New Yorker Drops Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon from Festival List

Reacting to the uninvite, Bannon said editor David Remnick was “gutless when confronted by the howling online mob”.

3 min read
Facing widespread outrage, The New Yorker has dropped plans to interview Steve Bannon during its festival next month.

Facing widespread outrage, The New Yorker has dropped plans to interview Steve Bannon during its festival next month.

New Yorker editor David Remnick told The Associated Press in a statement shared on Monday, 3 September, with the magazine's staff that he had changed his mind.

The former Donald Trump aide and ex-chairman of Breitbart News was supposed to be a featured guest during a prestigious gathering that over the years has drawn some of the world's most prominent artists and public figures.

This year's guests include Emily Blunt, Zadie Smith and Sally Yates, who Trump fired as deputy attorney general after she refused to back his initial ban on travellers from Muslim countries. The ban was advocated by Bannon, a senior White House adviser at the time.

Facing backlash for his abrupt uninvite to the former Donald Trump aide, especially from the right-wing factions, Remnick explained his decision, saying:

I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues and I’ve re-considered. 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.
David Remnick 

Remnick also acknowledged that festival guests, unlike those interviewed on radio or for a print story, are paid an honorarium, along with money for travel and lodging.

Bannon Calls Remnick ‘Gutless’ for Uninvite

Steve Bannon. 
Steve Bannon. 
(Photo: AP)

In an email statement shared on Monday, 3 September, following the uninvite, Bannon wrote: "After being contacted several months ago and with seven weeks of continual requests for this event, I accepted The New Yorker's invitation with no thought of an honorarium."

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.
Steve Bannon 

The Initial Invite

A letter from Remnick, dated 28 June, details the invitation to Bannon.

"I would like to invite you to sit down with me for an informal, free-ranging discussion of the political movements redefining international and local politics. This would include, of course, your work abroad as well the upcoming midterms. There would be no need for prepared remarks, as we intend these events to be unscripted, lively, and spontaneous," Remnick writes.

"Naturally, the magazine would handle all your travel arrangements and accommodations; you would receive an honorarium; and you would also be invited to attend most other Festival events,” the letter further reads.

"We would be honored to have you," he writes at the end.

Objections to the Initial Invite

The New Yorker's announcement on Bannon being invited as a guest was denounced by Roxane Gay, Jessica Valenti and many others.

Gay tweeted that "the intellectual class doesn't truly understand racism or xenophobia. They treat it like an intellectual project, where perhaps if we ask 'hard question' and bandy about 'controversial' ideas, good work is being done."

Filmmaker Judd Apatow had tweeted he would not attend if Bannon was interviewed. Kathryn Schulz was among the New Yorker staff writers who tweeted that they had informed Remnick directly about their objections.

Tweeted Patton Oswalt: "I'm out. Sorry, @NewYorker. See if Milo Yiannopoulos is free?" a reference to the far-right writer and speaker whose memoir was dropped last year by Simon & Schuster after numerous complaints.

Back then, in response to the criticism directed his way for inviting Bannon for the New Yorker festival, Remnick had said that Bannon was well aware of their political differences.

"The point of an interview, a rigorous interview, particularly in a case like this, is to put pressure on the views of the person being questioned,” he said.

There’s no illusion here. It’s obvious that no matter how tough the questioning, Bannon is not going to burst into tears and change his view of the world. He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere ‘snowflakes.’ 
David Remnick 

“The question is whether an interview has value in terms of fact, argument, or even exposure, whether it has value to a reader or an audience,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bannon is scheduled to appear on 15 September at The Economist's "Open Future" festival in New York City.

(This article has been published in arrangement with The Associated Press)

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