Steve Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial choice for chief White House strategist, will not attend a conference at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics this week, school officials said Tuesday.
A Kennedy School spokesman did not say why Bannon had canceled.
School officials had defended the institute’s decision to invite to the conference guests who “spurred strong reactions” after students said they planned to protest Bannon’s arrival.
Dean Doug Elmendorf, in prepared remarks he plans to read at the start of the conference Wednesday, explained that guests are welcomed to the school 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.”
Inviting people with “deep differences in worldviews” is not an endorsement of their values, he said.
“In fact, the school takes no positions on specific issues in public policy beyond those directly relevant to the school itself, so we never endorse speakers’ or conference participants’ views, and we deliberately invite guests who represent a wide range of views on many issues,” he said.
Bannon, a Harvard Business School graduate who was executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website that has been called a platform for the alt-right, a movement tied to racist and anti-Semitic views, was listed as a “confirmed participant” at the “Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2016,” a two-day event. He was not on the agenda of speakers.
The Institute of Politics has hosted the conference for people who have played key roles in an election campaign every four years since 1972.
A second member of Trump’s team is still expected to participate at the political gathering. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, is slated to speak at a forum Thursday night titled “War Stories: Inside Campaign 2016,” alongside Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.
The forum will be broadcast on CNN Sunday evening.
On Monday, Kennedy School students and community groups began planning a protest of Bannon’s visit, saying the school was “normalizing” the rhetoric of the Trump administration and what Bannon stands for.
“This event needs to be disrupted,” one person wrote on a Facebook page for the protest. “No platform for fascists!”
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 900 people said they would attend the rally.
Organizers said the protest would continue even though Bannon will no longer attend.
Elmendorf said inviting certain guests to the conference helps shine a light on crucial issues in public policy and leadership.
“We invite to the Kennedy School speakers and conference participants whose actions and words have mattered in the world — for good and for bad, depending on one’s perspective,” he said.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.