Trump selection draws fire
Jewish, Muslim groups denounce Stephen Bannon as ‘alt-right,’ racist
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.