Two unnamed administration officials told The New York Times on Friday that Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon had tendered his resignation earlier in the month and was on his way out. The news came as a pleasant surprise to those who had long petitioned for his dismissal, though others quickly noted that, even with Bannon gone, his racist policies still live on.
“I’m happy Bannon will no longer work in the White House. But his departure can’t wash away the harm he and [the president] have done,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted. In an attached statement, he added, “It can’t reverse the Muslim ban. It can’t reverse the president’s inappropriate attacks on a federal judge of Mexican heritage. And it can’t reverse the White House’s reluctance to denounce white supremacists.”
Bannon has a long history of questionable behavior and racist comments. And after President Trump was sworn in, he made sure those views were turned into policy as soon as possible.
Just one week after Trump came into office, Bannon and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller spearheaded efforts to craft a travel ban specifically targeting Muslims, though the White House would deny that detail later. Trump signed the executive order on January 27, giving homeland security staffers virtually no time to review the order before it went into effect, according to CNN.
The ban was immediately criticized as unnecessarily harsh: not only did it discriminate against travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, it effectively banned all refugees from entering the country at all, regardless of their application status. It also barred lawful residents—green card holders—from re-entering the country, leaving scores of people stranded at airports across the country. Though the Department of Homeland Security at first interpreted the order to exclude green card holders, Bannon and Miller overruled that decision personally.
Eventually, a revised version of the travel ban was rolled out, one that exempted green card holders, among others. But the key components of the band remained: travelers hoping to enter the United States had to prove that they had a “credible claim of bona fide relationship”—in other words, that they had a family member already living in the country or a work or education connection. Most refugees, then, did not meet those requirements.
The travel ban isn’t Bannon’s only legacy. As the former chief executive at the right-wing Breitbart News, Bannon boasted that the outlet had become a platform for so-called “alt-right,” an attempted re-branding of the white supremacist movement. After officially joining the Trump White House, Bannon continued to push those same racist views, allowing them to seep into most of the administration’s official stances and embolden those already prone to dangerous rhetoric.
After neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, leaving one woman dead, the president took to the lectern at a press conference and delivered his response: after initially claiming that “many sides” were responsible for the violence, Trump claimed that counter-protesters lacked a permit had provoked the neo-Nazis. Others who attended the white supremacist rally were “very fine people.” On social media, white nationalists themselves largely applauded the administration’s seeming support of their movement. Bannon “was thrilled with the remarks.”
Bannon later claimed, in an interview with the American Prospect, that white nationalists and neo-Nazis were “clowns,” but the damage was done.
Bannon may no longer be in the White House, but he leaves behind him a stanchion of white nationalism. Miller, who serves as Trump’s chief adviser on policy and writes many of his speeches. He not only holds extreme policy views—in a recent press conference he defended the White House’s “skills-based” immigration plan, which requires rewards wealthy immigrants who speak English—he also allegedly has a direct connection to the white supremacist movement in Richard Spencer. (Spencer, who has called for ethnic cleansing, has claimed that he previously served as Miller’s mentor. Miller has denied the connection.) Miller has also authored articles in which he “denounced multiculturalism and expressed concerns that immigrants from non-European countries were not assimilating”, according to Mother Jones.
There are other connections to white supremacy still in the White House. White House Advisor Sebastian Gorka has links to a Nazi-allied group in Hungary.Senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway has retweeted a white nationalist. And the president hired all of these people to begin with, knowing their views. Trump himself rose to prominence pushing the racist birther conspiracy and kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists.
Make no mistake: the era of Steve Bannon may be over at the White House, but the racist sentiments he espoused live on.