Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, considers Steve Bannon a bad influence on his friend President Trump. As Ruddy described it on Wednesday, the former White House chief strategist “has been a dark angel around the president” who inspires Trump’s more hard-right policies.
That’s roughly the opposite of Bannon’s own assessment of White House dynamics. He continues to insist it’s West Wing “globalists” who are corrupting the president’s true agenda—which just so happens to align with his. The two arguments illustrate the conflicting perceptions of Trump, and of his priorities.
Not only is Bannon Ruddy’s ideological rival, but he’s a business competitor, too: After his stint at the White House, Bannon returned to running Breitbart News—a site Ruddy characterized on Wednesday as mere political propaganda. Ruddy has known Trump for the past 20 years, and his own media organization, like Breitbart, played a major role in Trump’s ascent. As my colleague Rosie Gray reported earlier this year, Newsmax was one of Trump’s earliest media promoters and helped refine his political image. The Trump campaign also used Newsmax’s email list to raise some $800,000.
Though Ruddy had mentioned Trump’s “darker angels” before, until Wednesday, he hadn’t named any of them. Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, Ruddy described his read on the president’s politics and how it differs from the nationalism with which Trump is typically associated. “He’s not ideological,” Ruddy told my colleague Steve Clemons, dispelling what he sees as a major myth about the president. “He’s a pragmatist and a centrist.”