Former White House Strategist Bannon Speaks Out
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Steve Bannon has declared war - though he says he's not the one who started it - against the leaders of the Republican Party. President Trump's former chief adviser spoke in Washington, D.C., today at the Values Voter Summit. The group gave President Trump a friendly reception yesterday. NPR's Jessica Taylor is at the Values Voter Summit and joins us now. Jessica, thanks for being with us.
JESSICA TAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And what was Mr. Bannon's message for this group?
TAYLOR: It was pretty clear. He was saying, you know, that not just Democrats but the Republican establishment really doesn't take seriously the things that are important to them. And here is just his message in a very short way.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
STEVE BANNON: These folks are coming for you.
TAYLOR: He was - you know, he talked about this as war, that - these values that they have that are under assault and talked up his primary challenge is that he doesn't want to just take on Democrats next cycle. He's coming for Republicans, too.
SIMON: Well, he was successful in associating himself with the candidate who won in the Alabama Senate primary. How much concern, even fear, does this cause among Republican Party leaders as they head into the midterm elections?
TAYLOR: What I've heard from people is that, you know, this was also a very unique situation - Alabama. Judge Roy Moore, who won that primary there - he spoke to the group yesterday. And he was a well-known figure in the state and, you know, did benefit from sort of his goodwill. And he's had a long history there in Alabama. And, also, Luther Strange, who was the appointed senator who he defeated, also was sort of marred by the fact that he was appointed by a scandal-plagued governor as well. So there were a lot of outside influences. But I do think that party leaders - they're watching this. And they're really frustrated with the fact that Bannon, when they have a very good Republican Senate map to take out a lot of Democrats in places like North Dakota and West Virginia, said he's focused on defeating Republicans in primaries right now.
SIMON: How did his message go over?
TAYLOR: It was received really well. And, you know, that - you can tell people are angry. They really think that - they don't blame Trump for - President Trump - for a lot of the things that haven't gotten done like health care or, you know, tax reform yet. They really sort of blame a stagnant Republican Congress and really think that people like Mitch McConnell, who got - you know, every time his name was mentioned, you could hear some things and different things. And so, you know, here's another clip of Bannon, where, you know, he talked about how - about taking on the establishment here.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BANNON: This is not my war. This is our war.
BANNON: And y'all didn't start it. The establishment started it. But I will tell you one thing. You all are going to finish it.
TAYLOR: You know another person that he mentioned - you know, he's targeting senators in Mississippi - Roger Wicker there. And Bob Corker was someone that he has targeted - he had targeted for defeat in a primary before Corker decided to retire. And, of course, we've seen Corker this past week, now that he isn't running for re-election, really go after the president. He was very forceful against Corker and also said this. Some of the other senators that he's looking to target - people like Deb Fischer in Nebraska, John Barrasso in Wyoming - they can - one of the reasons why he's targeting them is because they haven't come out and denounced what Corker has said. He said, you know, you have time for a mea culpa. If you come out, and you say that what Corker said is wrong, and if you say you're not going to vote for Mitch McConnell for Senate majority leader next time, they may give them a pass.
SIMON: NPR's Jessica Taylor at the Values Voter Summit, thank you so much for being with us.
TAYLOR: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.