New Trump campaign boss took shots at Ryan on radio show

Greg Nash

Donald Trump’s new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, berated Speaker Paul Ryan on his radio show last spring, repeatedly questioning whether Ryan was “manifestly unfit” to be president and saying the Wisconsin Republican was “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.”

Bannon, who at the time was serving as the top executive at the conservative outlet Breitbart News Network, faulted Ryan and his GOP leadership team for failing to rescind President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and defund Planned Parenthood after scrutiny of the group’s fetal tissue program.

{mosads}“Paul Ryan is a Catholic in good standing. He’s rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second,” Bannon said during a March 8 interview with Princeton law professor Robert P. George, who is Catholic and a vocal Trump critic.

“Did Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House and a leader in the House … has the Republican leadership in the House, have they stopped one of those executive actions of President Obama?” Bannon continued, quizzing George. “Did they just not pass an omnibus bill, sir, that fully financed Planned Parenthood and fully financed, not just the abortion mills but the mills that monetize the baby parts? Did Paul Ryan not lead that and not say that we must do that omnibus bill, sir? Yes or no?”

During the 10-minute interview, Bannon was livid over an open letter that George and George Weigel, an informal Ryan adviser, had written to Catholics stating that Trump had no business being president.

“Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States,” George and Weigel wrote in their letter, published in National Review and signed by nearly 40 Catholic leaders in the U.S. “His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility.”

Bannon argued that George’s characterization of Trump as “manifestly unfit” had crossed the line. And he began questioning whether George also believed the new Speaker was unqualified to be president.

“Is he unfit, is Paul Ryan unfit, sir, manifestly unfit?” Bannon asked. “Are you a hypocrite for not calling Paul Ryan to be manifestly unfit?”

“Would you guys get ahead of the curve? Can I get back to your 60 writers right now today and get them on a conference call? Can we put out a letter that says Paul Ryan is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States?”

Breibart has had the knives out for Ryan since he succeeded Ohio Republican John Boehner as Speaker last October.

Last week, The Hill reported that Bannon made clear to Breitbart staffers that he wanted to ruin Ryan’s political career and what he called Ryan’s “globalist” agenda.

Two months after Bannon’s radio interview with George, Breitbart targeted Ryan’s children — a move that shocked many in Washington, since children are typically off-limits in politics. The Breitbart story suggested Ryan was hypocritical for blasting Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims as a “religious test” while sending his own kids to a Catholic school that uses such a test in its admissions process.

And for months, Breitbart attacked Ryan and promoted his primary opponent, Paul Nehlen, in dozens of stories. “Desperate Paul Ryan Floods Wisconsin with Misleading Television Ads,” read one headline.

Ryan soundly defeated Nehlen 84 percent to 16 percent.  

Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck declined to comment for this story. Emails to two top Trump campaign aides seeking comment were not returned.

However, those who know Bannon say his disdain for Ryan was obvious.

Bannon’s radio interview “really encapsulates Steve’s fierce loyalty to Trump and his views on immigration, and specifically, Paul Ryan,” said a former Breitbart employee who worked closely with Bannon.

Near the end of the interview, Bannon took another swipe at Catholics, accusing them of backing immigration to boost the church’s dwindling membership.

“I understand why Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible because the church is dying in this country, right, if it was not for the Hispanics,” Bannon told George. 

“I get that, right, but I think that is the subtext of part of the letter and I think that is the subtext of a lot of the political direction of this.”

This story was updated at 9:19 p.m.

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