Are Steve Bannon and MTG On the Outs?

In the wooly world of right-wing infotainment, you’d be hard-pressed to find two more natural fellow-travelers than Steve Bannon, the Breitbart editor turned Trump administration adviser turned populist podcast oracle, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The firebrand freshman lawmaker has long been a regular guest on Bannon’s popular podcast War Room; she made seven appearances on the program in the first two months of 2022. 

When Bannon was arrested last November and charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Committee investigating the January 6 riot, Greene rallied to his defense on Newsmax: “I am Team Bannon all the way, and I’m just so proud of Steve for handling what happened to him today.”

In a February 18 appearance, Greene had a special announcement to make with Bannon: She would be hosting a “massive rally” in Georgia on March 5, and Bannon would be taping his show live from there. “Steve, I’m so happy you’re coming—people around here are so excited,” Greene said. “They love you, they watch War Room, and I’m just honored that you’re gonna be able to make it.”

“We’re taking the show on the road this year,” Bannon replied, “and there’s no better place to kick off than the railhead of the populist nationalist movement, the firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene, this incredible rally.”

But Bannon never showed. In fact, the Bannon/Greene show has seemingly gone on hiatus altogether; the February 18 War Room appearance was Greene’s last to date.

Why the sudden absence? Neither Greene nor Bannon returned requests for comment to explain. But the simplest and most sensical explanation concerns the biggest controversy that Greene landed herself in just before the rally: her appearance at a white nationalist conference organized by controversial far-right personality Nick Fuentes in Orlando, Florida, on February 25.

At the time, Greene waved off criticism of her appearance at the so-called America First Political Action Conference, tweeting, “I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to speak to 1,200 young America First patriots because of a few off-color remarks by another speaker, even if I find those remarks unsavory. I want to embrace the young, boisterous and energetic conservatives in our movement—not cancel them like the establishment does.”

In both her appearance and in her subsequent statement, Greene was transparently whitewashing some contemptible stuff: Fuentes and his fans, the so-called “groypers,” are known primarily for their reactionary white-nationalist politics and their gleefully transgressive race-baiting schtick. But what was easier to miss was that she was also allying herself with a particularly friendless faction of the MAGA right.

From anywhere left of center, it can be tricky to see much daylight between the likes of Bannon and Fuentes, all the way out there on the extreme right edge of the political spectrum. Both are enthusiastic supporters of former President Donald Trump, and both style themselves anti-establishment populists. If there’s any difference between the groypers and other “America First” types, some suggest, it’s just that Fuentes and his ilk “say the quiet part out loud”—the sorts of things folks like Bannon secretly believe and would say if they thought they could get away with it.

But it isn’t just the extremity of Fuentes’ views that makes him notable; it’s also the way he brands himself and his supposed movement. For much of the MAGA right, political differences can emerge, but they ultimately are of little importance. What matters is supporting Trump. Fuentes, by contrast, has long been single-mindedly obsessed with proving that his groypers are the only true acolytes of the America First agenda. On his livestreams and Telegram channel, some of his most vicious attacks are against his competitors for MAGA media market share. “Never forget the most important thing,” he said at one speech in 2020. “The thing that sets us apart from everyone else, even among conservatives, is that we are the only ones who want to put America first.”

To this end, Fuentes has regularly used his movement’s toxicity as a weapon, provoking confrontations with other right-wing figures. During the so-called “groyper war” in 2019, he encouraged his followers to crash speeches hosted by the student group Turning Point USA with loaded questions about the state of Israel or so-called white replacement theory. This they did, at speeches by Turning Point’s Charlie Kirk, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Donald Trump Jr., and others. The goal was to provoke the speakers to recoil from association with the groypers—and then to gleefully proclaim that this demonstrated the groypers alone are the true, unalloyed populist movement on the right.

Bannon, an enthusiastic supporter of the right-wing social media site GETTR, earned Fuentes’ ire after Fuentes was kicked off the site last year. Fuentes now regularly accuses him of being a phony populist and a “Chinese Plant” due to his affiliation with exiled Chinese billionaire Miles Guo. During one livestream, Fuentes mocked Bannon as a “fat retard” for thinking the Republican Party was poised to make inroads with black voters. (This is a paraphrase; Fuentes used a racial slur.)

All of which is to say that it’s not particularly surprising Bannon would look at association with Fuentes as a cancelable offense. 

If that was the reason for Greene’s initial absence from War Room, she hasn’t exactly given Bannon a heap of reasons to welcome her back into the fold in recent weeks either. Last month, she attracted controversy by accusing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian military of “torturing his own people,” and she further raised eyebrows this week when she suggested in an interview with former Fox News host Lou Dobbs that joining the U.S. military is “like throwing your life away.”

A bigger question than whether Greene has alienated Bannon, though, is whether she’s pushed voters away. She currently faces a primary challenge from Republican businesswoman Jennifer Strahan. 

“We are commonly told by former supporters of Rep. Greene that they are supporting Jennifer Strahan this year, and that shouldn’t be a surprise,” Strahan campaign manager Jake Monssen told The Dispatch.

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