Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, told CBS News’ Charlie Rose that former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus advised Trump after the release of the bombshell “Access Hollywood” tape that he could either drop out of the race or face the worst electoral defeat in US history.
Trump’s campaign was rocked by the release of the 2005 tape, in which Trump describes groping women in lewd detail to “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush. Many prominent Republicans swiftly condemned the remarks and distanced themselves from Trump.
Bannon described to CBS the conversation that took place during a Trump Tower meeting following The Washington Post’s release of the tape.
“Trump went around the room and asked people the percentages he thought of — of still winning and what the recommendation,” Bannon said. “And Reince started off and Reince said, ‘You have — you have two choices. You either drop out right now, or you lose by the biggest landslide in American political history.’ And Trump, with his humour goes, ‘That’s a great way … to start our conversation.”
“We went around the room,” he continued. “And you could tell — I could tell from the incoming of politicians and I could tell from some of the politicians that were there, is that the natural inclination of politicians are to be so overwhelmingly stunned and shocked by how the media comes on you. But Trump wasn’t that. And I told him as he went around, I was the last guy to speak, and I said, ‘It’s 100%. You have 100% probability of winning.'”
It was previously reported that Priebus urged Trump to drop out of the race that October night. Vanity Fair reported that Priebus told Trump that if he didn’t drop out, he would “go down with a worse election loss than Barry Goldwater’s.” Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona, was trounced by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
As The New York Times wrote in July, Trump “would never forget the exchange” with Priebus.
Priebus, then the Republican National Committee chairman, released a response to the tape shortly after it was published, saying, “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Bannon said that conversation was the “first time and only time” Trump “ever got upset with me,” seeming to doubt Bannon’s assertion that the then-Republican presidential nominee should double-down and that he had a “100%” chance of winning.
“He goes, “Come on, it’s not 100%,'” Bannon said in his retelling of the discussion. “I go, ‘It’s absolutely 100%.” And I told him why. ‘They don’t care.'”
Rose took issue with the end of Bannon’s comment, saying voters “do care about respect for women” and it was not “just locker room talk,” as Trump said in his initial statement following the tape’s release. Bannon said “they do” have respect for women, but added “that’s locker room talk.”
“The Billy Bush thing is locker room talk,” he said.
Bannon, who is back to running the right-wing website Breitbart News after leaving the White House, said the “Access Hollywood” tape ordeal was a “litmus test,” adding that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s response to it cost him a cabinet position.
“I told him, ‘The plane leaves at 11 o’clock in the morning,” Bannon said. “‘If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.’ Didn’t make the plane.”
Later that October night, Trump released an on-camera apology for his comments, but quickly pivoted to attacking his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump raised former President Bill Clinton’s past sex scandals, saying, “I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
He closed with, “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
Watch Bannon’s comments:
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