LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — After years of operating on the far-right fringe of American politics, Stephen Bannon will be one of the most influential members in the White House as he was appointed as chief strategist and senior counsel in the Donald Trump administration.
Several hatewatch groups are denouncing Trump’s pick as chief strategist and expressing their concerns about Bannon’s ties to the alt-right movement.
Bannon was brought on as CEO of the Trump campaign in August.
He came in as the head of the right-wing website Brietbart News, which has a nationalist, populist reputation and is known for controversial headlines including “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew;” “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy;” “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off;” and “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”
Bannon has also made it his mission to take down the establishment wing of the Republican Party, and his No. 1 target is House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican party and get those guys heeding to. And if we have to, we’ll take it over,” Bannon told The Atlantic in a 2010 interview.
“If you’re fighting to take this country back, it’s not going to be sunshine and patriots; it’s going to be people who want to fight. I mean Andrew Brietbart was all about the fight. In fact, we call ourselves internally the fight club,” Bannon said in 2013.
Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, defended Bannon. “I worked very closely with Steve Bannon. He’s been the general of this campaign. And frankly, people should look at the full resume. He’s got a Harvard business degree. He’s a Naval officer. He has success in entertainment. And he certainly was a Goldman Sachs managing partner, brilliant tactician.”
Bannon has also been surrounded by controversy in his private life. In 2007, his ex-wife accused him of domestic violence and making anti-Semitic remarks.
A court document said: “He doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
But Bannon’s camp denied he ever made that statement.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles, said he is not a fan of members of the alt-right movement or the alt-left.
He has this advice for President-Elect Trump’s newly named chief strategist: “Bannon has to know as follows: He’s the senior counselor to the president. And the president’s son-in-law is an Orthodox Jew. And the president’s daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism. So I do not believe that he’s going to be, you know – can’t wait until I get to my office so I can spout some more anti-Semitism.”
“It’s definitely a controversial appointment. We’ll have to wait and see. If he crosses the line, he’ll hear from us immediately. He won’t hear from us in the mail, he’ll hear from us publicly,” the rabbi assured.
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted his disapproval of Bannon’s new position.
Bannon’s Breitbart colleagues also rushed to his defense.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement about Bannon’s appointment. It reads in part: “Bringing Steve Bannon into the White House is an alarming signal that President-Elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign. There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to CBS News’ request to interview Bannon. Asked whether he would bring white nationalist views to the White House, a Trump spokesman said: “Nothing could be further from the truth, and it’s irresponsible to even make such a baseless accusation.”