On Thursday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal reported that former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon could be ousted from the publication he runs. That revelation follows President Trump nuking Bannon from orbit over Bannon’s statements that the Trump family had acted in “treasonous” and criminal fashion. According to the Journal:
Mr. Bannon’s longtime benefactors, billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, are actively distancing from him even before the expected release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” according to two people close to the Mercers.
They and other Breitbart News Network LLC board members on Thursday were debating whether to oust Mr. Bannon as chairman, with many supportive of the move, according to a person familiar with the exchanges. Among the considerations are Breitbart’s contractual relationships with other entities, including Sirius XM radio, that involve Mr. Bannon.
Staffers at Breitbart, which Mr. Bannon has called his “killing machine,” described a “chaotic” day at the company, with writers—many personally recruited by Mr. Bannon—wondering whether he would last the day.
This isn’t a shock after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Breitbart should look at ousting Bannon.
Bannon’s role at Breitbart News was always unclear. He had been making a documentary about Andrew Breitbart when Andrew died, but that was the extent of his involvement in Breitbart before being asked to chair the company by Andrew’s business partner and best friend, Larry Solov, over the objections of many. Bannon transformed Breitbart from a culture-oriented site directed at debunking mainstream media narratives into an alt-right promoting political weapon directed at destroying Bannon’s enemies and puffing up Bannon’s allies.
Bannon has now been largely isolated — his monetary base of support, the Mercer family, reportedly dumped him weeks ago; his political base of support is gone with Trump’s evisceration yesterday; his media base of support still exists for those willing to provide a forum for his leaks, but the conservative media landscape correctly turned on Bannon today as well, with Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge leading the way.
So, what exactly does Bannon continue to bring to the table for Breitbart?
His original mission outside the White House could have been to continue to use Breitbart as a vehicle for Trump’s goals, but Bannon wasn’t willing to subsume his own agenda to that end. He could have broken from the White House and tried to become an honest broker for Bannonite pseudo-philosophy, but that would have necessitated criticism of Trump, which Breitbart News readers won’t abide.
Now, none of those options are available. Bannon is far more of a liability than an asset: he doesn’t have the ear of the Breitbart-investing Mercers, he doesn’t have the ear of the White House, and he doesn’t have the ear of the base.
The only person whose ear he could presumably have is Solov. That’s unjustifiable, and it always was. Bannon has subverted Breitbart’s legacy and morphed the site into a reflection of his own ego; just weeks ago, the website of Andrew Breitbart was selling Steve Bannon fidget spinners. Now Bannon must be pleading with the board for his life, claiming this will all blow over. But that’s not the question anymore. The question is what Steve Bannon adds to Breitbart. And the answer is: nothing. And he subtracts good sense, conservative philosophy, and all decency.