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Steve Bannon Out At Breitbart


One year ago, Steve Bannon was at Donald Trump's side in photo after photo, arguably the president's most-trusted political adviser. Months ago, Bannon was ousted from the White House. And this morning, he is out of another job. He is no longer the executive chairman of Breitbart News. This follows his very public alienation from President Trump over his quotes in the White House tell-all book "Fire And Fury."

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been following these changes, and he's on the line now. Hey, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Rachel Martin, good morning.

MARTIN: Good morning. Explain what has led to this moment.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Bannon has liked to describe himself as something of a revolutionary. He's described himself apparently in recent days as like the former British adviser to the king, Thomas Cromwell. In a sense, it's like more like the French Revolution. He turned his fire on his - Democrats and liberals, then on Republicans he saw as too much allied with the establishment and now with people in the Trump inner circle. He attacked that Trumps' son, Donald Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the book "Fire And Fury" for taking acts which he saw were, you know, possibly criminal, possibly even treasonous by meeting with Russians.

And he criticized President Trump himself, saying he lacked intelligence, focus, the ability and the characteristics needed for a president. One of the Breitbart's chief owners, Rebekah Mercer, has been a financial backer of the president in the last year and a half. And she made public comments making it clear the writing was on the wall. He couldn't stay at Breitbart News.

MARTIN: Which is fascinating - right? - because this is why the president embraced Steve Bannon, because he was a flamethrower, because he was anti-establishment. He wanted to break things. And now it is those same traits that have led to his demise.

FOLKENFLIK: And now they're broken. And, you know, Breitbart was very useful for the president when Bannon decided to steer it and use it as a vehicle for Trump's ambitions and for Bannon's own ambitions. What's clear in the comments he made in the book was that he saw Trump as a vessel, not as a figure for whom he had much respect, at least in the comments as reflected by the author, Michael Wolff. And also, you know, his own ambition and ego led him to decide that he could help while leading Breitbart once more - a political movement of conservative populism and nationalism. He meddled in the Alabama Senate race and lost it for Republicans. That was a blow to the president, too.

MARTIN: So Bannon's satellite radio program on Sirius has also been canceled, I understand. So where does this leave him? What does Steve Bannon do now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, as I said, he had been picking up the idea that he was going to lead this conservative wing of the conservative party of the country and perhaps let it be a bit of the same kind of platform that he turned Breitbart into. That is for real cultural conservatives nursing a grievance not only against liberals and against institutions but against a lot of the major figures in the Republican Party as well.

The Mercer family, which backed Bannon's ambitions, backed Breitbart and which turned its loyalties from Ted Cruz in the primaries to Donald Trump as he gained momentum. You know, they're no longer going to underwrite what he has to offer. And so it's a real question if somebody else will step forward to do that. I figure he's - he looks right now like a figure very much in the wilderness.

MARTIN: And very quickly, does this mean changes for Breitbart itself?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Breitbart has seemed a little bit adrift and awash as you've seen this - fissures between Bannon and the Trump White House grow into the Grand Canyon. And I think they're going to have to pick themselves up. They had to reinvent themselves after the death of their founder, Andrew Breitbart. Bannon provided that sense. They're going to have to go to a 3.0 and figure out what they're doing. They've been declining in recent months in audience. And I think it's a real question of definition for them.

MARTIN: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.