ROME—At first Steve Bannon looked a little out of place sitting at a massive desk inside the antique Angelica Library, a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona. But when one knows that scenes from Angels & Demons were filmed here, it starts to make a little more sense.
A guest of a conservative Italian group called Lettera 22, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump was here to talk about the importance of populism in upcoming European parliamentary elections but was happy to take a question on the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“Beto on the ticket with Harris is the most dangerous ticket for Trump,” he said, referring to O’Rourke and Kamala Harris, who are running to unseat his boss.
“But don’t forget, the vampire is still alive: Hillary Clinton,” Bannon said. He then mused how someone might “drive a stake through her heart.”
Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, saved his best vitriol for Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who happens to be in Rome as well.
“He’s not here because of a port on the Adriatic,” he said, referring to China’s trillion-dollar investment called the “Belt and Road” plan, which Italy’s prime minister will sign on to Friday with a memorandum of understanding.
“He’s here to conquer all. Xi is a totalitarian dictator of the cruelest system in the world.” And he says Xi’s plan is to “break the West” with everything from 5g cellphone technology to cheap made-in-China goods for America’s underpaid population.
Bannon also had harsh words for Pope Francis, who he says has signed a secret deal with China.
“I’m a practicing Catholic,” he said to snickers in the crowd. “The pope and his henchmen have sold out the Catholic Church to communist China.”
Bannon has made Rome a second home of sorts as he works to fuel the flame of far-right populism across Europe. He has spoken in Rome no less than three times in the past year, at far-right conferences favoring fascists, always cashing in on his Trump campaign currency which is increasingly nothing more than loose change.