The news that President-elect Donald Trump has appointed known anti-semite and white nationalist Steve Bannon to the position of chief strategist is not only raising serious concerns among minorities and rights groups within the U.S. but it also appears to be explicitly linking the global alt-right movement with the White House.
Late Sunday, the Trump transition team announced that Bannon, executive chairman of far-right Breitbart News and CEO of the Trump campaign, will serve as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president, working as an “equal partner” with Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus, who is being appointed White House chief of staff.
Leading rights groups were immediately alarmed. “In President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon—a leading white nationalist—as chief strategist, we are seeing a confirmation of exactly what Trump promised throughout his campaign: the open endorsement of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and antisemitism,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) echoed these concerns, saying that Bannon’s appointment “sends the disturbing message that…[w]hite nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House.”
Under Bannon’s leadership, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website,” said Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer who formerly worked for the news outlet but quit over its allegiance to the Trump campaign.
Since Bannon took over as executive chairman, “[t]he outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas—all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,'” wrote the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog last spring.
The mainstreaming of these ideas, Hatewatch noted, has occurred “much to the delight of many in the white nationalist world who could never dream of reaching such a vast number of people.”
Now it appears that with Bannon by the incoming president’s side, “[Breitbart] will be as close as we are ever going to have—hopefully—to a state-run media enterprise,” said Kurt Bardella, a former Breitbart spokesperson.
What’s more, Breitbart is seeking to expand globally to chronicle, and bolster, the rise of the alt-right.
“There is talk of Breitbart bureaus opening in Paris, Berlin, and Cairo, spots where the populist right is on the rise. A bigger newsroom is coming in Washington, the better to cover a president-elect whose candidacy it embraced,” according to a New York Times report on Sunday, which Breitbart re-posted.
The site’s editor, Alexander Marlow, told the newspaper that Breitbart’s “international expansion was tied to upcoming elections in France and Germany,” the Times reported.
“There’s an underserved readership” in Europe, Marlow said.
Further, Marlow said that the alt-right news site planned to support the candidacy of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party.
But as The Daily Beast‘s Christopher Dickey and Asawin Suebsaeng reported Sunday:
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Bannon’s support for European far-right parties runs far deeper than his interest in Marion Maréchal-Le Pen or the National Front. He brags about his international Breitbart operation as “the platform” for the American alt-right, and has for years been thinking globally, with an affinity for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, all of which have earned glowing coverage on the pages of Breitbart.
But the election of Bannon’s man Donald Trump as president of the United States has made the globalization of Breitbart and its message infinitely more plausible than it ever was before, and politicians once considered Europe’s deplorables are now rushing to bask in the gilded glow of Trump and Bannon.
For her part, Le Pen wrote on Twitter that she welcomes “the invitation of Stephen Bannon…to work together.” In an interview with BBC this weekend, Le Pen said that Trump’s victory bolstered her chances as well as others’ who shared the vision of a “Europe of free nations.”
She painted his election, which followed the United Kingdom’s shock Brexit vote, as “an additional stone in the building of a new world, destined to replace the old one.”