Bannon backlash: Outrage mounts over Trump’s ‘chief strategist’ pick

Stephen K. Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump's chief strategist, previously served as CEO of Trump's campaign © Carlo Allegri
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is facing a social media backlash from Democrats and civil rights groups. They are now urging Trump to dump his “racist” campaign chief.

Bannon, the chief executive of Breitbart News, became CEO of Trump’s campaign in August, replacing Paul Manafort. Trump named Bannon his “chief strategist” on Sunday, while making Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus his chief of staff.

On Monday, leading Democrats denounced Bannon as a divisive pick and proof that Trump’s campaign was based on bigotry. Two major civil rights organizations also denounced Bannon, accusing him of racism and anti-Semitism.

“It is easy to see why the [Ku Klux Klan] views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

Reid, who is retiring from the Senate after 25 years, has already denounced the president-elect as “a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.”

Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, likewise condemned the appointment as an “alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”

“There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration,” Pelosi said on Monday.

Several other Democratic lawmakers joined in, with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley demanding that Trump “forcefully denounce the hateful actions and efforts to intimidate people that some of his supporters are undertaking and rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon.”

Bannon “has no business in the White House,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center, accusing the Breitbart executive of publishing white nationalist, racist and anti-Muslim articles.

Jonathan Greenblat, of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was a “sad day” when a man who led the “premier website of the 'alt-right' – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists” is about to become a senior White House staff member.

Bannon’s defenders in the Trump camp have rejected the accusations, however. Columnist David Horowitz said he was the one who wrote the article cited as proof of Bannon’s purported anti-Semitism, along with the headline, “Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”

“I would write it again in a heartbeat. I would write it the same way and with the same headline,” Horowitz said. “The losers of the left… have lost all connection to reality and are now hyping their most ludicrously paranoid fantasies.”

Bannon has not commented so far on the firestorm over his appointment. The former US Navy officer worked for Goldman Sachs before becoming a media broker in the 1990s, making millions of dollars off of Seinfeld royalties.

“One of the things Goldman teaches you is, don’t be the first guy through the door because you’re going to get all the arrows,” he told Bloomberg Politics in a profile published in October 2015.