By Miriam Raftery
November 14, 2016 (Washington D.C.) — In contrast to his election night promise to bind America’s wounds and pull people together, President-Election Donald Trump has announced the appointment of a white supremacist and anti-establishment media site publisher as his chief White House strategist and put an officer in an anti-immigrant hate group in charge of his immigration transition team.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s pick as chief strategist, will serve a role similar to that held by Karl Rove, known as “Bush’s brain” during the George W. Bush presidency. Conservatives tout his experience in business, banking, the military and media.
Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs Wall Street executive, more recently was executive chairman of Breitbart News before joining the Trump campaign. Once a conservative news site, Breitbart under Bannon’s leadership morphed into a mouthpiece for the alt-right white supremacist movement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, tweeted, “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill" and "Trump should rescind this hire.”
Bannon reacted to a mass killing at a black church in South Carolina but publishing a story urging readers to hoist the Confederate flag high and proclaim its “glorious heritage," the Charleston City newspaper reported.
Bannon’s ex-wife has accused him of also being anti-Semitic, NBC reported. In a 2007 court declaration, she stated, “He 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.” Bannon also faced charges of domestic abuse and battery, though those charges were dismissed.
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, also denounced the appointment. He states, “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’," the Washington Post reported.
Even some Republican leaders are speaking out to voice dismay over Bannon. According to Salon.com, John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked for Ohio governor John Kasich’s presidential campaign, tweeted: “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America.”
Bannon does have a resume with some impressive credentials. Here are biographical details.
He was born into a working-class, Irish Catholic pro-union family of Democrats in Virginia, the Telegraph and the Daily Express in the UK have reported. He graduated from Virginia Tech and got a master’s degree in National Security Studies at Georgetown University, later earning an MBA with honors from Harvard Business School, according to Bloomberg News.
He served as a Navy officer and surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet and later, special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, Military Times reported.
Bannon became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs before launching Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank specializing in media, where he handled major media acquisitions and wound up with a financial stake in TV shows such as Seinfeld before selling the company in 1998, according to Fortune and Bloomberg Business reports.
Although Trump says he’s a global warming denier, Bannon was once acting director of Biosphere 2 , Mother Jones reported, when the earth science research project shifted its focus from space colonization to global warming in the mid-‘90s.
Bannon became an executive film producer in Hollywood. While making a documentary on Ronald Reagan, he met publisher Andrew Breitbart and began hosting a radio show, Breitbart News Daily, on a Serius XM satellite channel, according to Politico. He co-founded the Government Accountability Institute, arranging for publication of the book Clinton Cash, Bloomberg reported. He later served as chairman and CEO of Affinity Media, according to Politico.
In March 2012, after founder Andrew Breitbart's death, Bannon became executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, parent company of Breitbart News. With Bannon at the helm, Breitbart took a more alt-right and nationalistic approach, the Boston Herald reported.
Bannon declared the website "the platform for the alt-right" in 2016, Mother Jones reported. Bannon considers himself a conservative and has been active at CPAC, a conservative political action network, ABC news reported, before he joined Donald Trump’s campaign.
Bannon also described Breitbart as "virulently anti-establishment, particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class,” according to the Washington Post.
In addition, Trump named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to head up his immigration transition team. Kobach is also counsel for the Immigration Law Reform Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform or FAIR. FAIR has been designated as a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and FAIR has drawn criticism for its stances favoring racial profiling and taking money from an organization that supports eugenics,or selective breeding to promote white supremacy.
Kobach is also the architect behind the Crosscheck software that knocked 7 million people,mostly minorities, off voting roles in 30 states by falsely accusing them of voting twice based solely on having similar names. In some states that used the software, Trump’s margin of victory was a small fraction of the number of voters who were disenfranchised by the Crosscheck program.
Trump also named Rance Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, as his chief of staff. CNN reports he made the choice at the urging of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate President Pro Tem Mitch McConnell. Priebus worked to convince a divided party to unite behind Trump sufficiently to win the election.