Donald Trump: Who is Steve Bannon and what happened in the White House?

Donald Trump: Who is Steve Bannon and what happened in the White House?

Donald Trump: Who is Steve Bannon and what happened in the White House?

Updated 19 August 2017, 13:55 AEST

Who is Steve Bannon and why was his appointment as chief strategist to US President Donald Trump so controversial?

Steve Bannon was appointed to the powerful position of chief strategist in the White House after leading US President Donald Trump's election campaign, but has been sacked from the position less than one year into the job.

When he was appointed to the White House role the move angered Democrats, civil rights groups, celebrities and even some Republicans, who said Mr Bannon's ultra-conservative views shouldn't have a place in the top levels of US political leadership.

But now, one year after jumping on board the Trump train, Mr Bannon has returned to his position as a conservative media boss and said he is "going to war" against the US President's opponents.

So, who is Mr Bannon, what does he stand for, and why did some believe he was a cause for concern?

Who is he?

The 63-year-old is a former Navy officer, Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood movie producer.

Before being appointed CEO of Mr Trump's presidential campaign in August 2016, Mr Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, an American conservative news site which under his leadership became a forum for the "alt-right".

The "alt-right" is an umbrella term for a group of Americans who seek to eschew political correctness and break the current political system, and are viewed by critics as a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Since leaving the White House Mr Bannon has returned to his executive post at Breitbart.

Fun fact: Mr Bannon is also a keen businessman and has made a fortune from reruns of the hit TV show Seinfeld.

As reported by the Daily Beast, he was made a stakeholder in the series after helping negotiate the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment, the production company behind the show.

Why did he get fired?

The White House said Mr Bannon's last day was reached by "mutual agreement", but there were conflicting reports about whether he resigned or was fired.

"We are grateful for his service and wish him the best," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

A few days before news of his departure broke, an interview with leftist publication The American Prospect was published online, in which Mr Bannon made statements on North Korea and Charlottesville that appeared at odds with Mr Trump's.

Mr Bannon reportedly called liberal journalist Robert Kuttner, who had described Mr Trump as an "arrogant fool" in a previous column, to discuss politics and China, and said he did not intend the phone call to be an on-the-record interview.

He said there is no military solution to North Korea, despite Mr Trump's pledge to respond to further aggression with "fire and fury", and dismissed the white supremacist movement behind the rally in Charlottesville as a "fringe element" and "a collection of clowns".

The interview followed mounting pressure on Mr Trump to fire Mr Bannon.

In his first public remarks after leaving the White House, Mr Bannon said he still backed Mr Trump, but expressed doubt about the administration's future without him.

Why was his White House appointment controversial?

Mr Bannon is fiercely anti-establishment and during his time at Breitbart News he led a charge against the Republican Party, including the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.

In the 1990s, his personal life was thrown into the spotlight when he was accused by his former wife Mary Louise Piccard of domestic abuse.

Charges brought against him were later dropped.

In a court filing during their divorce, Ms Piccard famously alleged that he "doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiney brats'."

So what did he do?

A favourite in the farther-right portions of the Republican Party, Mr Bannon had pushed Mr Trump to follow through on some of his most contentious campaign promises, including his travel ban for some foreigners and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

As chief strategist and counsellor, Mr Bannon was a high-ranking assistant to Mr Trump, responsible for helping him execute his political game plan and manage his communications both inside government and with the public.

The former leader of conservative Breitbart News pushed Mr Trump to follow through with his campaign promises.

But he also sparred with some of Mr Trump's closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

What have Democrats said?

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says the departure of Mr Bannon is "welcome news", but that him leaving the White House "doesn't disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance".

Democrats and advocacy groups on the left say Mr Bannon is a promoter of racism and misogyny who is backed by the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan.

"There should be no sugar-coating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the Government," Democratic senator Jeff Merkley said last November.

What do conservatives say?

Twenty Republican grassroots leaders, including longtime activists Richard Vigurie, Jenny Beth Martin, and Ginni Thomas, wrote to Mr Trump earlier in the week urging him to keep Mr Bannon on.

"We will miss Steve Bannon in the White House because he helped President Trump keep many of the promises he made on the campaign trail," Ms Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement after his ouster.

Mike Cernovich, an alt-right activist and personality, suggested to his more than 300,000 followers on Twitter that Mr Bannon was sacked to ensure that the White House raises troop levels in Afghanistan, which Mr Bannon opposed.

Back in November some conservatives and Republicans voiced dismay at Mr Bannon's appointment, including John Weaver, a top strategist for Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Mr Kasich was one of 16 Republican presidential hopefuls Mr Trump defeated in the party primaries.