The appointment of Steve Bannon -- former CEO of Breitbart News -- to be chief strategist and senior counsel in theTrump administration has aroused mixed feelings among politicians, world leaders and advocacy organizations.
Bannon, who has a Harvard M.B.A., is also a retired Naval officer and former Goldman Sachs managing partner, as well as former Hollywood producer. It is not this part of his resume that has prompted opposition, however. Many opposing Bannon’s new position point to an alleged record of anti-Semitic remarks. His ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, according to 2007 documents that resurfaced during the election, said Bannon refused to send his daughters to a particular school because of the number of Jews who attended it.
“He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews,” she said in the court declaration. “The biggest problem he had with Archer (School for Girls) is the number of Jews who attend,” she added.
Before those remarks came to light, however, Bannon’s opponents were already concerned about the way he ran Breitbart News, a right-wing media outlet that’s been accused of being an anti-Semitic, white nationalist, and racist. This, they say, should be reason enough to prevent Bannon from playing a large role in the White House.
Headlines that ran on Breitbart while Bannon was running the site include “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew;” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy;” and “The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off;” and “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?”
Among Bannon’s vocal critics is the National Jewish Democratic Council, a lobbying organization dedicated to promoting Jewish heritage in the political process.
“Enough is enough,” it said in a statement. “We had planned to withhold judgment on the president-elect, giving him time to make his administration appointments, but his choice of Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior adviser is wrong...His racism and anti-Semitism have no place in the White House, and he must step down.”
And the CEO of another Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted out his disapproval of Bannon’s new position:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is retiring this year after nearly three decades in public office, described Bannon’s appointment as a signal “that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House.”
Bannon’s appointment was welcomed overseas by Marion Le Pen, a member of France’s alt right Front National party.
And Bannon’s Breitbart colleagues also rushed to his defense.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump has a right to select whom he wants to his team. McCarthy also said he doesn’t know Bannon, but did speak with him Sunday. He urged those who remain concerned to refrain from rushing to judgment.
“You cannot judge everything that President-elect Trump is doing based on one person,” he told “CBS This Morning.” “For too long we’ve wanted to tear people down. I give people the benefit of the doubt. This country needs to focus on bringing people together.”
Trump’s transition team was asked by CBS News whether Bannon would, as critics have suggested, bring white nationalist views to the White House. Jason Miller, a spokesman for Donald Trump sent this reply, reported CBS News producer Arden Farhi:
“Here’s what folks need to know about Steve Bannon – he’s worked with people of all backgrounds and has embraced diversity throughout his career, not only as a Naval Officer, a VP at Goldman Sachs and the co-founder of a media empire – partnering with Andrew Breitbart, who was Jewish - Bannon is also one of the architects of President–elect Trump’s urban renewal policy agenda and a driving force behind the campaign trips to Flint and Mexico City.”
Miller’s statement went on to say that Bannon has worked to implement President-elect Trump’s vision of being a President for all Americans” and has helped him grow his African-American and Hispanic support, compared to the 2012 GOP ticket.
Mr. Trump formally announced Bannon as his chief strategist in a Sunday press release, in which he also confirmed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus would be his chief of staff.
Priebus spoke highly of his new partner in a Fox & Friends segment.
“I’ll tell you the Steve Bannon I know is a guy that is really on the same page with almost everything that I agree with as far as advising President-elect Trump,” he said. “I haven’t seen any of these things that people are crying out about. Look, it’s a good team. It works.”