News analysis

Bannon's rise, faster fall and uncertain future

But don't expect him to just retreat and shrink away into anonymity

WASHINGTON • Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon stepped down from Breitbart News on Tuesday, capping a stunning rise and fall from the political fringe to the West Wing to whatever is fringe-ier than the fringe.

Less than a year ago, Time magazine put Mr Bannon on its cover and wondered whether he might be the second most powerful man in the world. Now, he's been disowned and nicknamed "Sloppy Steve" by the President he worked to elect, and pressured out of the media firm that helped him gain the President's confidence in the first place.

Returning to Breitbart in August was clearly a demotion but, still, an opportunity to remain relevant.

He envisioned using the far-right website to transform the Republican Party by backing primary challengers to most GOP senators, and appeared to have the support of his ex-boss.

Then Mr Bannon placed a bad bet on Mr Roy Moore in the Senate race in Alabama, denting the perception that he could influence or even read a red-state electorate.

His critical comments about Mr Donald Trump's adult children, published in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury last week, enraged the President, who declared that Mr Bannon had "lost his mind".

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last Thursday said Breitbart should "look at and consider" cutting ties with Mr Bannon. Five days later, Mr Bannon was out.

Less than a year ago, Time magazine put Mr Stephen Bannon on its cover and wondered whether he might be the second most powerful man in the world. Now, he's been disowned and nicknamed "Sloppy Steve" by the President he worked to elect.
Less than a year ago, Time magazine put Mr Stephen Bannon on its cover and wondered whether he might be the second most powerful man in the world. Now, he's been disowned and nicknamed "Sloppy Steve" by the President he worked to elect. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

"Steve is a valued part of our legacy," said Breitbart chief executive Larry Solov, adding that the company would always be grateful for his contributions.

Mr Bannon said he was "proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform".

Former Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella does not think Mr Bannon would stay quiet for long. "Accepting fate or defeat is not in his DNA. Someone who entertains running for president doesn't just retreat and shrink away into anonymity... He will try and finish what he started," he said.

Mr Bardella's remark about presidential ambitions refers to a December Vanity Fair article which said a White House run "has at least been a passing thought" for Mr Bannon.

Another possible avenue for Mr Bannon already is closed.

Mr Wolff reported in his book that former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes approached Mr Bannon in April about teaming up to launch a new conservative television network that would feature the just-fired TV host Bill O'Reilly.

According to Mr Wolff, Mr Bannon said then that he wanted to stay in the White House. He left the White House just four months later, but by then Mr Ailes had died.

Mr Bannon could attempt to start a new venture without Mr Ailes or perhaps go back to making documentaries.

But those projects might require fundraising and Mr Bannon, through his falling-out with Mr Trump, has alienated the billionaire Mercer clan, which would have been his most natural source of financial support.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'Bannon's rise, faster fall and uncertain future'. Print Edition | Subscribe