Steve Bannon disparaged the mindset that motivates white supremacists in an interview published Wednesday, calling the group “a collection of clowns.”
“Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers,” Bannon reportedly said in an interview published by the progressive magazine American Prospect.
The White House chief strategist’s comments follow a weekend of turmoil in the United States after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and forced a state of emergency. One woman was killed and several of her fellow counter-protesters were injured when a car plowed through a crowd. In the days following the incident, President Donald Trump made a series of remarks — some off the cuff — that were strongly rebuked by politicians from both sides of the aisle.
The former editor of the far-right news website Breitbart is a controversial figure within the White House.
A source close to Bannon told CNN he did not believe he was being interviewed when he spoke with the co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect earlier this week.
“It was no interview,” the source said.
Bannon and the White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, named Bannon and Stephen Miller as individuals he thought were trying to accommodate the alt-right or white nationalists from within the West Wing, and advised the President to stop listening to them.
But Bannon’s comments to the Prospect pushed back on that notion.
“It’s a fringe element,” Bannon told the magazine’s co-founder Robert Kuttner about white nationalists within Trump’s base. “I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
He added: “These guys are a collection of clowns.”
Kuttner wrote that Bannon never asked for his remarks to be off the record.
“The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up. This is also puzzling, since Steve Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America,” Kuttner wrote.