President-elect Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor and has recently elevated him to a permanent position on the National Security Council, an unprecedented move for a White House political operative. Bannon previously served as the Trump presidential campaign chief and before that, he was the executive chairman of the ultra-right wing website Breitbart News. Bannon’s appointment has been widely criticized across the political spectrum, primarily because of his associations with white nationalists and their views.
Bannon Described Breitbart News As ‘A Platform For The Alt-Right.’ The New York Times has described the “Alt-Right” as “a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media. To scroll through Breitbart headlines is to come upon a parallel universe where black people do nothing but commit crimes, immigrants rape native-born daughters, and feminists want to castrate all men.” According to the AP: “The ‘alt-right’ or ‘alternative right’ is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology …” [Mother Jones, 8/22/16; New York Times, 11/15/16; AP, 11/28/16]
The Southern Poverty Law Center Called Breitbart a ‘White Ethno-Nationalist Propaganda Mill.’ The SPLC vigorously opposes Bannon’s White House appointment, noting that “Under Bannon, Breitbart published a call to ‘hoist [the Confederate flag] high and fly it with pride’ only two weeks after the Charleston massacre when the country was still reeling from the horrors of the murders.” [SPLC; Twitter, 11/13/16]
Under Bannon’s Leadership, Breitbart Catered To Anti-Semitic Readers. The Intercept’s Robert Mackey noted that “under Bannon’s leadership, the site became wildly popular with anti-Semitic readers by aggressively marketing conspiracy theories about a ‘globalist’ financial and media elite of ‘puppet masters’ secretly running the world.” Other critics have pointed out a series of articles and headlines on Breitbart that they claim are anti-Semitic. [The Intercept, 11/16/16; Media Matters, 9/28/16; The Washington Post, 5/16/16]
Bannon’s Ex-Wife Claimed He ‘Doesn’t Like Jews.’ According to a sworn declaration in 2007, Bannon’s ex-wife claimed that Bannon “said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” [NBC News, 8/27/16]
Bannon Once Referred To Progressive Women As ‘A Bunch of Dykes.’ “Referring to Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin in a 2011 radio interview on Political Vindication Radio, he said: ‘These women cut to the heart of the progressive narrative. That’s why there are some unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement. That, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane, and that’s why they hate these women.'” [The New York Times, 11/14/16]
Bannon Views The American Civil War Through A White Supremacist Lens. Bannon “has referred to the Civil War as the ‘war of Southern Independence’ fought over ‘economic development.'” [The Washington Post, 8/24/16]
Bannon Is A Self-Described Leninist. Bannon once said in 2013: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” [The Daily Beast, 8/22/16]
Bannon Wants To Align the U.S. With Far-Right European Political Parties. The Washington Post reported that “an American president-elect [is] seeking to forge relationships with ultranationalist and populist factions overseas that are often sharply critical of their countries’ governments. It also raised the question of whether Trump and his representatives have been reaching out to foreign populist parties before first reaching out to foreign heads of state.” Meanwhile, according to the Daily Beast, Bannon, “is right now the direct line between the European far-right and Donald J. Trump, leader of the free world.” [The Washington Post, 11/12/16; The Daily Beast, 11/13/16]
White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, A Former KKK Leader All Praised Bannon’s White House Appointment. The American Nazi Party chair said “Perhaps The Donald IS for ‘REAL’ and is not going to be another controlled puppet directed by the usual ‘Wire Pullers,’ and does indeed intend to ROCK the BOAT? Time will tell.” Former KKK leader David Duke said “Bannon has really been right on about a lot of issues facing European-Americans,” while White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer said “‘Strategist’ is the best possible position for Steve Bannon in the Trump White House.” [CNN, 11/15/16; Media Matters, 11/14/16]
J Street And The Anti-Defamation League Oppose Bannon. “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,’ said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. J Street said in a statement that Bannon’s “appointment to serve in such a senior White House position is alarming and unacceptable. It sends the message that the views and policy preferences of the ‘alt-right’ will be respected and taken seriously in the White House.” [ADL, 11/13/16; J Street, 11/14/16]
169 House Democrats Called On Trump To Rescind Bannon Appointment. “Disturbingly, leading white supremacists like former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke, American Nazi Party Chairman Rocky J. Suhadya, Richard Spencer, Peter Brimelow, and Brad Griffin have praised the news of Mr. Bannon’s appointment. We believe it should concern you that civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, are widely opposed to Mr. Bannon’s appointment.” [Talking Points Memo, 11/16/16]
Other Prominent Democrats Have Called On Trump To Let Go of Bannon. “Steve Bannon is the executive chairman of a website that deals in anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic comments,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said. “He should have no place in a position of public trust, and I hope that the President-elect will reconsider and reverse this decision.” Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman said the Bannon pick “signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House.” [Newsweek, 11/15/16; Twitter, 11/13/16]
Conservatives Also Criticize Trump’s Ties to Bannon: ‘He Is A Terrifying Man.’ “Broad swaths of the alt-right…believe in a creed-free, race-based nationalism, insisting, among other things, that birth on American soil confers superiority. … It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism,” said former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro. A top staffer to former GOP presidential contender Gov. John Kasich tweeted, “Just to be clear news media, the next president named a racist, anti-Semite as the co-equal of the chief of staff.” Meanwhile conservative firebrand Glenn Beck said, “Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists. Clear tie. He’s built Breitbart as a platform for the alt-right. He is on record saying that. He’s on record defining the alt-right. He knows what it is. He is a guy who wants to tear this system down and replace it with a new system. He is a frightening…no, he is a terrifying man. A terrifying man.” [The Washington Post, 8/18/16; Twitter, 11/13/16; Right Wing Watch, 11/14/16]
This post was updated on Jan. 31, 2017 to include the AP’s style guide report on the “alt-right.”
This post was updated on Feb 3, 2017 to note that Trump installed Bannon on the National Security Council. The headline has also been changed to reflect that update.