Antidiscrimination groups denounce Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon

·Reporter

Civil rights groups quickly denounced Donald Trump’s Sunday announcement that Steve Bannon would be his chief strategist in the White House.

Prior to joining Trump’s presidential campaign this August, Bannon had been at the helm of Breitbart News, which has taken credit for helping make “the platform for the alt-right.” Many critics pointed to Bannon’s role at Breitbart when blasting Trump for picking him to help lead his upcoming administration.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) slammed the appointment of “Islamophobe, White nationalist Bannon.” The group said Bannon helped promote a “dark and paranoid picture” of Muslim Americans through the Breitbart News website and Bannon’s own radio show.

“The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director. “We urge President-elect Trump to reconsider this ill-advised appointment if he truly seeks to unite Americans.”

The Anti-Defamation League echoed CAIR’s condemnation of Bannon’s appointment in a statement of its own.

“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,’” read the Sunday statement from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Meanwhile, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit that tracks extremist groups, said that when “news of Bannon’s appointment hit white supremacist websites last night, forums like Stormfront erupted in celebration.”

“In his victory speech, Trump pledged to be the president for ‘all Americans’ and to ‘bind the wounds of division’ in our country. Appointing someone like Bannon, who will have the president-elect’s ear every single day, makes a mockery of that pledge,” Cohen continued.

During the presidential campaign, Democrat Hillary Clinton also sought to connect Trump to some of the provocative and caustic stories on Breitbart.

The alt-right — a nebulous coalition of white nationalist bloggers, academics and radio hosts connected by a common desire to protect white American culture from what they perceive as the threat of multiculturalism — had been a relatively stable source of support for Donald Trump throughout much of his presidential campaign.

Last week, leaders of the movement like Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, celebrated Trump’s election as a victory for white Americans.

Spencer, often credited as the founder of the alt-right, praised Bannon’s White House appointment on Twitter:

Trump had, on occasion and under pressure, attempted to distance himself publicly from his far-right fan base, but for many, Bannon’s role as chief strategist seemed to solidify the influence this once fringe movement would have in the Trump White House.

Republican National Committee chairman and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus defended Bannon’s appointment on ‘Good Morning America’ on Monday.

“This is a very, very smart person,” said Priebus of Bannon, dismissing the charges of racism and anti-Semitism against him.

“I don’t know where they’re coming from,” he said. “That’s not the Steve Bannon I know.”