House Democrats on Wednesday urged President-elect Donald Trump to rescind the appointment of Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as a senior White House adviser.
A letter signed by 169 out of the 188 Democrats in the House, said the appointment of conservative flame-thrower Bannon undermines Trump’s ability to unite the country. It pointed out stories from the website that are derogatory toward Jews and Muslims, among other groups.
“Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump Administration and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns,” the letter said.
Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I, organized the effort. “Bigotry, anti-Semitism and xenophobia should have no place in our society,” he said.
Since Trump announced Bannon’s appointment — along with naming Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff — Republicans, Democrats and various Jewish organizations have denounced the decision, saying that Bannon represents a brand of populist nationalism that emboldens racists and should not be near the Oval Office.
On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League slammed Bannon’s appointment, with CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calling him “hostile to core American values.”
Later, California Representative Adam Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Bannon’s “alt-right, anti-Semitic and misogynistic views don’t belong” in the White House.
Breitbart News, one of the most vociferously pro-Trump outlets during the presidential campaign, has been accused of racism and Islamophobia. Jewish critics have also accused it of anti-Semitism.
As executive chairman of Breitbart News from 2012, Bannon pushed a nationalist agenda and turned the publication into what he called “the platform for the alt-right,” a movement associated with white supremacist ideas that oppose multiculturalism.
The alt-right is an amorphous designation that includes among its ranks an array of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. A recent Anti-Defamation League report found that a dramatic spike in anti-Semitic harassment of journalists during the election was carried out by self-identified alt-right Trump backers.
The website has been known for incendiary content that generated 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.”
Bannon himself has been personally accused of prejudice. According to court documents obtained by The Associated Press, Bannon’s ex-wife said in a sworn declaration the Brietbart editor made anti-Semitic remarks when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago. Bannon has denied the allegations against him.
The controversial appointment of Bannon has been hailed by a number of white supremacist leaders, including former KKK leader David Duke reportedly praising Bannon’s promotion as an “excellent” decision.
The Trump transition team remains on a tight deadline to make a host of crucial decisions about the incoming president’s top staff and cabinet, which consists of the heads of 15 executive departments. They must also hire more than 4,000 people — roughly 1,000 of whom will require Senate confirmation.
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