Following a seemingly endless barrage of poor poll numbers, Donald Trump took action early Wednesday by announcing yet another campaign shakeup. Instead of firing campaign manager Paul Manafort (as was the case with his predecessor, Corey Lewandowski) for his alleged ties to corrupt Ukrainian politics, however, the Republican nominee decided to hire one of his biggest fans. None other than Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of the conservative-leaning news website.
According to the New York Times, Bannon will serve as the Trump campaign’s chief executive — a top position that puts him in charge of just about everything. Just behind Trump, Mike Pence and Bannon, senior adviser and pollster Kellyanne Conway will take over as campaign manager. Meanwhile, Manafort will keep his position as campaign chairman, though pundits across the partisan spectrum view Bannon and Conway’s promotions as a demotion of sorts.
“It’s an expansion at a busy time in the final stretch of the campaign,” she said, adding that Mr. Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, would remain in their roles.
“We met as the ‘core four’ today,” Ms. Conway added, referring to herself, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates.
Despite the reassurances, it’s difficult not to characterize Conway and Bannon’s new positions as a last-ditch effort by Trump to reattain the higher poll numbers and popularity he achieved during the primaries. Not just for the general election, of course, but for the Republican party whose nomination he’s currently brandishing. After all, with more questions about Manafort’s supposed closed-doors dealings with Russian political operatives abroad and stateside currently under press scrutiny, perhaps Trump and his advisers thought it best to lessen the former lobbyist’s role.
Not that anything the Trump campaign does now will be interpreted as “lessening” further criticism or outright hostility. Bannon’s website, Breitbart, is the same right-wing outlet that, among other things:
- Stood by Trump’s former campaign manager turned media surrogate, Lewandowski, when one of its own reporters, Michelle Fields, claimed he assaulted her at an event in Florida.
- This led to Fields and Breitbart colleague Andrew Shapiro to resign. In a statement to BuzzFeed, Shapiro described Bannon as a “bully” who “sold out Andrew [Breitbart’s] mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump.”
- Still employs Milo Yiannopoulos, the recently banned Twitter troll who launched a campaign of internet bile against Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.
- Promotes much of the same Hillary Clinton health conspiracy theories that caused a fight between Sean Hannity and Brian Stelter, media personalities at Fox News and CNN respectively.
Plus, this is also the same website that copy and pasted the NYT article quoted above almost verbatim for its own post announcing Bannon’s new gig. The unattributed publication did acknowledge NYT article authors Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, to be sure, but otherwise added no more than 15 words to the entire post. Words gleaned from Haberman and Parker? 341.
In addition, The Times is reporting that a leaked memo suggests Manafort was heavily involved in laying groundwork for the annexation of Crimea. If these highlighted excerpts are true, this certainly isn’t the end of this saga.
Time to reset your “Who’d Trump Fire & Hire This Time?” countdown clocks, everyone.