In rare interview, Steve Bannon recalls fallout from Donald Trump’s ‘Billy Bush weekend’ groping scandal
Former senior adviser claims New Jersey governor Chris Christie was overlooked for cabinet due to disloyalty in aftermath of leaked audio
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was denied a cabinet position in Donald Trump’s White House because of his reaction to the infamous Access Hollywood video released just before last year’s election, the president’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told CBS.
The leaked video featured a conversation between Trump, then a reality television star, and the show’s host, Billy Bush, talking in vulgar terms about women. Trump, whose wife was pregnant at the time, bragged about his celebrity status and how it allows him to “do anything” to women, even “grab them by the [expletive]”
Bannon, who was forced out of the White House last month, said in an excerpt from a soon-to-air 60 Minutes interview that the video’s release was a litmus test for Trump’s supporters. Christie apparently failed it when he came out four days after the video’s release and said, in a rare public rebuke of his friend of more than a decade, that he was “disturbed”, “disappointed” and “embarrassed” by the language Trump used.
“Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend, was not looked at for a cabinet position,” Bannon said. “I told him, ‘The plane leaves at 11 o’clock in the morning. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.’ Didn’t make the plane.”
Bannon’s assertion is the opposite of what Christie has said about his job prospects. Christie was the first Republican governor to endorse Trump and has been one of his most loyal supporters. He had been in contention to be Trump’s running mate but was passed over for Mike Pence. He then became a choice for attorney general, but that job went to former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
Christie has said that he was offered several positions but turned them all down because “he didn’t offer me a job that I thought was exciting enough for me to leave the governorship – and my family.”
A spokesman for Christie, Brian Murray, reiterated the governor’s position on Friday and refuted Bannon’s claim.
“As has been widely reported, the governor had been offered multiple cabinet positions in addition to other senior posts in the White House and elsewhere. He chose to stay as governor and complete his term. Any assertion to the contrary is simply factually incorrect,” Murray said in an email.
Christie has been friends with Trump for 15 years and they frequently speak with each other and occasionally dine together with their wives. Bannon, however, is largely credited with Trump’s rise to the White House and was one of the president’s top advisers and confidants until he was forced out in a staff shake-up last month, in the fallout from a bungled response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Christie had been critical of Trump’s senior staff in the early months of the administration, saying the president hadn’t been well served, but he rarely named names. He declined to say whether he viewed Bannon’s departure as a positive move last month.
“I haven’t worked with Steve since the campaign, and so I couldn’t tell you how Steve operated inside the White House, what role he played or didn’t play, so it would be impossible for me to answer that question,” Christie said. “The president obviously made a decision that his departure was something that would be a positive for the administration ... time will tell if he was right or wrong.”
The full interview was scheduled to air Sunday evening on CBS.