The departure of Steve Bannon from the White House Friday drew strong reactions from both left and right.
Some conservative activists who have supported Trump feared the loss of Bannon as chief strategist made it less likely the president would fulfill campaign promises made to the Republican base that helped elect him, while Democratic lawmakers and activists who viewed Bannon as a divisive figure celebrated his exit.
Longtime Republican activist Richard Viguerie, arguing “personnel is policy,” asked whether or not Bannon’s departure signaled the end of Trump’s commitment to govern as a conservative.
“It seems that the West Wing is now being run by the liberal Democrats,” said Viguerie, the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. “Gary Cohen, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, General John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and the Obama holdovers at the NSC have all survived and thrived, while the conservatives like Steve Bannon, Derek Harvey, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Rich Higgins and even the establishment Republicans like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, have been run off.”
Viguerie said he wondered if Bannon’s departure “signals a general purge of conservatives on the White House staff.”
“When Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined Donald Trump’s campaign, conservatives were electrified – and many who had previously been skeptical were convinced that a Donald Trump administration would be a conservative administration as long as Steve and Kellyanne were at Trump’s side,” said Viguerie.
Now, he said, “with few conservatives left in senior positions at the White House, we conservatives are rightly skeptical that Donald Trump’s many commitments to us will be fulfilled.”
Bannon has wasted no time since leaving the White House, however, returning to his role as executive chairman of Breitbart News Friday afternoon and chairing the company’s evening editorial meeting. Axios reported Bannon met for five hours with the chief funder of Breitbart, Bob Mercer, to prepare to “go to war” against “globalists” in the White House he believes are ruining the Trump administration.
WND CEO and founder Joseph Farah said Bannon “represented the heart and soul of the real Trump constituency – the people who elected the president.”
“He understands what resonated with that constituency and what their priorities were better than anyone but Trump himself,” Farah said. “He understands what their expectations are for a successful presidency. Yes, he was a lightning rod for the left, but he was serving in that necessary role by absorbing the shocks that would otherwise be hitting the president himself.”
The White House officially said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Bannon “mutually agreed” that Friday would be Bannon’s last day.
“We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” said a statement from press secretary Sarah Sanders.
At the press conference Tuesday that caused an uproar over Trump’s assertion “both sides” are to blame for Charlottesville and have “very fine people,” Trump defended Bannon against charges of bigotry but signaled his future in the White House was in doubt.
“He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He is a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard,” Trump said in response to a question about whether he would remain.
‘We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. He is a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.”
Breitbart Editor Joel Pollak wrote that with Bannon’s departure, Trump “risks becoming Arnold Schwarzenegger 2.0”
Schwarzenegger, he wrote, “carried the hopes of conservatives in the Golden State, who saw him as a vehicle for their ideas, even if he was not a doctrinaire conservative himself.” However, “after struggling with intense media criticism, and after losing a key referendum on reforms to state government, Schwarzenegger gave up on his agenda, and abandoned the political base that had brought him into office.”
Pollak described Bannon as the “conservative spine of the administration.”
“His infamous whiteboard in the West Wing listed the promises Trump had made to the voters, and he was determined to check as many of them off as possible,” he wrote.
But with Bannon gone, “there is no guarantee that Trump will stick to the plan.”
The non-profit Americans for Limited Government said Bannon will be missed.
“We believe that Steve Bannon has been a great part of the success of the Trump administration this year. Ultimately President Donald Trump is true North in the White House and it is our hope that he will replace Mr. Bannon with someone who shares his vision for America,” said the group’s president, Rick Manning.
Prominent Islam expert Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, said that with Bannon’s departure, Trump “has reneged on the promises that got him elected, and betrayed the American people.”
“In,” he said is National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who calls Islam a “religion of peace,” believes “the Iran nuke deal is a great idea” and considers Israel “an occupier and oppressor.
“Out,” he said, is Bannon, who provided a “realistic analysis of the global jihad threat, confrontation of Iranian aggression, strengthened alliances with Israel and other states on the front lines of the global jihad.”
On the left, Bannon was accused of promoting white supremacy and anti-Semitism, without offering any evidence. People of all political stripes who know Bannon have repeatedly insisted he is not a racist, and in the infamous “off-the-record” discussion he had this week with the progressive American Prospect magazine he called white supremacists “clowns” and “losers.”
Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Bannon’s exit is “welcome news, but it doesn’t disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance.”
Pelosi said the Trump administration “must not only purge itself of the remaining white supremacists on staff, but abandon the bigoted ideology that clearly governs its decisions.”
Similarly, Javier Palomarez, president & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said his group was “encouraged to hear that the president has decided to heed our call to action by removing Mr. Bannon.”
“Bannon has been complicit in the indefensible – lending White House support to neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups,” he said.
“We have pressed the case to administration officials that as long as Bannon’s nexis of anti-Semitism and hate was mere steps from the Oval Office, business would take a backseat to bigotry in the Trump White House.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio tweeted: “Steve Bannon should have never been in the WH. He has promoted anti-Semitism, racism and misogyny, embracing bigotry and hate speech.”
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said on Twitter that Bannon “should have never been a White House official, and his ouster is no substitute for moral leadership from the President.”