “talk about racism every day.”
“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em,” Bannon said. “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.”
Bannon went on to tell the Daily Mail on Thursday morning that his interview with The Prospect was good for the White House because it “drew fire away” from the president.