Donald Trump has named Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and a documentary film producer, as CEO of his campaign, while strategist Kellyanne Conway was named campaign manager.
Paul Manafort will remain as campaign chairman and chief strategist.
The changes ignited media speculation as to whether it was a shakeup, as Trump’s poll numbers have declined following a brief post-Republican convention bounce. The moves were taken as a signal that Trump wants to just be himself — as he has said so during interviews — rather than a candidate who sticks to a Teleprompter script. “If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people,” Trump said in an interview with a Wisconsin TV station on Tuesday.
In a statement, Manafort said that “it is imperative that we continue to expand our team with top-tier talent.”
Bannon will temporarily step down from his role at Breitbart News to work at the campaign, which said that he will “bolster the business-like approach” of Trump’s bid. The news outlet has featured largely favorable coverage of the Trump campaign, in what itself has been a re-altering of the influence of conservative news outlets this election cycle.
Trump said that Bannon and Conway “are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win.”
Bannon, who also has been the host of Breibart News Daily on SiriusXM, has longtime ties to the entertainment industry, as a financier and filmmaker. He was executive producer of “The Indian Runner” in 1991, co-executive producer of “Titus” in 1999, and executive producer of “Sweetwater” in 2013. Over the past decade, he set out to produce a number of conservative documentaries, including “In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed,” “Fire form the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman,” and, in 2011, “The Undefeated.” The latter was a documentary about Sarah Palin and also was released theatrically. This cycle, he produced “Clinton Cash,” a probe of the Clintons and their personal wealth unabashed in its bite.
The Trump campaign noted that Bloomberg Politics recognized Bannon as the “most dangerous political operative in America.” He became executive chairman of Breitbart News after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2013.
After getting his MBA from Harvard Business School and a stint at Goldman Sachs, Bannon formed his own investment bank, Bannon & Co., which worked on the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner, among a number of deals in the 1990s. According to Bloomberg Politics, it was Bannon who was sent to Michael Ovitz’s home to deliver the offer to buy the assets of Artists Management Group, the beleaguered management company Ovitz founded, for just $5 million. Bannon became a partner in The Firm, according to Bloomberg Politics, but later left to pursue a documentary filmmaking.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that former Fox News chieftan Roger Ailes was advising Trump in preparation for the presidential debates, but Trump’s campaign denied that Ailes has a role.
Update: The Clinton campaign held a conference call with campaign manager Robby Mook.
He said that the hiring of Bannon showed that Trump would “double down on more divisiveness, more conspiracy theories, more wild accusations.”
Critics, including some conservatives, have dismissed Breitbart News as amounting to propaganda for Trump’s campaign. The site also has been known for its attacks on Beltway Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who last week won a race against a primary challenger by a wide margin.