Adelson won’t back Bannon’s attempts to oust GOP incumbents
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Adelson won’t back Bannon’s attempts to oust GOP incumbents

Family spokesman makes announcement a day after casino magnate skips ZOA's annual dinner -- where Breitbart News head was slated to introduce him

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Sheldon Adelson attends the final remarks of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump's departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sheldon Adelson attends the final remarks of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump's departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

WASHINGTON — The billionaire casino magnate and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson said on Monday that he will not support Stephen Bannon’s attempts to buck Republican leadership and try to unseat the party’s incumbents from Congress in 2018.

“The Adelsons will not be supporting Steve Bannon’s efforts,” Andy Abboud, a family spokesman, told Politico. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell 100 percent. For anyone to infer anything otherwise is wrong.”

Jewish leaders whom Adelson is close to last month excoriated McConnell when his former aides mounted a campaign against Bannon, alleging that he was an anti-Semite and a bigot.

Adelson’s announcement comes just one night after Bannon spoke at the annual gala of the Zionist Organization of America — a right-wing pro-Israel organization to which Adelson has long donated large sums.

Bannon was set to introduce Adelson and his wife, Miriam, but the couple did not attend the event. According to Politico, one person close to the family said Adelson was concerned that his making a public appearance with the former White House chief strategist would be perceived as approval for Bannon’s highly publicized endeavor to rock the Republican establishment.

Bannon nevertheless praised Adelson lavishly at the gala dinner.

Speaking at the Values Voters Summit last month, Bannon declared “war” on the Republican Party: “It’s not my war, this is our war and y’all didn’t start it, the establishment started it,” he said. “It’s a season of war against a GOP establishment.”

Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, speaks at the Macomb County Republican Party dinner in Warren, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (AP/Paul Sancya)

Adelson reportedly met with Bannon in October for several hours, as the Breitbart head openly courted wealthy donors to help with his offensive.

And yet Adelson, for his part, has not exactly been anti-establishment throughout his history of giving.

In the past, he has helped bankroll the Republican National Committee and scores of GOP candidates, like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

Adelson, who is Jewish, also contributes generously to the Republican Jewish Coalition and other pro-Israel groups.

Since Donald Trump made Bannon his campaign CEO in August 2016, and even after his ouster from the White House a year later, the head of the inflammatory Breitbart News site has been a major source of controversy.

He deemed his own website the “platform of the alt-right” — a loose collection of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hateful groups — and is seen as helping foment support for the future US president among that base. He has been accused of both anti-Semitism and of providing a platform for noxious views.

On Sunday night, he told the crowd at the ZOA gathering that he fully supported their cause, implicitly rebuffing those allegations. “I am not a moderate, I’m a fighter,” Bannon said. “That’s why I’m proud to stand with the State of Israel. That’s why I’m proud to be a Christian Zionist. ”

JTA contributed to this report.

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