Ban­non re­ac­tion: Worry, am­biva­lence

Faso side­steps is­sue; down­state coun­ter­part ‘pro­foundly con­cerned’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

A Lower Hud­son Val­ley con­gress­woman says she is “pro­foundly con­cerned” by Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump’s ap­point­ment of a man cel­e­brated by the white na­tion­al­ist move­ment to be chief strate­gist and se­nior ad­viser. But the Mid-Hud­son re­gion’s con­gress­man-elect says he doesn’t “have any re­ac­tion” to the move.

“This is a ten­u­ous time in our coun­try fol­low­ing a his­toric elec­tion that split the pop­u­lar vote from the Elec­toral Col­lege,” Rep. Nita Lowey, a Westch­ester County Demo­crat, said in a pre­pared state­ment. “If Pres­i­dent-elect Trump wants to ful­fill his prom­ise of be­ing a leader for all Amer­i­cans, he must re­frain from di­vid­ing us any fur­ther. That is why I am pro­foundly con­cerned that one of the pres­i­dent-elect’s first ap­point­ments is Steve Ban­non, a well-known sup­porter of alt-right, ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy in­clud­ing white na­tion­al­ism and anti-Semitism.

“In the last week, we’ve al­ready seen re­ports of ris­ing van­dal­ism and in­tim­i­da­tion across the coun­try, in­clud­ing swastikas graf­fi­tied on schools and side­walks — even in my own district on the Bronx River bike path,” said Lowey, who is Jewish. She said such be­hav­ior is “un­ac­cept­able [and] it must be univer­sally de­nounced and stopped.”

John Faso, who was elected last week to suc­ceed re­tir­ing Rep. Chris Gib­son in New York’s 19th Con­gres­sional District, said Tues­day that his fo­cus has been on be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with the job of con­gress­man, not

Trump’s ap­point­ment of Ban­non or oth­ers.

“I haven’t fo­cused on any of that,” said Faso, a Columbia County Repub­li­can, reached by phone dur­ing an ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion for in­com­ing mem­bers of the House. “Frankly, I’ve been com­pletely fo­cused on do­ing my ori­en­ta­tion. So I don’t have any re­ac­tion to it.”

Asked if he was fa­mil­iar with Ban­non, Faso said: “Barely.”

“I don’t know what the truth or fal­sity is of any of the al­le­ga­tions, whether that truly re­flects his view point or point of view,” Faso said. “I just don’t have a ba­sis on which I can give you an in­formed com­ment.”

Ban­non led the rightwing news web­site Bre­it­bart.com be­fore join­ing Trump’s cam­paign in Au­gust. Un­der Ban­non’s ten­ure, Bri­et­bart pushed a na­tion­al­ist agenda and be­came one of the lead­ing out­lets of the so-called alt-right — a move­ment of­ten as­so­ci­ated with white su­prem­a­cist ideas that op­pose mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and de­fend “Western val­ues.”

Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid on Tues­day called for Trump to re­scind Ban­non’s ap­point­ment.

“As long as a cham­pion of racial divi­sion is a step away from the Oval Of­fice, it would be im­pos­si­ble to take Trump’s ef­forts to heal the na­tion se­ri­ously,” Reid said.

After join­ing Trump’s team, Ban­non pushed the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee to adopt more pop­ulist rhetoric and paint ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton as part of a global con­spir­acy made up of the po­lit­i­cal, fi­nan­cial and me­dia elite, bankers bent on op­press­ing the coun­try’s work­ing peo­ple — a mes­sage that car­ried Trump to the White House but, to some, car­ried

anti-Semitic un­der­tones.

Lowey said she hopes Trump “rec­og­nize that words mat­ter” and that he does “ev­ery­thing in his power to com­bat an­tiSemitism, in­tol­er­ance and big­otry, in­clud­ing re­plac­ing Ban­non with a qual­i­fied can­di­date.”

An ex-wife of Ban­non said he ex­pressed fear of Jews when the two bat­tled over send­ing their daugh­ters to pri­vate school nearly a decade ago, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers. In a sworn court dec­la­ra­tion fol­low­ing their di­vorce, Mary Louise Pic­card said her ex-hus­band had ob­jected to send­ing their twin daugh­ters to an elite Los An­ge­les acad­emy be­cause he “didn’t want the girls go­ing to school with Jews.”

A spokes­woman for Ban­non de­nies he made those state­ments.

Faso noted that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said last week that “the pres­i­dent, any pres­i­dent, gets to pick the staff that he or she wants.”

“We let gover­nors and ex­ec­u­tives and may­ors and pres­i­dents pick their lead­er­ship staffs that they choose be­cause that’s their pre­rog­a­tive,” Faso said.

Faso last month de­clined to say whether he would vote for Trump in the wake of a decade­old record­ing sur­fac­ing in which Trump said his celebrity gave him the power to grab women’s gen­i­tals with­out their con­sent.

But, he said, “th­ese are the kind of things that, if I had a 9-year-old daugh­ter to­day, I’d be shield­ing that kind of news­pa­per story from her view. It’s the kind of thing that par­ents don’t want to have in front of their kids.”

Mid-Hud­son News Net­work, The As­so­ci­ated Press and correspondent Wil­liam J. Kem­ble con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AP FILE

Stephen Ban­non, cen­ter, leaves Trump Tower in New York City last Fri­day.

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