LAS VEGAS—Mark Cuban has a theory about Donald Trump. “I can’t think of a single benefit to him of offering the excuse that the election is rigged,” Cuban told me. “But who I can think of a benefit to is Breitbart.”
The CEO of Trump’s campaign, Steve Bannon, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart’s parent company.
“When you think about it, if he loses and the election is rigged, it’s the ultimate story,” Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and onetime Trump buddy who has been one of the GOP nominee’s most vociferous critics this cycle, continued. “ ‘We were there when the election was rigged, we had behind-the-scenes access. Come to Breitbart, come to our Breitbart TV online.’ ”
Basically, Cuban said, Bannon is working Trump.
“I literally think Steve and his crew is smarter than Donald, they’re using him, this will go down in history as the one time one of the two party presidential candidates has been played and played like a puppet,” he said.
One potential personal benefit of Trump claiming that the election will be stolen from him—as he has suggested for the past several weeks and hinted at since August—is that a guy who loses a stolen election is not really a loser. President Barack Obama more or less diagnosed Trump’s whining as sore-loser syndrome in a thoughtful and brutal takedown of the vote-rigging talk on Tuesday. Cuban sees it differently, though.
“I think there’s more to it,” he said. “I see President Obama’s perspective, but again, I think he’s the puppet, Steve Bannon is playing the strings, because if you think about all of these conspiracy theories, who does it benefit? There’s absolutely nothing that benefits Donald Trump by any of those comments?”
Cuban seemed completely sincere in this belief, but it did have the added bonus of depicting Trump as an incompetent Muppet, something Cuban has enjoyed doing ever since he started voicing his displeasure at Trump’s candidacy.
The actual billionaire added that he wasn’t concerned that Trump’s “rigged” talk would rile up supporters in a potentially risky way after the election.
“Breitbart’s going to do what Breitbart does, and if you’re in that ecosystem, if you’re in that echo chamber, no matter what happens, you’re still going to believe all that,” he said. “If he loses? I’m more concerned about violence if he wins.”
Cuban also scoffed at reports that Trump would try to get a TV network off the ground after the election.
“First, it’s hard,” he said. “I don’t think it’s Donald Trump trying to start a media network. I think if anybody, it’s Breitbart. Donald Trump can be a commentator.”
“It’s not like when Fox launched in 1995 and they paid $10 a month to get on with a 20-year deal,” he told me. “The world has changed for TV dramatically, so none of that seems to make a lot of sense.”
I asked Cuban about his comments to CNN that he knew of two women who were abused by Trump. Both women wanted to remain anonymous. Why would he say that if they didn’t want to come forward?
“Because it’s true,” he said. “I was asked a question [about whether I believed the allegations], I didn’t go in looking to respond.
“I was asked a question: Did I think that these allegations were true and had a basis? And I said yes, because I know of two women, they weren’t sexually assaulted, but they had very negative experiences with him.”
What about the allegations against Bill Clinton?
“I haven’t talked to any of those women,” he said. “I don’t know. He’s not running for president.”