Last week’s humiliating arrest of president Trump’s former strategist Stephen K Bannon called for an update of my profile of Trump’s inner circle of documentary producers and news platform operators.
Gregory Crofton compiled these snapshots of the leading players, men whose influence far exceeds any quality found in their work.
Since 2013, Gregory has been my valued reporter on the ‘rightwing documentary ecosystem.’
- Conservative media star and pardoned felon Dinesh D’Souza returns with “Trump Card: Beating Socialism, Corruption and the Deep State”.
- The film is set for an October 9, 2020 release.
Trump Card Trailer
Box Office Hit
- D’Souza’s most successful film “2016: Obama’s America” earned $33.4 million at the box office.
- It ranks as the #6 highest-grossing documentary of all time, according to Box Office Mojo.
- Read our “2016: Obama’s America” Case Study.
- In 2018, D’Souza received a pardon from president Trump for his conviction for a felony campaign finance violation. (see photo above).
- Trump said D’Souza had been “treated very unfairly by our government.”
- D’Souza’s “Death of a Nation” (2018) featured a bizarre image of the face of Abraham Lincoln melded with Trump’s.
- It earned $5.8 million in theatrical release.
- “Trump Card” is D’Souza’s fourth film.
- His 19th book “United States of Socialism” was published on June 2, 2020.
Stephen K. Bannon
- Bannon is a prolific filmmaker (The Undefeated, Generation Zero, Clinton Cash) with a firm grasp of the conservative media landscape.
- He is credited with producing 18 films: the majority are documentaries, but include two scripted movies, “Titus” (1999) and “The Indian Runner” (1991).
- Bannon was executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News before being hired by Trump’s presidential campaign in August of 2017.
- He stayed on the Trump team as chief strategist and senior adviser through August 2018.
- That same year Bannon directed “Trump @War,” a 76-minute film.
- Released on YouTube, it attacks mainstream media’s coverage of the president while defending his actions.
- Bannon has traveled extensively to create a global infrastructure to promote his agenda.
- A pet project has been to steer the Vatican away from the relatively liberal direction of the Argentine Jesuit, Pope Francis.
- “The Brink” (2019) a documentary directed by Alison Klayman captured Bannon’s overseas travels.
- Bannon has hosted more than 340 episodes of the podcast “War Room: Pandemic”.
- His political strategies and talking points are well-noted by his followers and conservative media outlets like Fox News.
- Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviewed Bannon for his film “American Dharma” (2018).
- Bannon recently served as executive producer for “The Last 600 Meters,” an unreleased documentary about key battles in the Iraq War.
- U.S. Post Office police arrested Bannon on a Chinese billionaire’s yacht on August 20, 2020.
- Prosecutors allege he stole from donors to We Build the Wall, a GoFundMe campaign that raised $27 million to construct sections of the president’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
- Portions of that wall appear to have been constructed by private contractors, but Bannon and three others are accused of using some of the money raised for personal gain.
- Bannon posted $5 million bail on the day of his arrest. (Photo above.)
- Fed Prosecutors Target Steve Bannon’s Murky Non-Profit that Funds his Documentaries.
- Michael Pack is a prolific documentary producer who recently directed Bannon’s “The Last 600 Meters.”
- Pack has directed 13 documentary films.
- The most recent is “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” which aired in May on PBS.
- Other productions include “Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power” (2014) and “Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton” (2010).
- Pack founded the independent film studio Manifold Productions in 1977.
- In June, 2020, president Trump appointed Pack CEO and director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent of Voice of America.
- From 2003 to 2006, Pack worked as Senior Vice President for Television Programming at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the steward of federal funding for public media; more information can be found here.
- Read more about Michael Pack in
- Current: Investigation of filmmaker Michael Pack centers on alleged ‘unlawful’ use of nonprofit gifts.
- And in a Washington Post report (September 2) on the irony of his purge of non-American journalists from Voice of America because they are ‘security threats’.
- David Bossie is another key conservative film producer and media executive with close ties to the president.
- Since 2000, Bossie has worked as CEO and president of Citizens United, a conservative political advocacy group based in Washington D.C.
Inspired by Michael Moore
- Citizens United operates an in-house documentary production studio.
- Bossie said that he was inspired by Michael Moore’s hit “Fahrenheit 9/11” to get involved with the production of documentaries and quickly built a large film operation, one that we profiled in 2015.
- Bossie’s most consequential political victory came from a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which largely unshackled conservative funding of U.S. election campaigns. ugh private corporations and political action groups.
- In January, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Citizens United released a 16-minute film, “David v. Goliath.”
- Bossie and Bannon have made four films together: “Generation Zero,” (2010), “Battle for America” (2010), “Occupy Unmasked” (2012) and “Torchbearer” (2016).
- Trump hired Bossie to be his deputy campaign manager in August, 2016.
- Bannon was hired as his campaign manager a year later.
- Bossie co-authored a book “Let Trump Be Trump” (2017) about his time on the campaign trail.
- It was written with his former colleague and one-time Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Christopher Ruddy & Newsmax
- Christopher Ruddy owns Newsmax, a conservative news outlet established in 1998.
- He operates a broadcast network, magazine and multiple newsletters.
- Ruddy is a close friend and informal adviser of the president.
- Content produced by his news company often mirrors the president’s position on important political issues.
- A recent tweet from Ruddy read: “CNN: Give Trump an A+ for his Pandemic Economic Response”
- Ruddy began his newspaper career in 1993 at Rupert Murdoch‘s New York Post.
- As an investigative journalist, he covered the Clinton Whitewater scandal.
- In 1995 he became a national correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review where he investigated the suicide of Vincent Foster, a deputy White House counsel to then President Bill Clinton.
- He expanded his work into “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster” published in 1997.
- Ruddy founded Newsmax in 1998.
- His initial $25,000 investment from Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Nielsen Media Research recently reported that Newsmax TV drew and average of 21,000 viewers in one week, June 29 to July 3.
Robert Herring & OAN
- Robert Herring Sr. founded the conservative TV news outlet One America News in 2013.
- Herring’s first television venture was the AWE (A Wealth of Entertainment) network.
- Launched in 2003 from San Diego, AWE features lifestyles of the wealthy.
- Herring amassed a fortune after selling his IT business in 1988.
- In a tweet, Trump complimented the work of OAN and Newsmax over Fox News.
- Business Wire also recognized Trump’s flattery of the network.
- The Atlantic magazine recently covered OAN, “Trump’s Favorite TV Network is Post-Parody”.
- OAN is a regular platform for Dangerous Documentaries a production company determined to make “quality films for the other 50% of America.”
- Dangerous Documentaries was founded in 2016 and is led by Jake Klein.
- It serves as the media arm of the Washington, D.C. based thinktank and ultra-conservative activist Capital Research Center.
More of my coverage
- Donald Trump and the Rightwing Documentary Ecosystem
- Donald Trump: Reality TV’s Presidential Candidate Rides ‘Earned Media’ to the Nomination
- And Gregory recommends a video from Quartz: “Steve Bannon is one of Trump’s closest advisors. But he’s also a filmmaker. And if you watch his movies closely, they reveal a unique vision for America’s future.” Watch here…