With So Much Trump Talk, Bannon Barely Makes a Ripple

Conway confirms campaign hasn't changed: 'Build a wall. No amnesty. No citizenship.'

CNN

Tapper asks Pence about Bannon, who replaced Manafort, who replaced Lewandowski. (Photo: State of the Union/CNN)

The chief executive officer of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was accused of anti-Semitism by his ex-wife, according to court papers discovered by The Associated Press and circulated Friday.

But you barely heard about it on the Sunday current-affairs shows. Strongest was Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union.

“Is the guy brought in to stop the distractions on his way to becoming an even bigger one?” Tapper asked in the opening of his show.

Later, Tapper interviewed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and asked him about the man in question, Stephen Bannon, who arrived as CEO to Trump’s campaign earlier this month from the right-wing website Breitbart News.

Bannon replaced Paul Manafort, who replaced Corey Lewandowski.

Tapper asked Pence, Trump’s vice-presidential running mate, about allegations of domestic violence against Bannon 20 years ago and about his views on Jews only nine years ago.

“Did you know any of this when he was hired?” Tapper asked Pence.

“Well, I know Steve Bannon has denied those charges,” Pence said. “I know he enjoys a very strong relationship with his ex-wife and their two wonderful kids.”

What went unsaid was a direct quotation from Mary Louise Piccard, Bannon’s ex-wife, who disagreed with her ex-husband over what school to send their children to in 2007.

“He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats,’” Piccard said in a 2007 court filing, according to AP. Bannon, her statement said, “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

Another host who got close to the topic was Chuck Todd of Meet the Press on NBC. He asked Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about Bannon.

“I don’t know Steve Bannon,” Priebus said.

For the information of Priebus, Bannon until recently ran a website that is a haven for white nationalists, anti-Semites, Confederate flag-wavers and racists. Many support Trump. It’s trendy to call it the “alt-right,” an alternative to the established “conservative” Washington elite.

In a panel of pundits, right-wing radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt went for false equivalence.

“For every Steve Bannon and Breitbart, there’s a David Brock and Media Matters,” Hewitt said. “For every Ann Coulter, there’s a Michael Moore.”

Todd offered that he didn’t think Priebus was happy with Bannon’s role. “Sounds to me, if he had his preference, Steve Bannon would not be there,” Todd said. Panelist Joy Reid said “Bannon is a toxic personality.”

Todd replied by citing the potential of opposition research by Democrats.

“We may be one oppo drop away from Bannon not being part of this campaign,” Todd said.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace mentioned Bannon’s harsh views only in the context of incendiary headlines on the Breitbart site about women.

“This is the man Trump chose to run his campaign?” Wallace asked Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager.

“Well, he chose me to manage his campaign,” Conway said, deflecting the allegations. “And I report directly to him (Trump).”

Among other issues discussed on the shows Sunday were Trump’s Twitter message Saturday about a black woman getting shot and killed Saturday in Chicago and how it might help his campaign’s “outreach” to African-Americans. Her cousin is a basketball star in the NBA.

“Dwayne Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago,” said Trump’s tweet, which was shown on most of the Sunday shows. “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!” (Trump, in recent weeks, has channeled George Wallace with a “law and order” pitch.)

Other topics included Trump’s flip-flopping on his core issue, the stopping of illegal immigration and the deportation of immigrants without documentation; the exchange of insults over racial matters between Trump and the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton; and accusations that Clinton mixed duties of her job as secretary of state with her work for the Clinton Foundation.

‘Unless I missed it, there were not a lot of Republican leaders . . . rising to his defense.’

Hand me the remote . . .

FACE THE NATION CBS host John Dickerson interviewed Conway and asked her if Trump would make good on his promise to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented residents, many of them from Mexico. Trump seemed to soften his position early in the week and then harden it again later.

“So how do they leave?” Dickerson asked Conway. “Do they self-deport?”

In that Trump called Clinton “a bigot” last week, Dickerson asked Conway if that was the campaign’s position and whether Trump would keep saying it. She never answered the question.

Dickerson stuck to the same issues with Ben Carson, a former Republican candidate who is now a Trump surrogate.

“Do you have any doubt,” Dickerson asked Carson, “that Donald Trump will begin, once he becomes president, deporting the 11 million who are in America and are undocumented?”

Carson answered: “Certainly the individuals who have committed crimes, who keep coming back . . . these people will no longer be bothering Americans.”

As to calling Clinton a bigot, as Trump did, Carson said it is “not wise” to use that term.

On the pundit panel, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic referred to Trump’s “vertigo-inducing kind of rhetorical spinning. Trying to please all camps, he’s risking alienating the base.”

Another pundit was Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist who said Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign—and his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border—“is a losing issue for Republicans.”

“It’s not possible to build a contiguous wall across the U.S.-Mexican border,” Sanchez said. “It’s not going to happen. You have the Rio Grande river. You have flood plains. It’s just not feasible.”

Mark Leibovich of The New York Times magazine said he found interesting the lack of response to Clinton’s charges that Trump—by uniting his campaign with the alt-right movement—is bringing racism into the mainstream of political discussion.

“Unless I missed it,” Leibovich said, “there were not a lot of Republican leaders . . . who were rising to his defense which, I think, spoke volumes, maybe more so, than whatever came out of his mouth.”

Goldberg said the Trump campaign tried to “muddy up” Trump’s immigration position but that won’t fool minority groups Trump has insulted.

“It’s very effective to remind people that David Duke likes Donald Trump,” Goldberg said. Duke is associated with the Ku Klux Klan.

When the conversation turned to meetings and phone calls taken by Clinton with and from donors to her family’s charitable Foundation, Sanchez said: “This is clearly a pay-to-play scheme . . . there’s so much smoke here. Isn’t this part of the pall that always surrounds the Clintons?”

Goldberg replied: “I’m sorry, but show me one thing that someone got from Hillary Clinton’s State Department because they happened to give money to the Clinton Foundation. I’m waiting for actual evidence.”

FOX NEWS SUNDAY Conway, making the rounds, got lots of time to speak without interruption to host Chris Wallace. Most of her answers were boilerplate talking points but she got to deliver them in bursts of one minute and 26 seconds and 1:31 and 1:09.

“Kellyanne, please clear this up for me,” Wallace said, in reference to the 11 million undocumented residents.  “Is he still going to deport them or is he going to let them stay?”

Conway responded that the “signature piece” of Trump’s campaign was to build a wall on the Mexican border.

“That has not changed,” she said. “Build a wall. No amnesty. No citizenship. No more sanctuary cities.”

Wallace pressed her, asking for clarification on the eleven million, asking “do they or don’t they?” get to stay.

“He will look at that,” Conway said of Trump.

What about the deportation force Trump once promised?

“He hasn’t mentioned that since last November,” Conway said.

Wallace asked if Trump’s tweet about Wade’s murdered cousin was appropriate for Trump’s partisan response. Conway responded that she was pleased that Trump’s next tweet expressed condolences to the family of the dead woman.

On the pundit panel, Susan Page of USA Today said Clinton’s blending of the State Department and the Clinton Foundation “does reinforce the worst impression that voters have about her, that she always pushes the edge of the envelope.”

Of Trump’s flip-flopping on his core issue of deporting immigrants, Page said: “72 days before the election, he is debating with himself about his stance on his signature issue . . . that’s quite extraordinary. It raises concerns among his core supporters who are worried that he is moving away from the hard line that was appealing to them initially.”

MEDIA BUZZ A guest pundit of Fox News host Howard Kurtz was Joe Trippi, a Democrat who felt sorry for Trump’s campaign aides.

“Watch these people turn themselves into pretzels trying to explain whether he has or has not changed his immigration policy,” Trippi said. It leaves everyone not knowing, Trippi said, “which is the truth.”

Mike Huckabee, one of the early Republican presidential candidates who is now back with Fox “News,” said he isn’t a journalist and he didn’t like people acting as journalists when they used to work in politics.

“How does George Stephanopoulos pretend to be a journalist?” Huckabee asked. “He worked for Bill Clinton. He was in the White House. How does Chris Mathews pretend to be a journalist? He worked for Democrat politicians.”

(Note to Huckabee. It’s pronounced “Democratic,” not “Democrat.” And we won’t mention how Megyn Kelly of Fox News accidentally mispronounced “Huckabee” a few months ago in an embarrassing way.)

After Kurtz presented a Trump tweet that called MNBC’s Mika Brzezinski of Morning Joe “off the wall, a neurotic and not very bright mess,” former Bill Clinton aide Simon Rosenberg said “Morning Joe is now clearly going after Trump in ways, I think, to make up for this dance they did last year.”

Kurtz took time to scold anchor Jorge Ramos of Univision for his warnings to the media about Trump’s bigotry.

“Hey, Jorge,” Kurtz said. “If you want to warn the world about Donald Trump, fine. Quit your job and go campaign against him. But stop using the cloak of an anchor to disguise your advocacy as journalism.”

MEET THE PRESS Back after Olympic pre-emption, Todd said Trump’s shifting positions on deportation of  immigrants “confused the public and even left his own staff tongue-tied at times.” He called Trump “ham-handed” and said of last week “In five days, a dizzying number of positions on immigration.”

Priebus, making the rounds, replied that Trump is “reflecting on his position” and “it is going to be known.”

Todd then asked about “birthright citizenship,” which grants citizenship to babies born here. Some call them “anchor babies.”

TODD: “Is he going to call for the end of birthright citizenship?”

PRIEBUS: “You’re going to have to ask him.”

TODD: “Where’s the Republican Party on this? Do you think that’s something that should be the position of the Republican Party?”

PRIEBUS: “No. I believe in the interpretation of the Supreme Court on the issue.”

TODD: “So you’re comfortable with birthright citizenship?”

PRIEBUS: “I’m comfortable with it. I’m comfortable with it. I’m comfortable with it. I’m comfortable with the Supreme Court rulings on the issue.”

TODD: “So, your answer to him would be don’t touch birthright citizenship?”

PRIEBUS: “A nominee doesn’t have to adopt every single position and platform position of the Republican Party.”

On the pundit panel, Joy Reid discussed how Trump has “reached out” to black voters by telling them what hellholes they live their miserable lives in and by asking them “What the hell have you got to lose?” by voting for Trump.

“Donald Trump has done more to energize African-Americans against him in the last two weeks of supposed outreach than Hillary Clinton has done in a year,” Reid said.

David Plouffe, who ran President Obama’s two victorious national campaigns, offered harsh words for Trump.

“Basically, we have a psychopath running for president,” he said. “He meets the clinical definition, OK?”

When Todd challenged him with “Is that fair?” Plouffe replied: “Grandiose notion of self-worth. Pathological lying. Lack of empathy and remorse.”

Robert Costa of The Washington Post wondered about the Trump leadership conference last weekend.

“Piles of bacon cheeseburgers and hot dogs,” he said. “Ice cream. You’ve got Roger Ailes there. You’ve got Laura Ingraham there. You’ve got Steve Bannon there. You’ve got Kellyanne Conway there. You have the family that’s worried about the brand for Trump. So you have all these voices . . . So at this critical juncture of the campaign, he’s being flooded by advice and he’s navigating it.”

‘Make America Great Again,’ she said, does not appeal to black people who remember how not-so-great America used to be.

RELIABLE SOURCES CNN host Brian Stelter opened with Jamil Smith, who covers politics for MTV. Smith wondered about putting Bannon—the head of Breitbart and a leader of the alt-right—at the top of the Trump campaign.

STELTER: “What does that mean to you?”

SMITH: “It’s a re-branding of white supremacy. They are part of the white supremacist machine. They are trying to make sure that these views become mainstream. Through Trump, they’re finding a way to do that.”

Smith also said Trump’s remarks about African-Americans are delivered to “nearly all-white audiences. And he’s addressing them in rhetoric that’s offensive to African-Americans.”

In the context of allegations of racism among Trump supporters, Scottie Nell Hughes—who edits at RightAlerts.com—told Stelter that Trump’s supporters are “God-fearing, baby-loving, gun-toting, military-supporting, school-choice advocating Americans who love this country.”

The Associated Press is breaking important stories in this campaign, but Stelter put top editor Kathleen Carroll on the spot by noting that an AP tweet promised “More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet Secretary gave money to the Clinton Foundation.”

In that this was not true, why didn’t AP remove the tweet and put up an accurate one?

Carroll shrugged it off. She called the wording “sloppy.”

“I would say we’re a lot better at breaking stories and covering news and gathering video and taking photographs than we are on tweets,” she said with a dismissive tone. “If we felt it was wrong, we would have taken it down right away.”

Stelter persisted.

“You give the impression there’s a fire there when really there’s only smoke,” he said.

“I don’t think the story was fire-y at all,” Carroll said.

Later in a strong show, Ramos of Univision discussed Trump via remote camera.

“Who knows what he’s thinking?” Ramos said. “Donald Trump is in panic mode with Latinos. He realizes—too late, Brian—he cannot win the White House without Latinos. Almost a year ago, he expelled me from a press conference. I told him he couldn’t deport 11 million people . . . it is not only impossible, it would be inhumane. And now he wants to take that back. Well, I think the damage has been done already.”

Unlike Kurtz, who insulted Ramos, Stelter gave him a chance to speak about “objectivity” in journalism.

“If a candidate is making racist remarks, what are we supposed to do?” Ramos asked. “Are we supposed just to sit down silently and listen to him?” Ramos said that 27 million Latinos are eligible to vote and it is time to have a Latino or a Latina as one of the debate moderators.

Another guest, Stuart Stevens of the Daily Beast, was a top aide four years ago to Mitt Romney. Describing Breitbart, he said “They’re in the hate business.  They’re a bunch of nuts.”

Near the end of the show, Stelter received a new missive from Trump in his feud with Morning Joe.

It referred to a spat between Brzezinski and Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American Trump advocate.

It read:

“Liberals like Mika Brzezinski and MSNBC believe they are morally superior and will try to beat down those who are different. Pastor Burns deserves a public apology from Mika and MSNBC immediately.”

Stelter also reported on the continuing story of Ailes, who was forced to resign as Fox News emperor last month after he was sued by former anchor Gretchen Carlson for sexual harassment. Last week, former anchor Andrea Tantaros also sued him and the network on similar allegations.

According to Vanity Fair, Stelter said, two guns were found in Ailes’s office when it was cleaned out. (Ailes is well-known for traveling with bodyguards.)

Stelter also reported that Ailes had 400 pages of opposition research against Gabriel Sherman, who wrote a prescient biography of Ailes called The Loudest Voice in the Room.

STATE OF THE UNION When Tapper interviewed Pence, he pushed him about the 11 million people without papers who may or may not be deported by Trump.

“Is that policy still operative?” Tapper asked Pence, who answered “You’re going to hear more detail in the next two weeks . . . I think Donald Trump will articulate what we do with the people that are here . . . Donald Trump is more concerned about the American people, American citizens, people who are here legally, people that are struggling in this economy.”

Regarding Trump’s tweet about the shooting death in Chicago, Tapper asked a rhetorical question to Pence.

“Do you think that was a presidential reaction to a tragedy?” he said. “ . . . This is a pattern. When there’s a tragedy, he sends a tweet talking about how this is going to help his campaign.”

Among the pundits, Matt Bai of Yahoo said “If you’re a Republican operative, you’ve got to be wanting to put your head through a wall . . . Somehow, Donald Trump has managed to make this a referendum, every day or every week, on his fitness to serve.”

When Tapper asked Lewandowski “Can you understand why there were so many people that took that tweet and thought it was just callous?” Lewandowski replied “I can, but let’s look at the big picture.”

Abby Phillip of The Washington Post spoke to a big picture of Trump’s recent past, like when he insisted President Obama was not born in the United States and how black people perceived it.

“They view it very clearly as an attempt to delegitimize the first African-American president,” she said. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” she said, does not appeal to black people who remember how not-so-great America used to be before the Civil Rights movement.

THIS WEEK Martha Raddatz, subbing for George Stephanopoulos, conducted a four-person panel that turned into a lengthy and annoying shoutfest with everyone talking at the same time and Raddatz unable to referee.

It was better earlier when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would not confirm a statement by Rudy Giuliani that Trump is softening his immigration stance at the advice of Christie.

“There’s going to be, you know, some decisions he’s going to have to make as president regarding those folks,” Christie said.

Christie is an expert at dodging good questions. When Raddatz asked if Trump’s tweet about the Chicago murder was “an appropriate way to say ‘Vote Trump,’” Christie turned the answer into how liberal policies in big cities cause crime.

When asked “Do you believe that Hillary Clinton is a bigot?” Christie replied “I’lll tell you, this kind of discourse in the campaign is unwarranted but it was started by Mrs. Clinton.”

Returning to the ABC set was Donna Brazile, currently serving as the interim national chair of the Democratic National Committee. “This alt-right movement is very disturbing,” she said. “It’s almost like a renaissance of racism.”

During pundit time, the Republican Ana Navarro unleashed a few rips before the conversation degenerated into people talking over each other.

“This week has been a debacle for Donald Trump,” she said. “We have seen him hold more immigrant positions than the Kama Sutra.”

She predicted that blacks, Latinos and Jews will not forget things he has said and done.

“The problem Donald Trump has is that most humans have a memory,” she said.

As for Trump’s tweet about the Chicago murder, Navarro said “His first reaction is to say ‘I told you so.’  . . . Forget unfit to be president. He’s unfit to be human.”

Stephanie Cutter, the veteran Democratic operative, predicted good things for Clinton in her three debates with Trump. In terms of advice to Clinton, she said:

“It’s important not to allow Donald Trump to try to have a personality transplant . . . The real Donald Trump needs to be pulled out. I don’t think that will be a very difficult task . . . He is unable to control himself.”

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.