Top White House strategist casts media as opposition party

Mr Bannon, one of President Trump's most trusted advisers, with fellow Trump confidante Kellyanne Conway on Inauguration Day in Washington last Friday. Before the election, Mr Bannon headed the provocative right-wing website Breitbart News.
Mr Bannon, one of President Trump's most trusted advisers, with fellow Trump confidante Kellyanne Conway on Inauguration Day in Washington last Friday. Before the election, Mr Bannon headed the provocative right-wing website Breitbart News.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON • Just days after US President Donald Trump spoke of a "running war" with the media, his chief White House strategist, Mr Stephen Bannon, ratcheted up the attacks.

He said news organisations had been "humiliated" by the election outcome, and repeatedly described the media as "the opposition party" of the current administration.

"The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while," Mr Bannon said in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.

"I want you to quote this," added Mr Bannon, who before the election had headed the provocative right-wing website Breitbart News. "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the President of the United States."

The scathing assessment - delivered by one of Mr Trump's most trusted and influential advisers - comes at a moment of high tension between the news media and the administration.

Since last weekend, Mr Trump has been embroiled in controversy over the crowd at his swearing-in, with both he and the White House overstating its size.

The new press secretary, Mr Sean Spicer, was criticised this week for making false claims at the White House podium about attendance at the inauguration.

Asked if he was concerned that Mr Spicer had lost credibility with the news media, Mr Bannon said: "Are you kidding me? We think that is a badge of honour... The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence and no hard work. You are the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party."

Mr Bannon described the US news media as out of touch with the American public. "The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 per cent dead wrong," he said of their reports on US election results, calling it "a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away".

Journalists reacted with alarm and defiance to Mr Bannon's comments. "What country are we living in?" CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour wrote on Twitter.

Mr Stephen Engelberg, editor- in-chief of non-profit news organisation ProPublica, wrote: "We are not the opposition... We are part of an essential function in any democracy."

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Top White House strategist casts media as opposition party'. Print Edition | Subscribe