Donald Trump hires the best people. At least, that’s the prayer his supporters — who hope his Supreme Court picks will save the Court from being dominated by liberals for a generation — are holding onto. In an effort to shake up his campaign after weeks of plummeting polls, Trump did what all politicians in the same position do: he shook up his campaign staff and chose a new chief, Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News.
What does the current state of Breitbart News look like? It is the homepage for those on the alt-right. The site has come under fire, especially this election season, for its coverage of anti-Trump Jews, who their writers have nicknamed “renegade Jews.” No site ever wants to be represented by its commenters, but it’s telling how dominated Breitbart comments are by those who view Jews as an “infestation” worthy of some “cleansing.” I receive tweets on the subject quite frequently from their readers since The Daily Beast published a piece on the site’s Jewish problem and quoted me at length. I’ve also written for the Forward about how I’ve been deluged with anti-Semitism and doxed — a term for people’s attempt to ferret out private or identifying information online with malicious intent — by readers like these.
Breitbart News is named for its late founder, Andrew Breitbart. What did Andrew think about Donald Trump and what might he have thought of this move? Fortunately we don’t have to speculate or presume to speak for the dead. On Fox News in 2011, Andrew didn’t hold back on his opinion of the celebrity businessman: “Of course he [Donald Trump] is not a conservative. He was for Nancy Pelosi before he was against Nancy Pelosi.”
Steve Bannon took over Breitbart News after Andrew’s sudden death in 2012. According to former Breitbart protégé and site editor Ben Shapiro, who wrote a public statement at the time of his resignation, Bannon has destroyed everything Andrew worked to create. Shapiro said:
Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: fight the bullies. But Andrew’s life mission has been betrayed. Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda.
After the announcement of Bannon’s hiring, Shapiro penned a must-read primer on what the hire means for the future of Trumpism and its now-official mouthpiece. There’s no gray area here: Bannon is a bad guy. And he now has control of a major campaign for president.
On Twitter, radio show host Charlie Sykes put it best: “Trump’s campaign has now entered the Hospice Phase. He knows he’s dying and wants to surround himself with his loved ones.” Even Trump’s children, his biggest cheerleaders and his paid surrogates know there is something fatally amiss within his campaign.
The same day the Bannon news was announced, the Trump campaign’s media appearances resembled a dumpster fire. Donald Trump Jr. went on Sean Hannity’s show to complain about the individuals CNN has chosen to represent his father’s campaign and supporters on air. Almost proving Trump Jr.’s point on surrogates, CNN’s Brianna Keilar left Trump’s Special Counsel Michael Cohen speechless after pointing out that Trump isn’t leading in a single poll — not even the one commissioned by Breitbart News.
Hiring Breitbart’s own Steven Bannon may be a Hail Mary for Trump to try to control the media narrative, or merely an attempt to surround himself with friendly faces as his ship begins to capsize. Bannon has no campaign experience but is an expert on spinning the truth, especially in Trump’s favor to boost his ego. Trump himself can’t deny, however, that as much as Bannon and his alt-right legions of fans might support their golden boy (or “Cheeto Jesus,” as Erick Erickson has crowned Trump), there’s no changing the reality of the situation on the ground. Bannon’s hire might just be to temporarily boost morale until the walls of Trump’s campaign start crashing down in November. But even he couldn’t fabricate a world in which Trump has a prayer.
Bethany Mandel writes on politics and culture, usually from a conservative perspective. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyShondark