President-elect Donald Trump announced Sunday that he has named prominent white nationalist Steve Bannon —the Breitbart News Network executive chairman who has been accused of anti-Semitism ― as “chief strategist and senior counselor” of his White House team. The appointment represents an infiltration of white supremacism into the highest levels of government that has not been seen since the pre-civil rights era.
Bannon, 62, was taking time off from Breitbart to serve as CEO of the Trump campaign before Sunday’s announcement giving him a senior leadership role in the incoming administration.
Trump also announced that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus would serve as his chief of staff.
“Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory,” Trump said in a press release announcing the appointments. “Now I will have them both with me in the White House as we work to make America great again.”
David Axelrod, who served as senior advisor to President Barack Obama during his first term, said via Twitter Sunday that picking Priebus over Bannon as chief of staff could signal Trump taking a more “conventional” approach, but later said that having Bannon in the White House at all was “deeply troubling.”
Bannon’s Breitbart has become, in his own words, “the platform for the alt-right,” the movement of far-right online white supremacy that has gained so much attention since Trump’s campaign. Bannon is a prominent admirer of Richard Bertrand Spencer, the bigoted white ultranationalist who coined the term alt-right and has become somewhat of a sage for the movement while advocating “peaceful ethnic cleansing”.
The Anti-Defamation league has called Bannon “a symbol of the new white supremacy” and the SPLC labeled him “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.” Bannon himself has reportedly said, rather paradoxically, that the only difference between himself and skinheads is “intelligence.”
Trump’s election has been greeted with euphoria from white supremacists around the country, with endorsements coming pouring in from the KKK and other hate groups. Speaking of Trump, Spencer himself said “He’s fighting for us. He’s saying we’re going to be great again.”
When such openly and proudly bigoted people are being chosen to run the country, it is no surprise that oppressed communities nationwide are genuinely frightened for their safety. The hundreds of hate crimes committed in the days since Trump’s election give an even stronger impetus to fight back against the agents of fascism that no longer lie dormant in the American body politic. We as a nation are truly entering new and dangerous territory, and we need to do everything we can to resist and stand up for human rights.
Actor Robert De Niro called Americans to “stay vigilant” under Trump.