New Yorker drops Steve Bannon from festival after outcry

US magazine disinvites ex-Trump aide after other panelists threaten boycott, a reversal Steve Bannon called ‘gutless’.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon gestures as he speaks during a conference of Swiss weekly magazine Die Weltwoche in Zurich
Steve Bannon continues to champion right-wing causes after leaving the White House [File:Moritz Hager/Reuters]

The New Yorker magazine has cancelled plans to interview former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to its annual festival next month after numerous panelists announced they would drop out if he remained.

David Remnick, the US-based magazine’s editor-in-chief, announced the reversal on Twitter on Monday after the festival’s lineup was met with immediate backlash.

“I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues – and I’ve re-considered,” Remnick, who has repeatedly denounced US President Donald Trump and his administration, wrote in a statement of his decision on Bannon.

“There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage,” he said. 

The move came after several panelists said they would not share a platform with Bannon, whose influence was seen as having driven Trump’s travel ban on majority Muslim countries and his reaction to the killing of a protester by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

“If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out,” wrote comedian and Hollywood producer Judd Apatow. “I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate.”   

“Bannon? And me? On the same program? Could never happen,” added actor Jim Carrey.

Bannon, who was to headline the prestigious festival, denounced Remnick in a statement.

“The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob,” he said.    

Since leaving the White House last year, Bannon has continued to champion right-wing causes, including supporting British anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson, who was freed from prison last month after winning a legal challenge over contempt charges.


He has also announced plans to set up a foundation in Europe, called “The Movement”, to spark a populist right-wing revolt.

Bannon is scheduled to appear September 15 at The Economist’s “Open Future” festival in New York City.

According to The Economist, festival attendees will “discuss the most urgent issues of our time and remake the case for liberal values”. At least one guest already plans to drop out.

Several activists, filmmakers, writers and journalists condemned the New Yorker’s invitation to Bannon, claiming the magazine was providing him with a platform to propagate white-nationalist views.

The New Yorker’s reversal, however, was also criticised by conservative commentators. 

The New Yorker Festival’s 19th edition will take place from October 5 to 7 and will include anti-gun activist David Hogg, actress Emily Blunt and writers Haruki Murakami and Zadie Smith.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies