Bannon reaction: Worry, ambivalence
Faso sidesteps issue; downstate counterpart ‘profoundly concerned’
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
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.
Stephen Bannon, center, leaves Trump Tower in New York City last Friday.