Steve Bannon didn’t think much of Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential pick — to the point that he OK’d Milo Yiannopoulos trolling the homophobic Pence by inviting him to a “big gay party.”
Trump announced the choice of Pence as his running mate July 15, 2016, and Bannon, who would become Trump’s campaign chair a month later, was quick to express his displeasure, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed. Bannon was then executive chairman of right-wing website Breitbart, a role he has now returned to after his time with the campaign and as a White House adviser.
Yiannopoulos, a gay conservative who was then Breitbart’s tech editor, emailed Bannon and Breitbart editor Alex Marlow that day, saying, “Seems like a bad pick. Should I tweet something ambivalent about him? People are telling me Trump likely didn’t want this. ... What’s our party line on this?”
Bannon replied, “This is the price we pay for cruzbots and #nevertrump movement. An unfortunate necessity ... very. feel free to do whatever u want. we, as always, will remain above it all.”
Two days later, remaining “above it all” included approving the Yiannopoulos column. “I’m cool,” Bannon wrote of the piece, to which Yiannopoulos responded, “It’s a little mocking but we want to turn the screw.”
“Gays on the right and those on the fence (minds out of the gutter, please!) are distressed by Pence’s stance on gay rights,” Yiannopoulos wrote in the column. “He has opposed same-sex marriage, gays in the military, and of course is most well known for the kerfuffle over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Ironically, I agree with all of those positions to varying degrees, but I recognize that these and similar positions he’s held make gays question a Trump-Pence ticket’s commitment to them.”
He went on to issue an invitation to a party where Pence could “learn what makes LGBT conservatives a vibrant and fabulous branch of the big-tent coalition that Daddy Trump is building.”
Yiannopoulos peppered the column with anti-Muslim statements and complimented Pence as resembling “an older Anderson Cooper who isn’t a vain shill for the globalist agenda.”
Pence’s long anti-LGBT record as a congressman from Indiana and governor of the state wasn’t actually at the heart of the Breitbart folks’ objections to him. The site doesn’t engage in as much antigay rhetoric as some right-wing media outlets, although it often publishes anti-transgender articles. The problem for Bannon and his ilk was more that Pence has been and remains a part of the Republican mainstream, the “swamp” that Trump was supposedly going to drain.
Pence “often is deployed as the administration’s ambassador to the GOP establishment: He headlines traditional party fundraisers and has been a key negotiator between Trump and Congress,” the BuzzFeed article notes.
BuzzFeed sought comment from both Bannon and Pence for the story; Bannon did not respond, and a spokesperson for Pence declined comment.