The White House put some distance Friday between President Donald Trump and senior advisor and chief strategist Steve Bannon with respect to Bannon's past statements on Islam.
USA Today scoured hours of radio footage from 2015 and 2016 during Bannon's time as head of Breitbart News, highlighting his comments on Islam in an attempt to show a radical departure from Bannon's views and the two previous presidential administrations.
In one broadcast, Bannon says, "Some of the conversations may get a little uncomfortable," before telling listeners that the United States and the Western world are involved in a 'global existential war' against Islam. He also indicated a belief that a 'fifth column' of Islamist sympathizers had infiltrated U.S. government and news media.
In the tapes, Bannon also mocked former President George W. Bush for visiting a mosque post 9/11 and for attempting to convince Muslims there that "Islam is peace." Bannon said Bush was "one of the dumbest presidents in the history of these United States."
In another broadcast, he expressed concerns about the refugee crisis in Europe in the Spring of 2016, with a focus on migrants from the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Syria and Libya. Bannon said those migrants held ideologies hostile to Western society.
Bannon is believed to have played a meaningful role in the execution of Trump's controversial executive order issuing a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries last week, making his past comments on Islam particularly relevant.
Despite Trump recently awarded Bannon a permanent seat on the National Security Council's rules committee. But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a Wednesday White House press briefing attempted to put some distance between the president's views on Islam and Bannon's. From ABC News:
"I think the president has been very clear that his number one goal is not to target any one religion, but places and areas where we believe there is an issue," Spicer said. "There is a big difference between Islam, the religion, and radical Islamic terrorists that come here to do us harm."
Bannon left Breitbart in August to join the Trump campaign. Democrats have recently been highly critical of Bannon's influence in the Trump administration, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arguing that his presence on the NSC makes America "less safe."