Steve Bannon dropped from New Yorker Festival after outrage from speakers

"He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere ‘snowflakes.’"

September 4, 2018 13:41
3 minute read.
Fmr. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in France

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018. (photo credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)


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NEW YORK (TNS) – The New Yorker caused a wave of controversy Monday after announcing that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon would headline the 19th annual New Yorker Festival.

Later, the magazine dropped Bannon from the festival lineup.

Bannon, who left the White House in August 2017 and has moved on to helping far-right groups in Europe, was scheduled to speak with New Yorker editor David Remnick on “the Ideology of Trumpism” on October 5.

Remnick said he was planning for a “serious” conversation with Bannon.

“I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told The New York Times. “The audience itself, by its presence, puts a certain pressure on a conversation that an interview alone doesn’t do. You can’t jump on and off the record.”

But outrage followed, including from others scheduled to appear at the festival.

“I’m out. I genuinely support public intellectual debate, and have paid to see people speak with whom I strongly disagree. But this isn’t James Baldwin versus William F. Buckley. This is PT Barnum level horses. And it was announced on a weekend just before tix went on sale,” John Mulaney said on Twitter.

“I apologize to Susan Morrison as I was really looking forward to our conversation. And I look forward to future @NewYorker Fests & other public, even heated, debates between different voices. But hard pass on this amateur-night sonofab---h.”

Patton Owalt also dropped out and suggested that the New Yorker replace him with right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

Judd Apatow said that he would not participate if Bannon did.

Musician Jack Antonoff said he hadn’t been told about Bannon’s invitation when he accepted his own.

“I would ask the New Yorker to consider in the future that participants in the festival deserve to make a choice to appear alongside someone this hateful,” he wrote.

Jim Carrey played his disapproval with a little more lightheartedness.

“Bannon? And me? On the same program?” he wrote. “Could never happen.”

Writer and activist Roxane Gay also spoke out against the magazine’s invitation.

The New Yorker has been my holy grail for the whole of my writing life. There is no publishing credit I want more. I was writing an essay for them (online) about one of my favorite TV shows, but I just pulled it because I just ... I cannot wrap my mind around this Bannon thing,” she said on Twitter.

Late Monday, Remnick announced that Bannon would not speak at the festival after all.

“There are many ways for a publication like ours to do its job: investigative reporting; pointed, well-argued opinion pieces; profiles; reporting from all over the country and around the world; radio and video interviews; even live interviews. At the same time, many of our readers, including some colleagues, have said that the festival is different, a different kind of forum,” he said in a statement.

“It’s also true that we pay an honorarium, that we pay for travel and lodging. (Which does not happen, of course, when we interview someone for an article or for the radio.) I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think that I’ve ignored their concerns. I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues, and I’ve reconsidered. I’ve changed my mind. 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.”

Remnick also argued that interviewing Bannon is not endorsing him and his “’ideas’ of white nationalism, racism, antisemitism and illiberalism.”

“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 wrote. “He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere ‘snowflakes.’ 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.”

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