Former White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon has stepped down as head of Breitbart News after he was quoted disparaging President Trump’s children in a new book, undercutting his crusade to upend the Republican leadership in Congress.
Bannon’s departure from the right-wing website marks a stunning fall from power for one of Trump’s most provocative and influential counselors on both foreign and domestic policy.
Since he was fired as chief White House strategist in August, Bannon has used Breitbart as a platform to advance Trump’s agenda and to attack Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others he saw as thwarting the president’s will.
Bannon fashioned himself as a Republican power broker, threatening to sponsor Trump-aligned challengers in campaigns to oust some Senate incumbents in GOP primaries.
On Tuesday, Bannon was all but neutralized when he lost both his job at Breitbart and his radio show at SiriusXM.
“I’m sure there are no tears being shed over at Mitch McConnell’s office or Paul Ryan’s office,” said Alice Stewart, a top advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination. “And certainly over there at the White House too, for that matter.”
Bannon enraged Trump after he was quoted in Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” calling daughter Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick” and describing a 2016 meeting by Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials with a Russian lawyer as “treasonous.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in a written statement last week. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon, known for his disheveled attire, was soon nicknamed by Trump as “Sloppy Steve.”
Trump’s improbable appointment of Bannon as chief executive officer of his campaign in August 2016 transformed the relatively obscure pundit overnight into one of the most powerful figures in American politics.
Bannon deplored U.S. trade deals, illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism.
He had served as Breitbart’s executive chairman since 2012, except when he took a leave to work for Trump’s campaign and administration.
“I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform,” Bannon was quoted as saying Tuesday on the website.
Bannon will work with Breitbart on a smooth and orderly transition, the site said.
Breitbart Chief Executive Larry Solov said, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions and what he has helped us to accomplish.”
As soon as Trump learned last week of Bannon’s quotes in the Wolff book, the president banished his former advisor.
”With President Trump, you can’t attack his family or his business,” said Sam Nunberg, a Bannon friend and former Trump campaign aide.
Bannon has tried to make amends with the president. On radio shows, he praised Trump and reiterated his support for his agenda.
On Sunday, Bannon released a statement calling the president’s son a “patriot and a good man,” and said his comments about him in the book were mischaracterized.
It was too late.
Billionaire Rebekah Mercer, whose family’s wealth fueled Bannon’s political rise and funded Breitbart News, issued a rare public statement distancing herself from Bannon.
“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,” Mercer said Thursday.
A person with knowledge of Bannon’s plans said he was not abandoning politics. “While it will be a challenge without the Mercer money and Breitbart platform, I understand Steve will still be involved in recruiting candidates and furthering the nationalist populist movement in the midterm elections this year,” said the person, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.
At least one candidate backed by Bannon began playing down his support. Arizona Senate hopeful Kelli Ward, who once proudly campaigned with Bannon, removed his endorsement from her website, which a McConnell-aligned political action committee quickly highlighted on Twitter.
Bannon’s boldest challenge of McConnell’s authority was to back religious-right candidate Roy Moore in a Republican primary to fill Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat in Alabama. Moore won the primary, but lost the once-safely Republican seat to Democrat Doug Jones in a special election in December after allegations surfaced that Moore had sexually assaulted teenage girls decades ago.
Bannon, a former investment banker and Hollywood filmmaker, repeatedly campaigned for Moore, using appearances at his rallies to taunt McConnell for withdrawing support from the party nominee.
Milo Yiannopoulos, former senior editor at Breitbart News, believes Bannon will not be sidelined.