5 things you need to know about Donald Trump's controversial right-hand man Steve Bannon

Updated: 

Anyone who's watched the West Wing will know that the chief of staff is the closest person to the US president. However, this might not be the case for Donald Trump's administration.

The president-elect has announced two key appointments: Reince Priebus as chief of staff and Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor.

The White House
(AP)

Tellingly, Bannon was named first on the list and it was stated that he will work "as equal partners" with Priebus. Trump's rise to power has been unorthodox, so it's perhaps unsurprising that his tenure in the White House will continue in the same vein.

Priebus is a safe choice as he is currently chairman of the Republican National Committee, but Bannon proves much more controversial. So who is Bannon and why has his appointment sparked such furore?

1. He's changed careers a few times

Steve Bannon
(Evan Vucci/AP)

Bannon is 62 years old and heralds from Virginia. After school he joined the navy, but soon left for a career in banking. After studying for an MBA at Harvard Business school, he started working at Goldman Sachs before setting up his own investment company that specialised in media.

Stakes in shows like Seinfield made him rich, and he started producing films himself. Some of his own films include paeans to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and Ronald Reagan.

2. He helmed Breitbart News

Steve Bannon
(Evan Vucci/AP)

He then changed his career direction again, taking over Breitbart News in March 2012.

To give you a taste of what Breitbart is like, it's described by Bloomberg as "a haven for people who think Fox News is too polite and restrained". A site that courts controversy, it was (unsurprisingly) staunchly pro-Trump throughout the election. The site declared war on GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Trump will have to work to pass his agenda if Ryan retains his role.

Under Bannon's leadership, the site pushed a nationalist, anti-establishment agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right - a movement often associated with far-right efforts to preserve "white identity", oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values".

It's particularly known for its button-pushing, traffic-trolling headlines, including one that called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a "Republican spoiler, renegade Jew". Others included "Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?" and "Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy".

3. He's had a troubled personal life

Steve Bannon at a Trump campaign event
(Gerald Herbert/AP)

Married three times, Bannon hit the headlines when his second wife Mary Louise Piccard accused him of domestic abuse and anti-Semitism.

In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he "didn't want the girls going to school with Jews". A spokeswoman for Bannon denied the charge.

Bannon also faced domestic violence charges following an altercation over money. He was charged in 1996 with misdemeanour witness intimidation, domestic violence with traumatic injury and battery. The charges were dropped after Piccard did not show up for the trial.

Bannon is not exactly known for holding back. He has a reputation amongst Breitbart employees for being a tough boss.

4. He's vigorously pro-Trump

Trump and Bannon
(Evan Vucci/AP)

Both Breitbart and Bannon have been strongly supportive of Trump's bid for the White House, a fact that was confirmed when Bannon was made campaign CEO in August.

He quickly became a member of Trump's inner circle, frequently travelling with the candidate and working to re-shape his message to emphasise Trump's populist and outsider appeal.

Given his background and reputation, many had expected Bannon's arrival in August to signal a new, caustic phase for the Trump campaign. There were definitely moments of this - such as Trump's pre-debate news conference with the women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault - but largely, Trump appeared willing to stick to the teleprompter.

Ultimately, Bannon's biggest influence appeared to be pushing Trump to adopt more populist rhetoric and paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a globalist system bent on oppressing the country's working people.

5. A lot of people are up in arms at his appointment

Safe to say many people are concerned by Bannon's appointment to such an important role considering his links to white nationalism.

That's not to say that he doesn't have his fans. Some have taken to Twitter to defend Bannon.

It remains to be seen how much Bannon influences Trump when they're safely in the White House.