Bannon Will No Longer Attend Harvard Campaign Debrief Event

UPDATED: November 29, 2016, at 11:53 p.m.

Top Donald Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon will no longer attend an Institute of Politics event about the 2016 presidential campaign this week, according to a Kennedy School spokesperson.

Bannon, a 1985 Business School graduate, was listed among other journalists and election strategists from the Hillary Clinton and Trump campaigns slated to appear at the IOP’s post-election event “Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2016.” The event kicks off Wednesday and runs through Thursday evening.

Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, wrote in an email Tuesday that he “heard this afternoon from his office that [Bannon’s] schedule has changed.” Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel said he did not know the reason why Bannon was no longer scheduled to attend.

Bannon was the former executive chair of Breitbart News, a media outlet that has been associated with white nationalist, anti-feminist, and anti-immigrant beliefs.


In anticipation of his appearance, about 1,000 people indicated in a Facebook event they would attend a protest of Bannon’s attendance on Wednesday.

“Trump brought racist ideologues into the mainstream,” the Facebook event description of the protest reads. “By treating this situation as normal, Harvard is normalizing what Bannon stands for. We do not accept hate and bigotry as normal or legitimate.”

Queen's Head Debate Watch
Freshmen watch the third and final presidential debate in the Cambridge Queen's Head pub.

In prepared remarks Kennedy School Dean Doug W. Elmendorf had planned to deliver at the event’s opening on Wednesday, Elmendorf wrote that Harvard’s decision to invite guests does not constitute an endorsement of their views.

“Some guests who were invited to this event have already spurred strong reactions from members of our community,” Elmendorf wrote in his remarks. “We invite people who have significantly influenced events in the world even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community or are in conflict with the values of the Kennedy School itself.”

Protests will proceed despite Bannon’s absence at the event, according to Zachary Lown, an activist with the Boston-based group Attorneys for Racial Justice who was one of the initial organizers of the protest. Lown said the rally he is helping to organize will take place outside of the Kennedy School tomorrow at 5 p.m.

“These policies and this message that Trump ran on and that was formulated by his key advisers, including many of the people who are still slated to come to the event, is going to continue,” Lown said. “And our goal from the outset was to say that we don’t accept this process of normalization.”

Several other Trump advisers are slated to attend the event, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and transition spokesperson Hope Hicks.

Lown said the coalition behind the protest—which includes activist groups from across the Boston area such as the Boston NAACP, Massachusetts Peace Action, and Boston Feminists—hopes to use the protest to launch a broader political movement against Trump’s administration.

A group of students from across Harvard’s graduate schools are planning to protest Bannon’s appointment, although the group did not object to Harvard inviting Bannon to speak on campus, Kennedy School student Shanoor Seervai, a protest organizer, said. The group will join the protest organized by Boston-area activist groups tomorrow.

Isaac R. Blumfield, an organizer for IfNotNow Boston—the local branch of a national group advocating for “American Jewish institutions to end their support for the occupation” of Palestine—said the group intended to continue with a separate protest they planned as part of a national day of action.

“As you might have seen, we've had a bunch of actions already about Bannon's appointment, and we want to continue to send the message to institutions like Harvard that they can't continue to normalize white supremacy and anti-semitism by continuing to invite him and accept him,” Blumfield wrote in a statement.

Before the protests planned this week, more than 1,000 female Business School alumni signed a letter published in the New York Times last week denouncing Bannon. Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Dean Lizabeth Cohen also joined several presidents of women’s colleges in penning an open letter condemning Bannon’s appointment to a top role in Trump's White House.

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

—Staff writer Claire E. Parker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ClaireParkerDC.