Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, claims Catholic Church leaders oppose Trump’s decision to end a program protecting young undocumented immigrants because they believe in “unlimited illegal immigration” and need “illegal aliens to fill the churches.”
In an excerpt of a “60 Minutes” interview released Thursday ― Bannon’s first major interview since being ousted from the White House last month ― he told CBS’s Charlie Rose that “it’s obvious” the church condemned Trump’s decision due to its own interests.
“They need illegal aliens to fill the churches,” Bannon said. “It’s obvious on the face of it.”
He continued, “Catholic bishops condemn him [because] they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
Catholic bishops have roundly criticized the Trump administration’s decision on Tuesday to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, former President Barack Obama’s move to protect so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at a young age.
Church leaders supported Obama’s efforts to help undocumented immigrants, and some Catholic churches have opened their doors to them as part of the “sanctuary” movement.
But immigration hard-liners on the far right believe Trump did not go far enough in restricting immigration, as he is now calling on Congress to find a legislative solution to address Dreamers’ status.
Bannon said on Thursday that he disagreed with Trump’s decision.
When Rose discussed how the Catholic Church ― including the head of New York City’s archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy Dolan ― has opposed Trump’s stance on immigration, Bannon, who is Catholic, said that church leaders “have been terrible about this.”
“As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all,” Bannon said. “I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.”
Dolan called Trump’s decision “an ominous development” on Tuesday and pledged to support Dreamers.
“This is contrary to the spirit of the Bible and of our country, and a turning away from the ideals upon which our beloved country was founded,” he said in a statement. “All of the ‘Dreamers’ who now face such uncertainty and fear, please know that the Catholic Church loves you, welcomes you, and will fight to protect your rights and your dignity.”
The Archdiocese of New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bannon’s remarks.
After being ousted from the White House last month amid simmering tensions and a torrent of scandals and controversies within the Trump administration, Bannon has returned to the right-wing website Breitbart News, which he led before joining Trump’s campaign last summer.
Bannon on Thursday defended Trump’s widely condemned response to last month’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which the president was reluctant to directly single out the white supremacist, KKK and neo-Nazi groups who incited the violence.
“What he was trying to say is that people that support the monument staying there peacefully and people that oppose that, that’s the normal course of First Amendment,” Bannon said.
“When he’s talking about the neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates and the Klan, who, by the way, are absolutely awful. There’s no room in American politics for that. There’s no room in American society for that,” he continued. “And all Donald Trump was saying is, ‘Where does it end? Does it end, in taking down the Washington Monument? Does it end, in taking down Mount Rushmore? Does it end at taking Churchill’s bust out of the Oval Office?’”
Trump’s fiery press conference caused consternation for Republican leaders and administration officials.
Later that week, Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, gave a candid interview to the Financial Times in which he suggested that he had considered resigning.
Bannon criticized Cohn on Thursday, saying that he “absolutely” should have done so: “If you don’t like what he’s doing and you don’t agree with it, you have an obligation to resign.”