Stephen Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’
Michael Grynbaum, NYT, Jan 26 2017
FASCHINGSTEIN — Just days after President Trump spoke of a “running war’’ with the media, his chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon ratcheted up the attacks, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by the election outcome and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday:
The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the POTUS.
The scathing assessment delivered by one of Trump’s most trusted and influential advisers, in the first days of his presidency comes at a moment of high tension between the news media and the administration, with skirmishes over the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd and the president’s false claims that millions of illegal votes by undocumented immigrants swayed the popular vote against him. Bannon, who rarely grants interviews to journalists outside of Breitbart News, was echoing comments by Trump last weekend, when the president said he was in “a running war” with the media and called journalists “among the most dishonest people on earth.” Bannon is one of the strongest forces in an administration with competing power centers. A savvy manipulator of the press and a proud provocateur, he was among the few advisers in Trump’s circle who were said to have urged new press secretary Sean Spicer to give a confrontational, emotional statement to a shocked West Wing briefing room on Saturday, when the White House disputed news reports about the size of the inauguration crowd. He shares Trump’s view that the news media misunderstood the movement that the president rode into office. Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, Bannon delivered a broad indictment of the news media as being biased against Trump and out of touch with the Pindo creeple. That is an argument familiar to readers of Breitbart and followers of personalities friendly to Trump, like Sean Hannity of Fox News. Bannon said of the election:
The elite media got it dead wrong, 100% dead wrong. It was a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there. The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign. Look at the Twitter feeds of those people. They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign. That’s why you have no power. You were humiliated.
Bannon spoke in blunt but calm tones, peppered with profanity, and humorously referred to himself as “Darth Vader.” He said with ironic relish that Trump was elected by a surge of support from “the working-class hobbits and deplorables.” The conversation was initiated by Bannon to offer praise for Sean Spicer, who has been criticized this week for making false claims at the White House podium about attendance at Trump’s inaugural, for calling reporters dishonest and lecturing them about what stories to write, and for failing to disavow Trump’s lie about widespread voter fraud in the election. Asked if he was concerned that Spicer had lost credibility with the news media, Bannon chortled and said:
Are you kidding me? We think that’s a badge of honor! ‘Questioning his integrity’! Are you kidding me? The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence and no hard work. You’re the opposition party. Not the Democrat Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.
Journalists reacted with alarm and defiance to Bannon’s comments. Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica wrote in an email:
We are not the opposition. We are part of an essential function in any democracy. We have no intention of shutting up in response to this or any other president’s demand. We are here to tell the truth, and we intend to continue doing so, regardless of how badly some might want us to parrot ‘alternative facts.’
Bannon mostly referred to the “elite” or “mainstream” media, but he cited the NYT and the WaPo by name, saying:
The paper of record for our beloved republic, the NYT, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated. They got it 100% wrong. And I’ve been a reader of the NYT for most of my adult life.