The man considered by many to be a de-facto leader of the white supremacist alt-right movement is now the second-most powerful man in the White House.
President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday appointed Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon to serve as his chief strategist and senior counselor a decision that was widely rebuked by moderate Republicans, Democrats and civil rights organizations.
“Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,” the Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted on Sunday, linking to Breitbart articles under Bannon’s leadership with headlines including: “Hoist it High and Proud: the Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage,” written two weeks after the mass killing of Black parishioners at a church in Charleston last year.
The SPLC has identified Bannon as a member of a white nationalist hate group.
Meanwhile, a statement by Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Sunday said, “The ADL strongly opposes the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior advisor and chief strategist in the White House. It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.'”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alternative Right, or Alt-Right, “is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that ‘white identity’ is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.” SPLC adds that “racist ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas all key tenets making up [this] emerging racist ideology.”
“The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on AmericanIslamic Relations, in a statement Sunday. “We urge President-elect Trump to reconsider this ill-advised appointment if he truly seeks to unite Americans.”
Beyond civil rights groups, politicians from both sides of the aisle have decried Bannon’s appointment.
“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” said Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. “It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of white supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide.”
Rep. California Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted: “Selection of Steve Bannon for senior WH role unsurprising but alarming. His alt-right, anti-Semitic & misogynistic views don’t belong in WH.”
John Weaver, a veteran GOP strategist who advised Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, also weighed in, tweeting: “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America.”
According to the statement from Trump’s transition office, Bannon will serve alongside newly appointed White House Chief of Staff and former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus as “equal partners.” In fact, the statement listed Bannon’s new position first, indicating the new president places a higher value on that role.
Bannon has been known to admire, or at least push, the beliefs of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Under his leadership, a Breitbart headline called conservative commentator and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol a “Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” for not supporting Trump’s candidacy, and has been unflattering to women with headlines such as: “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.”
Bannon’s anti-Semitism was cited in court documents 10 years ago, when his ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard, whom he allegedly assaulted, said Bannon did not want their daughters attending a private school in Los Angeles because there were too many Jewish people.
Former House Speaker and staunch Trump loyalist Newt Gingrich on Sunday defended Bannon, saying he could not be anti-Semitic because he has worked in banking at Goldman Sachs and in the Hollywood film industry two industries typically associated with a high number of Jewish people and that conspiracy theorists point to as evidence that Jews control banking and the media.
Since Trump’s election early Wednesday morning and this past Friday, the SPLC said it had counted201incidents of election-related hateful harassment and intimidation across the country, including anti-Semitic, anti-Black, anti-woman and anti-LGBT incidents.