President-elect Donald Trump is facing a barrage of criticism for his decision to appoint Breitbart News chair Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist. Bannon, known for fostering the alt-right movement, is denounced by Democrats, advocacy groups and even conservatives as racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic.
"President-elect Trump's choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump's White House," Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), said in a statement released on Sunday (13 November).
"It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide," Jentleson added.
"Bannon was 'the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethanes-nationalist propaganda mill," noted hate-watch group, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), according to The Washington Post.
The SPLC then called on the president-elect to rescind his appointment. "Trump should rescind this hire. In his victory speech, Trump said he intended to be president for 'all Americans.' Bannon should go." A similar call was made by the Anti-Defamation League, which called on Trump to "appoint and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country's people".
According to CNN, several organisations have spoken out against Bannon's appointment. Those organisations include: SPLC, the Anti-Defamation League, J Street, The Council on American-Islamic Relations, People For the American Way, IfNotNot and Congressional Democrats.
According to The Washington Post, this is not the first time Bannon has been accused of being anti-Semitic. Court documents reveal his ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, accused Bannon of domestic violence and anti-Semitic language in 2007. Bannon has denied the allegations.
'He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening emails.'
– Ben Shapiro
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro also painted a grim picture of who Bannon is as an individual. "Bannon is a legitimately sinister figure," Shapiro wrote for the Daily Wire after Bannon joined the Trump campaign.
"Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon," he continued. "He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening emails. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he's an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination. Trump may be his final destination. Or it may not."
Trump's camp, meanwhile, has defended the president-elect's decision and pushed back on any accusations of Bannon's ties to the alt-right.
"[Bannon] has got a Harvard business degree. He's a Naval officer. He has success in entertainment. I don't know if you're aware of that. And he certainly was a Goldman Sachs managing partner," Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway said.
Conway's reference to Goldman Sachs appeared to echo arguments by Newt Gingrich, who claimed that Bannon could not be anti-Semitic because he worked with Goldman Sachs and Hollywood. Conway also pushed back on concerns of Bannon's work with the alt-right.
"I'm personally offended that you think I would manage a campaign where that would be one of the going philosophies. It was not," she said.