"What Bannon and Priebus mean for the Trump administration" PBS NewsHour 11/15/2016
SUMMARY: President-elect Donald Trump has announced two key White House positions: RNC chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff and the controversial appointment of Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, as chief strategist and senior counselor. Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek and Mark Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine join John Yang to discuss the picks.
HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): Just this past weekend, president-elect Trump announced his picks for two key posts in the White House. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House chief of staff. And Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, will serve as Mr. Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor.
Our John Yang has more.
JOHN YANG (NewsHour): For more on these two men tapped to advise the president, we're joined by Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, and Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Josh, Mark, thanks for joining us.
Josh, let me start with you.
You profiled Steve Bannon more than a year ago, before a lot of people realized who he was. That's the employment that's gaining a lot of controversy. Just this afternoon, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, took to the Senate floor and criticized Bannon in pretty harsh terms.
SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. Rescind it. Don't do it.
Think about this. Don't do it. As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump's efforts to heal the nation seriously.
JOHN YANG: Josh, who is Steve Bannon, and why is he attracting all this criticism?
JOSHUA GREEN, Bloomberg Businessweek: Well, Bannon is an odd and interesting character.
He's a former Goldman Sachs banker who sort of became radicalized into the Tea Party movement and eventually wound up as the publisher of Breitbart News, which is the hard-right populist Web site that was an early champion of Trump's.
I think the reason he's so controversial is that Breitbart publishes a lot of things that are vaguely racist, anti-Semitic, far, far outside the bounds of what would ordinarily be considered acceptable in U.S. politics.
And so I think there's quite a bit of shock at the fact that he's been elevated to a senior position in the Trump White House.
JOHN YANG: You talk about Breitbart News. We have got some headlines that we can show to give people an idea of what Breitbart News is:
- “Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”
- “Gabby Giffords, The Gun Control Movement's Human Shield.”
- “The Solution to Online Harassment Is Simple: Women Should Log Off.”
How much of Breitbart is Steve Bannon, and how much of Steve Bannon is Breitbart?
JOSHUA GREEN: Well, Bannon doesn't write often, and I don't think he writes the headlines, but he's sort of the pirate captain and the guy ultimately responsible for what's published there.
And if you know Bannon and if you read Breitbart News, essentially, what they do is they set out to shock and scandalize and upset people by targeting both political establishments. In Internet language, they're essentially a trolling operation.
And ordinarily these people exist on the fringes of journalism and on the fringes of politics. And what's so unusual here is that Bannon has now been brought into the West Wing of the White House.