Trump se­lec­tion draws fire

Jewish, Mus­lim groups de­nounce Stephen Ban­non as ‘alt-right,’ racist

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Evan Halper Los An­ge­les Times staff writ­ers Michael A. Me­moli and Robin Ab­car­ian and As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

WASH­ING­TON — Stephen Ban­non was one of Don­ald Trump’s clos­est con­fi­dants and most de­ter­mined field lieu­tenants through­out the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign; now he has be­come Pres­i­dent- elect Trump’s first ma­jor post­elec­tion po­lit­i­cal prob­lem.

The an­gry back­lash against Trump’s an­nounce­ment that the Bre­it­bart News ex­ec­u­tive would serve as his chief White House strate­gist gave dispir­ited Democrats and other crit­ics of the pres­i­dent-elect a ral­ly­ing point Mon­day. Main­stream Jewish and Mus­lim groups warned that Trump was el­e­vat­ing an en­thu­si­as­tic pro­moter of white na­tion­al­ism to a desk steps from the Oval Of­fice.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers were not in­clined to de­fend Ban­non. “I’ve never met the guy,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on CNN, adding that “I trust Don­ald’s judg­ment.”

“I do not know Steve Ban­non,” House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin Mc­Carthy, RCalif., said as he re­peat­edly par­ried ques­tions from re­porters at a Mon­day news con­fer­ence Mon­day.

That re­luc­tance to ac­tively de­fend Trump’s choice came as no sur­prise. Ban­non is, after all, a man who­said in a 2004in­ter­view with the Daily Beast that “I want to bring ev­ery­thing crash­ing down, and de­stroy all of to­day’s es­tab­lish­ment.”

He re­peat­edly has made clear that he does not ex­empt the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship from that de­sired fate.

The fight over his ap­point­ment un­der­scored the con­tin­ued ten­sion be­tween the party lead­er­ship and Trump. The pres­i­dent-elect clearly val­ues Ban­non’s strategic ad­vice and re­lied heav­ily on him to pi­lot his cam­paign in its clos­ing months. But whether Trump­can­nav­i­gate the con­flict within the party — and what role Ban­non plays in do­ing so — could be cen­tral to whether the new ad­min­is­tra­tion can suc­ceed.

All that left Ban­non where he has been through­out his ca­reer — in a bunker ex­chang­ing fire with what he de­ri­sively calls the forces of “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.”

The rage that many civil rights ac­tivists and lead­ers of mi­nor­ity groups have to­ward Ban­non has been swelling for years, long be­fore Trump brought him into the in­ner sanc­tum of his op­er­a­tion.

For many, Ban­non per­son­i­fies the so-called “al­tright,” which the Anti-Defama­tion League, in a state­ment Sun­day night, de­nounced as “a loose-knit Stephen Ban­non has been named chief White House strate­gist by Don­ald Trump. group of white na­tion­al­ists and un­abashed anti-Semites and racists.”

In­deed, Ban­non’s ap­point­ment to Trump’s cam­paign had drawn praise from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and neoNazi or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Ban­non, who has been fight­ing the forces of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and the coun­try club pol­i­tics of the Repub­li­can party es­tab­lish­ment for years, has been ag­gres­sively seek­ing out rum­bles since he was a kid in Rich­mond, Va.

His fa­ther, Martin, still lives in the neigh­bor­hood. His younger brother, Mike, re­cently re­counted to the lo­cal news­pa­per howhe was con­stantly get­ting called to the pool as a teenager to drag his brother out of a fight.

Ban­non signed up for the Navy di­rectly out of col­lege, be­came an of­fi­cer, left in 1983 for Har­vard Busi­ness School, then landed a job at Gold­man Sachs. His sub­se­quent years in in­vest­ment bank­ing made him rich, and Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion cred­its added yet more in­trigue to his biog­ra­phy.

He picked up some­thing else, as well: His ex­pe­ri­ences with the self-sat­is­fied na­ture of Amer­ica’s fi­nan­cial and cul­tural elites made him an­gry, he says.

“I went to Har­vard Busi­ness School, worked at Gold­man Sachs,” he told a Los An­ge­les Times re­porter in 2010. “I know about elites. ...They hold the ba­sic heart­land of this coun­try in contempt.”

Ban­non be­came a close friend and pa­tron of An­drew Bre­it­bart, and took over oper­a­tions of his news or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2012, when Bre­it­bart died sud­denly of heart fail­ure at age 43.

One Bre­it­bart writer de­clared “Amer­ica has a Mus­lim prob­lem” and made clear he was not talk­ing about ex­trem­ist Mus­lims, but all Mus­lims. Ben Shapiro, a former writer for Bre­it­bart, de­scribed it as a plat­form for “white eth­nona­tion­al­ism” and a “cesspool for white su­prem­a­cist meme mak­ers.”

“There are no Nazis here, no white na­tion­al­ists here,” said Joel Pollak, a Bre­it­bart jour­nal­ist in Cal­i­for­nia who is an Ortho­dox Jew, of the Bre­it­bart news­room. “We are what we have al­ways been, a voice for con­ser­va­tive move­ment.”

Mean­while Mon­day, former New York Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani has emerged as the fa­vorite to be sec­re­tary of state in Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, a se­nior Trump of­fi­cial said Mon­day night.


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