New Yorker drops plans to interview Steve Bannon at festival

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The New Yorker has dropped plans to interview former Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon during its festival next month.

New Yorker editor David Remnick said in a statement shared with the magazine’s staff that he had changed his mind.

The ex-chairman of Breitbart News was supposed to be a featured guest during a prestigious gathering that over the years has drawn some of the world’s most prominent artists and public figures.

This year’s guests include Emily Blunt, Zadie Smith and Sally Yates, who Mr Trump fired as deputy attorney general after she refused to back his initial ban on travellers from Muslim countries.

The ban was advocated by Mr Bannon, a senior White House adviser at the time.

“I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues – and I’ve re-considered,” Mr Remnick, who has repeatedly denounced Mr Trump and his administration, wrote of his decision on Mr Bannon.

“There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage.”

Mr Remnick also acknowledged that festival guests, unlike those interviewed on radio or for a print story, are paid an honorarium, along with money for travel and lodging.

The New Yorker’s announcement on Mr Bannon came earlier on Monday and was denounced by Roxane Gay, Jessica Valenti and many others.

Ms Gay tweeted that “the intellectual class doesn’t truly understand racism or xenophobia. They treat it like an intellectual project, where perhaps if we ask ‘hard question’ and bandy about ‘controversial’ ideas, good work is being done.”

Filmmaker Judd Apatow had tweeted he would not attend if Mr Bannon was interviewed. Kathryn Schulz was among the New Yorker staff writers who tweeted that they had informed Mr Remnick directly about their objections.

Patton Oswalt tweeted: “I’m out. Sorry, @NewYorker. See if Milo Yiannopoulos is free?” a reference to the far-right writer and speaker whose memoir was dropped last year by Simon & Schuster after numerous complaints.

In explaining his initial decision, Mr Remnick wrote that MrBannon was well aware of their political differences.

“The point of an interview, a rigorous interview, particularly in a case like this, is to put pressure on the views of the person being questioned.”

“There’s no illusion here,” he wrote.

“It’s obvious that no matter how tough the questioning, Bannon is not going to burst into tears and change his view of the world. He believes he is right and that his ideological opponents are mere ‘snowflakes’. The question is whether an interview has value in terms of fact, argument, or even exposure, whether it has value to a reader or an audience.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bannon is scheduled to appear on September. 15 at The Economist’s “Open Future” festival in New York City.

According to The Economist, festival attendees will “discuss the most urgent issues of our time and remake the case for liberal values”.

At least one guest already plans to drop out. British writer Laurie Penny tweeted on Monday that she “cannot in good conscience appear at an event which chooses to dignify a neo-nationalist like Steve Bannon”.

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