Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro appeared on CNN Wednesday morning to discuss the appointment of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. Shapiro had written a blistering piece earlier in the day about the issue; he had quit Breitbart in March when he felt they eschewed defending their own reporter, Michelle Fields, because they didn’t want to damage their preferred candidate, Donald Trump.
Shapiro fired hard; doubling down on the assertion in his column that Bannon was a genuinely bad person, calling Trump a “turd tornado,” attacking Bannon and Trump for emulating the left’s tradition of what Andrew Breitbart called the “Democrat-media complex,“ and slamming the left for the collusion between the media and the Democratic Party.
The complete exchange is below:
CNN Host Brianna Keilar: So, Ben, and I know you wrote about this. You said you used to work for Steve Bannon, here’s what people need to know. You put this on The Daily Wire. What is your reaction to him being Donald Trump’s cam-- really heading up Donald Trump’s campaign now?
Shapiro: I think it’s the final consummation of a romance that Steve initiated years ago with Donald Trump. Steve has always wanted, in my opinion, to be very close to power; he’s latched on to politicians ranging from Michelle Bachmann to Sarah Palin to media figures like Andrew Breitbart, and now to Donald Trump and so he’s gotten what he wants. By the way, I’m not sure it’s a terrible move for the Trump campaign, given that Steve is basically going to tell Trump to be more militant, to double down, to be more focused, none of which I think is bad advice, but it does demonstrate the Republican, or Trump-media complex that Bannon has helped to create in direct contravention of what Andrew Breitbart once called the Democrat-media complex. Andrew spent a lot of time talking about how the Democrat-media complex was a terrible, terrible thing; the unspoken assumption that all the members of the media were on the left but they just wouldn’t say it; they pretend to be objective. And now, I guess we have the same thing on the right with Breitbart and Trump.
Keilar: Why would you argue that Bannon giving him advice, that you would presume which is to be more Trump-like, and to be militant is something that would serve Donald Trump? And I ask you this because as you know, there are so many in the Republican establishment who say that is not what he should be doing; he should be calming down a little bit, trying to reduce some of the drama so that he can attract people in the middle of the political spectrum?
Shapiro: As you probably know, I think Donald Trump is a turd tornado, but I also understand that he has no capacity whatsoever to control himself and be this sort of staid politician that so many people want him to be. Reince Priebus isn’t going to convince him to become Mitt Romney, and Trump doesn’t want to become Mitt Romney. I’m not sure he should want to become Mitt Romney, so telling him to double down is not necessarily terrible strategy; if he’s going to go down, he’s going to go down being Trump, and I think that’s probably what Steve Bannon is telling him to do.
Keilar: A what tornado?
Shapiro: A turd tornado.
Keilar: What is that?
Shapiro: Well, it’s like a Sharknado, except with poop.
(After laughing, Keilar continued.)
Keilar: Okay. All right. That’s not quite what I expected, but okay. You’re now with The Daily Wire, which is what I mentioned, and you have this piece out today about the hiring, and you really paint this sinister picture of him. Let’s see; you say: "He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is – for example, Donald Trump – to get where he wants to go. Bannon knows that in the game of thrones, you win or die. And he certainly doesn’t intend to die. He’ll kill everyone else before he goes." I think you explain a lot about how you feel there; but just tell us about what it was like working with him on a day-to-day basis; what sort of backs up this description that you have here?
Shapiro: There’s only so much I can say on a legal level, because Breitbart is famous for its restrictive contracts. I can say that a huge number of people –
Keilar: So you basically are under a non-disclosure agreement.
Shapiro: Arguable, arguable. But let’s just put it this way; the Trump team has proved itself not averse to filing frivolous lawsuits, so that would not be something that I’d be interested in engaging in, but I can say there are a lot of people, inside and outside of Breitbart, who have been the victims of Steve Bannon … when it comes to interpersonal relationships. By the way, I’m sure that Steve is watching this grinning; Steve loves this kind of stuff. Steve likes to think of himself as the big bear tearing everybody else down because he’s the big power player, and look, it’s got him where he is now. I think that, again, Steve Bannon, I tweeted this morning, “Imagine one of the worst people you know is heading up a presidential campaign.” That’s pretty much where I’m at this morning. And again, that’s not a commentary on what it means for the Trump campaign, but it is commentary on the perverse relationship between Breitbart News and Trump, and the perverse relationship between Steve Bannon and the readers of Breitbart, who were informed for months that Breitbart was not on the Trump train, only to be revealed later that not only were they on the Trump train, but basically they were in direct cahoots.
Keilar: I’m sure he’s looking at this, or Trump folks are going to look at this, and they’re going to say, ”Y’know, you’re sour grapes. It didn’t work out for you at Breitbart.”
Shapiro: Eh. Is it sour grapes? Sure. I don’t like Steve. I think he’s a jerk. As far as it being sour grapes with Breitbart, I left Breitbart at the time because I said exactly what they are, and now they are what they are; I said they were Trump Pravda, I said they threw their own reporter under the bus; I left a very lucrative job, I was being paid a fair bit of money to write one piece a day for them, essentially. I left that job because I decided I wasn’t going to stand with a site that decided it was more important to kiss the ass of a presidential candidate than to defend its own reporters. And listen; I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t this sort of nastiness that goes on the left side of the aisle, but being on the right, I always thought that the right was better than this. There are a lots of outlets on the left that proclaim they’re objective; George Stephanopoulos on ABC pretends to be objective; CNN reporters vote largely Democrat; they pretend to be objective; but I thought that on the right, at least if you’re going to be pro a candidate, just say that you’re pro the candidate. Don’t pussyfoot around, and that’s what Breitbart did and took the readership that was not pro-Trump and converted them to pro-Trump. So congratulations to Steve Bannon on doing a wonderful job of hollowing out the Breitbart brand, destroying Breitbart’s name, and making Breitbart a lot of traffic and getting himself a position of power.
Keilar: I do just have to say something in defense of my colleagues: we do not know how they vote. right? There’s no way to –
Shapiro: I have some guesses. I have some guesses.
Keilar: That is your guess, and you’re entitled to say certainly what you want. I do want to ask you, Ben, though, because you say in your piece something that’s pretty interesting, about how you think that Bannon’s motivation for joining the Trump campaign is about creating a new media empire. What makes you think that, I’m not questioning that, because I’ve heard other people say that –
Shapiro: Oh, it’s speculation.
Keilar: What is it that makes you think that? Just because of his current position?
Shapiro: Oh, It’s pure speculation. It’s pure speculation. The reason I say that is because Steve doesn’t like to enter scenarios that aren’t win-win. It’s a win-win for him personally. If Trump wins, then Steve gets to be chief-of-staff in the White House; if Trump loses, then he still gets to be allied with this very, very powerful figure who’s increased the traffic at Breitbart from like 30 million page views a month to 200 million page views a month, and has the possibility of expanding into TV, having this media empire on the back of Trump. Again, I think that Steve is a very smart player; I think he’s a very vicious player. That may pay off for the Trump campaign, but it is worthwhile noting that Trump says he surrounds himself with the very best people; they so far have not proved it. Maybe Steve will prove to be different; I wouldn’t consider him the “very best people” when it comes to who he is as a human being.