WASHINGTON ― Just a few months ago, conservative candidates looking to topple GOP incumbents were jockeying to win the support of Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News executive chairman who had a finger on the pulse of Donald Trump’s America.
Bannon’s stock dropped sharply Wednesday, however, after several news outlets published excerpts of an explosive new book by journalist Michael Wolff in which Bannon is quoted criticizing several members of Trump’s administration, including son Donald Trump Jr., daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. According to the book, the former White House strategist called the infamous meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian operatives at Trump Tower in June 2016 “treasonous.”
The White House denied many other juicy details in the book and issued an angry statement from Trump that claimed his former staffer had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in the statement. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”
Bannon has been a reviled figure among the Republican establishment for targeting vulnerable GOP incumbents across the country whom he deemed insufficiently supportive of Trump’s agenda. Now that Trump has distanced himself, it has put pressure on the candidates Bannon had endorsed to follow suit.
“After Steve Bannon’s vicious attacks on President Trump and his family, [Attorney General] Patrick Morrisey should immediately disavow Bannon’s support,” Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) said in a Wednesday press release, taking aim at his GOP primary rival for the Senate. “If he refuses, West Virginians will know that what President Trump said of Bannon today is also true of Morrisey: ‘he is only in it for himself.’”
Morrisey’s campaign brushed off the attack by stating that he “does not support these attacks on President Trump and his family.”
Several other Bannon-backed candidates similarly downplayed the Breitbart News chief’s endorsement, yet they did not break with him entirely.
A spokesman for Kelli Ward, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), said that Bannon was “only one of many high-profile endorsements” she has received so far. The spokesman dismissed what he called the “daily parlor intrigue” in Washington but did not renounce Bannon’s support.
In Wisconsin, U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson similarly rejected a call from a GOP…