President-elect Donald Trump’s first White House hire tells you everything you need to know about his commitment to his campaign’s bigoted message. Stephen Bannon, an anti-Semite who ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart News before taking a leave of absence to become the Trump campaign CEO, will be Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor.
On November 13, Trump released a statement announcing Bannon’s hiring. The same statement noted that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus would become Trump’s chief of staff. While White House chief of staff is typically the most senior position in the White House, the press release named Bannon first and described the two as “equal partners” in the Trump administration.
Bannon has been a key figure in leveraging this bigotry to aid Trump’s rise to power. Bannon bragged during the Republican Convention to nominate Trump that Breitbart News had become home to the “alt-right” -- which is just a racist code word for white nationalists. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has featured racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and anti-LGBT rhetoric. The site recently made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Before he died, Andrew Breitbart himself reportedly called Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl of the tea party movement.”
Bannon’s Breitbart News especially has come under fire for its rampant anti-Semitism. In May, contributor David Horowitz wrote a piece calling The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.” In September, Breitbart News writer Matthew Tyrmand called Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum a “political revisionist” who was “on the warpath against the rising populist forces doing electoral damage to her establishment friends and allies across the world,” adding, “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” In August, former Breitbart News writer Ben Shapiro accused the website of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.” Bannon’s anti-Semitism goes deeper than just Breitbart. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted on Twitter after today’s announcement, Bannon’s ex-wife swore in court that “he said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. Indeed, Esquire politics contributor Charles Pierce even compared Bannon with David Duke
Let us be clear. The hiring of Steve Bannon as a WH policy adviser is exactly the same as hiring David Duke. Please don't normalize this.
— Charles P. Pierce (@ESQPolitics) November 13, 2016
Republican strategist John Weaver agreed, adding:
Just to be clear news media, the next president named a racist, anti-semite as the co-equal of the chief of staff. #NotNormal
— John Weaver (@JWGOP) November 13, 2016
There are also significant issues with how Bannon ran Breitbart News. Breitbart News staffers alleged that Trump -- with the cooperation of Bannon and other top management -- paid the website for favorable news coverage and to turn it into “his own fan website.” Former spokesman Kurt Bardella told Media Matters that Bannon is a ““pathological liar who has a temperament that governs by bullying and intimidation and functions very much like a dictator at Breitbart.”
Recently, Bannon has characterized the rise of Trump as part of a global nationalist movement, telling the radio show Breitbart News Daily on November 2, that “people want more control of their country. … They want sovereignty. It’s not just a thing that’s happening in any one geographic space.” His website has promoted Trump-style far-right political parties across Europe. In the past week, Bannon has reached out to France’s right-wing Nationalist Front movement, and according to The Daily Beast, he is “right now the direct line between the European far-right and Donald J. Trump.”
The hires of Bannon and Priebus together signal that Trump’s White House will combine the traditional Republicanism of Priebus with Bannon’s brand of ethno-nationalism. Prominent Republican figures like Speaker Paul Ryan are signaling that they will allow the normalization of such a figure, openly praising Priebus’ hiring while ignoring Bannon rather than speaking out against him. Just today on CNN, Paul Ryan said he had never met Bannon, had no comment on him serving in Trump’s White House, but declared that he “trusted” Trump. Ryan’s agnosticism about Bannon beggars belief: Breitbart News under Bannon had led a multi-year campaign against Ryan, including declaring Ryan a Clinton supporter who shares her “globalist worldview” just weeks ago.
Less than a week after Trump’s electoral victory, many reporters still seem confused about just what will come from a Trump administration. If they want to know what Trump truly has in mind for the country, they need to look at Bannon and his bigoted website.