White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday that his controversial interview with the American Prospect published a day earlier "drew fire away" from President Donald Trump's criticized remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend.
The interview "drew fire away from POTUS," meaning the president of the United States, Bannon told the Daily Mail. Bannon said he successfully "changed the [media] narrative" in his phone call with American Prospect co-founder and liberal journalist Robert Kuttner.
The American Prospect, a liberal magazine, published an interview with Bannon on Wednesday in which he contradicted Trump's position on North Korea, made negative comments about his White House colleagues, and pledged to oust Susan Thornton, head of the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Bannon also dismissed the far right as irrelevant in the interview.
"Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more," Bannon said. "These guys are a collection of clowns."
An unnamed White House aide told the Daily Mail that Bannon's interview could be seen internally as a positive—at least in one respect.
"The president doesn't like all the Democrats' focus on racism, and it's good that Steve mocked it as politically stupid," the White House aide said. "Plus, distance from actual racists is a good thing."
Bannon said his candid comments took the heat off Trump's statement on the violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-demonstrators.
Trump on Tuesday defended his original statement, which received backlash for not explicitly condemning white supremacists, during a press conference in Trump Tower.
"I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups," Trump said. "Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch."