Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is seeing his most loyal internet followers turn on him after Michael Wolff’s explosive new book about the Trump administration quoted Bannon criticizing a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart, once boasted that the ultra-conservative news organization he has led was the “platform for the alt-right.” Now, stories on the site about the fallout between Trump and his former chief strategist are followed by a barrage of angry internet commentators who have turned on their maker.
“Breitbart is bigger than Bannon and too many people are furious and feel betrayed,” the top comment in a story about Bannon read. “He’s also dragging great writers on this site down him with ... Steve needs to go.”
“No way to support him and Trump at the same time,” another commenter added. “Bannon has to go.”
The drama began Wednesday when Bannon was quoted in an excerpt from author Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury. In it, Bannon is quoted as saying the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., other Trump associates, and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was “treasonous.”
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers,” Bannon told Wolff in the new book.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon added.
Trump immediately lashed out at Bannon after the quotes were made public Thursday, saying the former chief strategist had “lost his mind” in an official statement. A Trump lawyer sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter. Later, Trump went to Twitter to call his former partner “Sloppy Steve.”
Whispers quickly began that the fallout might lead to Bannon’s ouster from Breitbart. The Wall Street Journal reported that the owners of the publication were debating Bannon’s future on Wednesday.
Rebekah Mercer, a financial backer of Breitbart, distanced herself from Bannon in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” Mercer told the publication. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
In a Friday tweet, Trump praised the move as “Smart!”
Where there was once praise for Bannon among Breitbart readers, they’ve now turned to anger and incredulity that he would ever question a meeting between the younger Trump and a Russian.
A recent story on the outlet concerns Bannon’s response to Trump’s Thursday attacks, where he praised the president as a “great man” whom he supports “day in and day out.”
The top-rated comment centers around Bannon’s apparent strategy of taking the “high road” in the back-and-forth.
“Bannon could have easily issued a statement clarifying his comments, but he didn’t,” it read, one on a story with more than 7,000 comments. “The White House waited 5 hours to issue its statement, so Bannon’s team did have enough time to respond. Thus, what high road?”
In an unreleased statement, Bannon had planned to praise the younger Trump, but reconsidered after the White House issued Trump’s statement that Bannon had “lost his mind.”
“He was literally just about to respond but backed off when the White House issued the statement,” an anonymous source close to Bannon told The Hill.
In another Breitbart article detailing Trump’s ire for Bannon, a commenter wrote: “Well, Steve Bannon is a Rino and cuckservative. So there. Fake news.”
The comment had more than 800 votes.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article said that Steve Bannon co-founded Breitbart News. He did not.