President-elect Donald Trump cut the White House cabinet baby in half today by naming Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and rival Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.
The breaking news was widely reported just after 4:30 PM ET, with MSNBC snatching what might be the quote of the day: Without naming names, the channel quoted a “campaign source” as saying about Priebus’ appointment, “Instead of draining the swamp, we just put in the head alligator.”
In covering the appointments, both cable newscasts and print outlets were quick to frame the announcements as a victory for the more conventional conservative establishment represented by Priebus over Bannon’s extremist views. Or as The New York Times put it: “Mr. Bannon — the longtime chairman of Breitbart News, a site distinguished by its nationalist, racially charged, conspiracy-laden coverage — is likely to serve as a conduit to the populist right and conservative media outlets.”
Despite long-standing rumors of discord between Trump and Priebus (at left), the President-elect dismissed the chatter during his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, calling Priebus “an unbelievable star.”
The news immediately sent cable pundits into overdrive. On CNN shortly after the announcements, New York Times columnist Charles Blow called Bannon’s appointment a “normalization” of the “extreme racism of the Alt-Right,” and “a real threat right now for all of America.” Jack Kingston, the Trump campaign’s senior advisor and familiar face on CNN, called Bannon (pictured at top) “a Harvard-educated MBA, a Navy officer, a father” and a “very good guy.”
When the longtime Republican Kingston insisted he hadn’t even heard of the “Alt-Right” until recent months, CNN’s Brian Stelter shot back, “With all due respect, Jack, I don’t know where you’ve been for years.”
Bannon also has some old Hollywood ties. He was an executive producer on Sean Penn’s 1991 The Indian Runner, among other mostly right-wing documentary credits, and his Bannon & Co. media investment concern negotiated the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner. In payment for that negotiation, Bannon & Co., purchased by Société Générale in 1998, reportedly took a stake in five television shows including Seinfeld.