Even as one of Donald Trump’s top advisers, Steve Bannon has been a reclusive figure, making few public statements and rarely granting interviews. But Bannon ventured into the spotlight on Friday, taking questions from a pair of pro-Trump journalists.
In each interview, Bannon had a similar message.
“You’ve got to stay engaged,” he said in an interview on “Breitbart News Daily,” a radio program he used to host. The comment was directed at the Trump supporters who flock to Breitbart on a daily basis.
“The Trump administration, I think it’s three weeks from the day exactly is when President Trump will take the oath of office,” Bannon said. “So let’s hold people accountable and stay engaged. There will be a lot of exciting activity over the next couple of years.”
Bannon, who was executive chairman of Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign in August, will serve as chief White House strategist and senior counselor when the new administration takes over next month.
He has been a lightning rod for criticism due to his and Breitbart’s close ties to the alt-right, a movement that includes extremists, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Breitbart, Bannon once declared proudly, is “the platform for the alt-right.”
In the radio interview on Friday, Bannon — often still using “we” when referring to Breitbart — spoke to Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle about the outlet’s audience.
“The best thing we ever had was both the comments section at Breitbart and the callers, the great audience we’ve got here at SiriusXM, to call and share every day what their feelings were,” Bannon said. “We used to tease, after John McCain made that speech that time, that called our audience ‘hobbits,’ it was always great to hear what the hobbits had to say because at the end of the day what they had to say was what mattered most.”
In what may be a sign of the access Breitbart could enjoy, and the role it might be expected to play, over the next four years, Boyle scored another Trump-related exclusive earlier this week with a behind-the-scenes look at the president-elect’s inauguration plans. The resulting article neatly echoed the talking points that the Trump camp has used to push back against rumors that it is having trouble finding A-list talent to perform at the inauguration and related festivities.
Bannon made comments similar to what he’d said in the Breitbart interview in a statement on Friday to Daily Mail’s David Martosko, another Trump-friendly reporter who had once been rumored to be under consideration for a job in the Trump White House.
“Deplorables and Hobbits should stay engaged and hold ALL of us accountable — including me,’ Bannon told Martosko in a text message.
While Bannon’s role on Trump’s team has only gotten larger, his public persona has shrunk. Since Election Day, Bannon had given only two other interviews, one to The Hollywood Reporter and one to the Wall Street Journal.
Bannon gave an impromptu interview to CNN in October after he arrived at the Las Vegas airport for a presidential debate. At the time, Trump’s electoral prospects seemed grim, and many observers expected the candidate — with Bannon’s assistance — to launch a media outlet after the campaign ended.
But Bannon said Trump was optimistic.
“Right now he really, really thinks he’s going to win,” Bannon said.
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