Bannon compared Trump escalator ride to Leni Riefenstahl Nazi film, book says

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Christopher Gregory/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

Steve Bannon compared Donald Trump’s infamous escalator ride to announce his candidacy for the White House to Triumph of the Will, the Nazi propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl, according to a book published on Tuesday.

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In Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted, the New York Times reporter Jeremy W Peters shows the former campaign chair, White House strategist and close Trump ally repeatedly invoking Hitler when discussing the 45th president.

Bannon has frequently been a source for books about Trump, often to his own detriment as well as that of his sometime boss.

His standing in Trumpworld was badly damaged, for example, by his participation in Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s 2018 White House tell-all.

But Bannon, a far-right gadfly with a huge audience for his War Room podcast, worked his way back into Trump’s good graces, securing a pardon on fraud charges and playing a central role in advancing Trump’s lie that he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden because of electoral fraud.

Bannon has pleaded not guilty to contempt of Congress, a criminal charge arising from his refusal to cooperate with the January 6 committee which could result in jail time.

In Peters’ book, he is quoted as saying “Trump did not win in 2016 … Hillary Clinton lost” and complaining that Trump never recognised as much. He also complains that during the 2020 election, aides showed Trump misleading polling data in order to mask his deficit to Biden and thereby avoid outbreaks of fury.

“It’s like showing Hitler fake armour divisions when the Reichstag is burning down,” Bannon says.

The sometime documentary maker makes the comparison to Riefenstahl when discussing how Trump kicked off his takeover of the Republican party with his campaign announcement in June 2015.

Riefenstahl is best remembered for Triumph of the Will, her landmark film about Hitler centered on the Nuremberg Nazi Party Congress of 1934. As Trump descended the elevator at his New York skyscraper, Peters writes, the film “flashed” through Bannon’s mind.

“Triumph opens with a shot of Hitler’s aircraft high above Nuremberg as it begins descending through the clouds,” Peters writes. “When it touches down in a field, the massive crowd that has assembled to greet their leader rejoices. Hitler smiles as he drinks in the adulation.

“Bannon thought that Trump’s entrance looked strikingly similar, and that he was witnessing someone with an uncanny sense for manipulating public perception.”

The crowd which greeted Trump for his maiden speech as a 2016 presidential candidate was largely made up of actors, paid to pretend to support him.

Trump has been linked to Hitler and the Nazis before.

In 1990, Vanity Fair reported that he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bed.

If I had these speeches,” Trump said then, “and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”

In July last year, the former president denied telling his former chief of staff John Kelly, “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”

Related: Burying Leni Riefenstahl: one woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favourite film-maker

That remark was reported in Frankly, We Did Win This Election, a book by Michael Bender, of the Wall Street Journal, about Trump’s defeat and refusal to concede.

In his book, Peters also quotes Bannon on the danger Trump posed to US democracy by 2020, when he advanced his lie about voter fraud well in advance of election day, and into 2022, as he promises pardons for January 6 rioters and threatens prosecutors with mob justice.

“This makes the Tea Party look like a church social,” Bannon is quoted as saying.

Bannon also muses on how Trump would “end up going down in history as one of the two or three worst presidents ever”.

“It’ll be James Buchanan, Donald Trump and Millard Filmore,” Bannon is quoted as saying, in reference to two presidents of the 1850s who failed to stop the slide to civil war.