Donald Trump announced a shake-up of his campaign late Tuesday night, moving Paul Manafort to a less influential and public role and bringing in conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway as Campaign Manager and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon as CEO.
Trump statement: pic.twitter.com/iWLOY0bE9f
— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 17, 2016
Conway has been a DC figure for decades working for Republican campaigns and appearing on cable news as a pundit the entire time. Her knowledge and experience should come as a welcome change to the approach Manafort and his predecessor Corey Lewandowski took.
It’s the elevation of Bannon that has raised eyebrows in the political and media world.
Dear Media: one year ago almost to the day I called Breitbart "Trump's Pravda"
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) August 17, 2016
so just to clarify, right after the most serious policy speech he's given, Trump takes the man who ruined the Breitbart brand to fix his?
— Duane Patterson (@Radioblogger) August 17, 2016
To be sure, Bannon is a controversial figure, and the fact that he has never run a campaign in his life will sound alarm bells for many who were concerned about the lack of experience with Trump and his closest advisers.
But it’s the immediate transition from Bannon’s role as the Executive Chairman of Breitbart, a prominent news and politics website, to the CEO of a presidential campaign which I’d like to address here.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked for Breitbart for four years. I wrote at Big Hollywood when it first launched and Andrew hired me to be Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart.TV in 2010. I also worked with Bannon for my final year with the company before exiting the company in December 2013.
I will leave it to others to comment on Bannon’s ability to run a national campaign or whether his temperament is suited to his new role. Much has been said already on that subject, and surely much will be said as the day unfolds.
I do think the intersection of media and politics is an area in need of exploration. Here’s a passage from Robert Costa’s write-up in the Washington Post that caught my eye:
Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, the aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.
Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said.
I am not interested in debating the value of the advice Bannon gave Trump on his campaign strategy. I’m more concerned with the revelation that the man running a conservative news and opinion website has been on the other end of the phone with a presidential candidate, giving him advice and helping to steer his campaign.
If we learned the President of CNN was giving regular advice to Hillary Clinton, would we complain? I know, Breitbart isn’t CNN because they don’t pretend to be unbiased. Make no mistake, CNN is, in fact, a biased news organization, I get that — and Breitbart is biased as well. The difference is, Breitbart tells you they are biased. But you know we’d be writing posts and talk radio would be going nuts about the incestuous relationship between CNN and Hillary.
But what about a media entity that wears their bias on their sleeve? If we learned Arianna Huffington was regularly advising Hillary and she was taking over her campaign, we wouldn’t have something to say about it? Of course we would.
In fact, so would Breitbart. Just check my byline from the site. The incestuous merging of media, journalism and politics was one of the ongoing themes of my work there. Why? because it was a big part of Andrew Breitbart’s work. Just read his book.
He called the relationship between reporters and politicians the "Democrat Media Complex" and he hated it. pic.twitter.com/8f8KwroVro
— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) March 14, 2016
So now it is revealed that the man who was chosen to run his site has been engaged in the precise entanglement that he hated and worked so hard to expose. Are we not obliged to point this out? I think we are.
I am hardly “anti-Trump.” This is not about Mr. Trump. I have already publicly said I will vote for him without hesitation. I truly hope the changes made at the campaign will result in electoral victory on November 8th.
But, I believe that Mr. Bannon’s relationship with the Trump campaign is something that Breitbart News needs to reveal now and thoroughly. And I mean everything.
When did the advice from Bannon to Trump begin? Was it during the primaries? If so, how did Bannon’s relationship with Trump influence the site’s coverage of other Republican candidates? Was Bannon’s relationship disclosed to employees? When story assignments were distributed, did the writers at Breitbart know that the Executive Chairman was working with the Trump campaign?
Finally, at the end of this campaign, will Bannon return to his role? If Trump wins, would that be appropriate? And if Hillary wins, same question.
This is why Andrew Breitbart hated the commingling of DC journalists and politicians. This is what he meant by the “Democrat Media Complex.” This is why he inspired so many of us to work and fight for him. This is why he was so great. His legacy, and the site that bears his name, deserve better.