22 July 2018
Stephen Bannon will serve as chief strategist and counselor in the incoming Trump administration. Photo: Reuters
Stephen Bannon will serve as chief strategist and counselor in the incoming Trump administration. Photo: Reuters

Trump’s pick of right-winger for White House job sparks outrage

Democrats, civil rights groups and some Republicans are criticizing US President-elect Donald Trump over his choice of right-wing firebrand Stephen Bannon as a key aide.

They said the appointment would elevate the white nationalist movement into the top levels of the White House, Reuters reports.

Making his first appointments since last week’s upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump picked Bannon as his chief strategist and counsellor and Washington insider Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, saying the two would share the task of steering his administration as “equal partners”.

Critics blasted the selection of Bannon, who spearheaded a shift of the Breitbart News website into a forum for the “alt-right,” a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who called on Trump to rescind the choice.

Democrats and advocacy groups on the left called Bannon a promoter of racism and misogyny who is backed by the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.

“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’,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.

Even some conservatives and Republicans voiced dismay.

Evan McMullin, who ran as a conservative independent presidential candidate, wondered on Twitter if any national Republican leaders would condemn the pick of “anti-Semite” Bannon.

John Weaver, a top strategist for Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, tweeted that the “racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America”.

Kasich was one of 16 Republican presidential hopefuls Trump defeated in the party primaries ahead of the election.

Priebus defended Bannon on Monday, calling him a wise and well-educated former naval officer and saying he had not encountered the sort of extremist or racist views that critics are assailing.

“He was a force for good on the campaign,” Priebus said on Fox News, adding they were in agreement on “almost everything” in terms of advising the president-elect.

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