A group of Bloomberg employees have expressed outrage over the news organization’s invitation to an onstage interview with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
In a strongly-worded letter signed by 91 staffers and delivered last Friday to Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, Bannon was criticized for “inflict[ing] harm to our communities — specifically targeting women, black and Muslim populations, with his tenure at Breitbart and strategies of the Trump presidential campaign.” The signatories asked the editorial team to rescind Bannon’s invitation to this week’s Bloomberg Invest Summit.
Despite their efforts, however, the show went on, and Bannon sat down with Micklethwait on Wednesday in London for an interview on the topic of “Populism, Protectionism and Economic Nationalism’s Impact on the Markets.”
For four years before joining President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, Bannon ran the right-wing website Breitbart, which critics have decried for what they say is hostility toward immigrants and minorities. He became well known for being a conservative media provocateur, and turning Breitbart into a major Trump booster.
The employees wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN, that inviting Bannon would amplify his “agenda of far-right ethnic and economic nationalism.”
“While we acknowledge that Bannon has the experience and the authority to speak on these topics, we find it abhorrent and regrettable that he should be hosted by Bloomberg,” the letter states.
A source at Bloomberg with direct knowledge of the situation said that none of the 91 employees who signed the letter that was submitted to Micklethwait were from the news division. Bloomberg is a financial services, data and media company that has around 19,000 employees around the world.
Staffers asked Bloomberg to rescind the invitation, saying in the letter that “creating space for him to express his opinions must be measured against the harm it does to the diverse Bloomberg community and beyond.”
“There is no doubt that the session will be conducted with integrity by Bloomberg and John, but inviting him to speak on our stage constitutes a celebration of his accomplishments that is inappropriate for someone with his legacy – one that is ruthless and has fear at its center, ” the letter states.
The letter signatories say that they would support a television interview with Bannon or a debate in which Bannon is “not the only one addressing the audience as an invited guest.”
Micklethwait held a call with the organizers of the letter on Monday, along with his deputy editor-in-chief Reto Gregori, the source said. Micklethwait noted on the call that Bannon is relevant in Europe right now and said that the interview would be done in service to their readers.
Bannon said during the on-stage interview with Micklethwait that he has raised money from wealthy individuals to fund an advisory group he’s created, called The Movement, to help populist parties in Europe.
In a statement to CNN, Micklethwait said, “We’re in the news business, and often that means we interview newsmakers that hold controversial positions or points of view.”
It’s not the first time Bannon’s scheduled appearance at a conference has sparked backlash. The New Yorker magazine rescinded an invitation to Bannon to headline its annual festival last month after New Yorker staffers and big-name participants in the event said they would not attend if Bannon remained on the schedule.
Bannon did not respond to a message seeking comment.