Conservative movement demands Trump rescind Bannon appointment
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Conservative movement demands Trump rescind Bannon appointment

Second largest denomination of American Jews 'compelled not to remain silent in the face of hate or the vilification of any group'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Stephen Bannon watches as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses the final rally of his 2016 presidential campaign at Devos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 7, 2016. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
Stephen Bannon watches as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses the final rally of his 2016 presidential campaign at Devos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 7, 2016. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

WASHINGTON — The Conservative Jewish movement added its voice to the choir of those opposing President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon to be his chief White House strategist.

In a statement released Friday, the member organizations of the second largest denomination of American Jews implored Trump to rescind his offer to have Bannon serve in his administration.

Bannon, the former head of the incendiary Breitbart News, a popular website for white nationalists, became Trump’s campaign CEO in August and has since been one of his closest and most loyal advisers.

But he also has a history of leading what he himself called “the platform of the alt-right,” which has been known to promote inflammatory content, promulgate conspiracy theories and attract an avid following of anti-Semitic readers.

The Conservative movement’s statement said its members were “heartened” by the incoming president’s victory speech, in which he pledged to “bind the wounds of division” but stated that affording someone like Bannon such proximity to power was beyond the pale.

“We must speak up,” the statement said, “in the face of President-elect Trump’s appointment of Stephen K. Bannon who, as head of the Breitbart News site, trafficked in white nationalism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and misogyny.”

The groups that signed on to the statement included: the Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Cantors Assembly, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

‘Any appointment made by a US president or president-elect must by definition exclude individuals who promote ideas that are antithetical to the values of our country.’

They described Breitbart as “an outlet for the alt-right, a movement that is contrary to both our American and Jewish values. We further affirm that any appointment made by a US president or president-elect must by definition exclude individuals who promote ideas that are antithetical to the values of our country.”

Under Bannon’s tenure, Brietbart pushed a nationalist agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the alt-right.

The website has been known for generating wide controversy. In March, it came under fire for a headline calling anti-Trump Republican Bill Kristol “a renegade Jew.”

In June 2015, shortly after an assailant who had taken pictures posing with a Confederate Flag murdered nine African-Americans in a mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina church, it posted an article with the headline: “Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage.”

A protest sign is held in the air at a protest against the appointment of white nationalist alt-right media mogul, former Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon, to be chief strategist of the White House by president-elect Donald Trump, near City Hall in Los Angeles, November 16, 2016. (AFP/DAVID MCNEW)
A protest sign is held in the air at a protest against the appointment of white nationalist alt-right media mogul, former Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon, to be chief strategist of the White House by president-elect Donald Trump, near City Hall in Los Angeles, November 16, 2016. (AFP/David McNew)

Since Trump announced Bannon’s new role in the administration — along with Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, who will be chief of staff — Democrats, Republicans and other Jewish organizations have castigated the move.

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said: “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier 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.'”

Bannon himself has also been accused of prejudice.

Court documents from 2007 revealed his ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard said that Bannon did not want their daughters attending a private school in Los Angeles — the Archer School for Girls — because he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews. According the court filings, Piccard stated: “He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats.’”

Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Bannon denied Piccard’s claim. “Mr. Bannon never said anything like that and proudly sent the girls to Archer for their middle school and high school education,” he said through a spokesperson in a statement issued to The Guardian.

Nevertheless, his leadership of Breitbart and the kind of online climate it fostered was fodder for the Conservative movement to oppose his ascension to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a position that requires no
Senate confirmation.

“As Jews, we are compelled not to remain silent in the face of hate or the vilification of any group,” the statement said. “Americans rightfully demand an unambiguous affirmation of the principles that have guided our country: tolerance, justice, freedom and respect for all people. The United States is a nation of all its people. We call upon President-elect Trump, therefore, to rescind this nomination.”

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