President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist in the White House has drawn a sharp rebuke from political strategists who see in Bannon a controversial figure too closely associated with the “alt-right” movement, which white nationalists have embraced.
Bannon, who was the executive chairman of Breitbart News before joining the Trump campaign in August, will serve as chief strategist and senior counselor for Trump; that will give Bannon authority over the strategic direction of the White House. Bannon will assume a similar role to that of Karl Rove during George W. Bush’s administration and recently by longtime strategist John Podesta under President Obama. He and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who will become White House chief of staff, will be among Trump’s top advisers.
The announcement has produced intense hand-wringing in Washington and sharp denunciations from political observers and strategists critical of Breitbart News’s close association with the alt-right, a fringe conservative movement saturated with racially insensitive rhetoric and elements of outright white nationalism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-watch group, has accused Breitbart of explicitly embracing ethno-nationalism. After Bannon’s elevation was announced, the law center tweeted several controversial stories written by Breitbart under Bannon’s control, including a piece published two weeks after a mass killing at a black church in Charleston, S.C., last year: “Hoist it high and proud: the confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.”