CHICAGO - Despite united support for Hillary Clinton in last week's election, eight Democrat Congress members from Illinois signed onto a letter demanding President-Elect Trump follow their counsel and oust Steve Bannon as his administration's chief strategist.
Congress members Cheri Bustos (CD 17), Danny Davis (CD 7), Bill Foster (CD 11), Luis Gutierrez (CD 4), Robin Kelly (CD 2), Mike Quigley (CD 5) and Jan Schakowsky (CD 9) signed on, as well as Tammy Duckworth (CD 10), who will be Illinois' new U.S. Senator in January.
Two Democrats' names do not appear on the letter - Dan Lipinski (CD 3) and Bobby Rush (CD 1).
The letter, composed by Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and signed by 169 Democrats, said they started out hopeful that Trump would create a post-election atmosphere of unity, but were disappointed:
Since the election there have been a number of incidents across the country in which minorities, including Muslim Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Jewish Americans, have been the targets of violence, harassment and intimidation. Mr. Bannon’s appointment sends the wrong message to people who have engaged in those types of activities, indicating that they will not only be tolerated, but endorsed by your Administration. Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump Administration and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns.
Despite defense of Bannon from Breitbart News insiders, the letter claims Bannon's bigotry and goes on:
As the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon repeatedly and aggressively pushed stories that promote anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism. During an interview last summer, Mr. Bannon bragged that Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right,” a movement that upholds White Nationalism while strongly rejecting diversity in any form. Under Mr. Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has referred to a leading Republican who opposed your election as a “Renegade Jew,” suggested “Young Muslims in the West are a ticking time bomb,” declared that the “Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage,” and praised the alt-right as a “smarter” version of “old-school racist skinheads.”
The letter then accuses Trump of nurturing racist attitudes -
Disturbingly, leading white nationalists like former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke, American Nazi Party Chairman Rocky J. Suhadya, Richard Spencer, Peter Brimelow, and Brad Griffin have praised the news of Mr. Bannon’s appointment. We believe it should concern you that civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, are widely opposed to Mr. Bannon’s appointment.
The Democrats then lecture Trump on how his administration's tone should be set - a presumptuous tactic concerning conservatives silence when eight years ago President-Elect Obama rolled out a radical Left agenda with personnel to implement it.
We strongly believe that Mr. Bannon’s appointment will not allow the country to heal and come together as one. As one of your top advisors, the White House chief strategist will help set the tone for your administration. The person in this role must be prepared to serve the interests of all Americans, not those of a select few.
Bannon worked with Andrew Breitbart (who was proud of his Jewish background) to establish Breitbart News after serving in the U.S. Navy, obtaining degrees from Georgetown University and Harvard Business School before a short career at Goldman-Sachs and as a Hollywood producer.
Thursday, Breitbart News' editor Joel Pollak (former Chicagoan that challenged Jan Schakowsky's seat in 2012) defended Bannon as he pointed to an amendment on the Anti-Defamation League's website concerning the accusations.
The changes, Pollak says, took place in an article called "Steve Bannon: Five Things to Know":
The “five things” are:
- Bannon has embraced the alt right, a loose network of white nationalists and anti-Semites.
- Under Bannon, Breitbart published inflammatory pieces about women, Muslims, and other groups.
- Bannon is a critic of the Republican establishment and the left.
- Bannon has held a number of positions in his career.
- We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.
The first two claims are false. The next two claims are true, and innocuous. The final claim is exculpatory.
Wednesday morning, nationally syndicated talk show host Dennis Prager — who has written a widely-respected book on antisemitism — called the accusations against Bannon “libel” and said that the ADL had damaged itself with the false claims.