Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, encouraged a group of Southern black business leaders to demand better on Friday.
Bannon made the comments while speaking at a private round-table event in Charleston, South Carolina, which was sponsored by the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, a group that strives to empower black entrepreneurs. He was joined by dozens of black business leaders from across North and South Carolina and Georgia. While there, Bannon said he understands the struggle that African American business owners might face when it comes to securing capital and scaling up.
“Minority entrepreneurs are the biggest customers of community banks,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “And you know why they didn’t get recapitalized? Because nobody cares. When it comes time to make the deals, you’re not in the room.”
Bannon, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic comments and amplifying the controversial alt-right movement, received a warm welcome from the crowd. At one point, they shouted “Amen!” when he argued that “economic nationalism” is a philosophy that advances the opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or race. He also called for more support for black banks.
“For the black community, Bannon said, that means strengthening the community banks on which he said many minority-owned businesses rely. Those institutions, he said, didn’t get the same bailout opportunities as bigger banks did following the economic downturn several years ago,” reads the AP report.
“When it comes time to make the deals, you’re not in the room,” he said, adding that big banks “got a piece of the action.”
“Isn’t it time for your piece?” he asked.
Prior to the event, Stephen Gilchrist, the chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, said he considers Bannon a friend and that he was invited “to discuss ideas and strategies for how small businesses access capital,” reports The Post and Courier. “This administration has an opportunity to engage a new constituency, and show them what policy really means,” said Gilchrist, CEO of GSL Distributors L.L.C.
One a local black lawmaker expressed skepticism toward the Chamber. “I question the credibility of any African American group which extends an invitation to Mr. Bannon to speak,” said Democratic state Sen. Marlon Kimpson.
Bannon currently serves as the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he has described as “the platform for the alt-right.” Under Bannon’s leadership, the publication has praised the work of white supremacists like Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the infamous Charlottesville rally.