Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bannon shies away from gubernatorial endorsement, praises Trump at Citadel speech

The audience watched, rapt by the strategist's words

Posted by Adam Manno on Sat, Nov 11, 2017 at 12:04 AM

click to enlarge Steve Bannon was the guest of honor at Friday night's Citadel Republican Society dinner - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • Steve Bannon was the guest of honor at Friday night's Citadel Republican Society dinner
Steve Bannon accepted an award and recounted his year in politics at the student-run Citadel Republican Society's annual fundraising dinner Friday night.

The Breitbart executive chairman emphasized his commitment to President Donald Trump's agenda and called out the media and the Republican establishment, namely Sen. Mitch McConnell.

"The mainstream media...they're talking about Russian collusion, we couldn't collude with the RNC and the Trump campaign and the state of Pennsylvania," Bannon said to laughter from the audience.

The former White House chief strategist did not directly endorse a Republican candidate for South Carolina's 2018 governor's race, though all three were present. Instead, he commended each one for standing against what he sees as "the swamp."

Bannon's speech was part retrospective, part manifesto, part trolling session. Between stories from the campaign trail (including the times Trump felt unsure of his chances) and shoutouts to veterans ahead of Veteran's Day, Bannon joked that Democrats should try running 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton again.

"Let's break that glass ceiling, come on Hillary!" he taunted.

The anti-globalist, insular worldview that has become synonymous with the Trump movement was in full display in Friday's speech. At one point, Bannon compared Trump's charisma and technological savvy to President Obama's. He also praised 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for running on populist anger.

Groups like the Charleston NAACP, Indivisible Charleston, Black Lives Matter, and The Coalition gathered across the street in front of the Johnson Hagood Stadium to voice their opposition to Bannon's views and the student club's invitation. 
click to enlarge Shannon Cavanaugh, Nancy Gorlesky and Eleis Lester made themselves visible to those attending The Citadel Republican Society's fundraising dinner on Nov. 10 - ADAM MANNO
  • Adam Manno
  • Shannon Cavanaugh, Nancy Gorlesky and Eleis Lester made themselves visible to those attending The Citadel Republican Society's fundraising dinner on Nov. 10
Bannon has come under scrutiny because of his perceived coziness with nationalist and white supremacist views. He's called Breitbart News "the platform for the alt-right." In addition, he champions Trump's hardline anti-immigration stance. In an interview with The New York Times released Friday, he reiterated Trump's view that there were "thugs" on both sides of the Charlottesville racial violence in August.

"I think he's a racist," said Indivisible Charleston activist Nancy Gorlesky. "I think he's destroying America. I don't think he represents most of our values."
click to enlarge A protester outside of Bannon's Nov. 10 speech holds a flag of a hand tearing down a Confederate battle flag. - ADAM MANNO
  • Adam Manno
  • A protester outside of Bannon's Nov. 10 speech holds a flag of a hand tearing down a Confederate battle flag.

Bannon recalled the day of the infamous Billy Bush tape leak, in which Trump admits to harrassing women. He doubled down on the phrase "locker-room talk," and said he doesn't trust the news coming out about Alabama Republican Roy Moore.

"When I stand with a man, I stand with him," Bannon said.

"Too many politicians are intimidated by those guys," he added while pointing to the media riser in the back.

About 100 protesters had gathered outside by 5 p.m., and the crowd had almost doubled by the event's start at 6 p.m. Pastor Thomas Dixon of The Coalition told protesters not to face the entrance of the Holliday Alumni Center, where the ceremony took place, but some did not welcome the limitation.

"I think an invisible protest does very little good," said student Eleis Lester.

Gov. Henry McMaster presented Bannon with the Nathan Hale patriot award, which was awarded to Trump in 2015.

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