WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s selection for White House chief strategist, says he’s an “economic nationalist” but rejects racist and anti-Semitic elements of the nationalist alt-right movement.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bannon, a former Breitbart News executive, cast himself as a strident opponent of “globalism” — including free trade deals that Trump has bemoaned.
“I’m an economic nationalist. I am an America first guy,” Bannon said in the interview.
“And I have admired nationalist movements throughout the world, have said repeatedly strong nations make great neighbors. I’ve also said repeatedly that the ethno-nationalist movement, prominent in Europe, will change over time. I’ve never been a supporter of ethno-nationalism.”
Bannon said that “the black working and middle class and the Hispanic working and middle class, just like whites, have been severely hurt by the policies of globalism.”
He said he had urged Trump to reach out to minority communities on the campaign trail.
“I was the one who said we are going to Flint, Michigan, we are going to black churches in Cleveland, because the thrust of this movement is that we are going to bring capitalism to the inner cities,” Bannon told the newspaper.
Bannon has been a target of Democratic criticism since his selection by Trump. Many liberals have pointed to incendiary Breitbart headlines — items that mock “trannies,” labeled Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” and more — in urging Trump to cut ties with Bannon.
He dismissed that criticism, casting it as disappointment from Democrats who expected Trump to lose.
“They were ready to coronate Hillary Clinton. That didn’t happen, and I’m one of the reasons why. So, by the way, I wear these attacks as an emblem of pride,” he said.
He also cast Breitbart as “edgy” but “vibrant,” and said, “Our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment.”
Bannon graduated from Benedictine in the 1970s, and served on the board of Benedictine from 2009-2012.
Bannon’s family still lives in Richmond, and told reporter WTVR Jake Burns the media twisted headlines to make Bannon out as someone he was not. His family called Bannon a hard worker and a patriot.