“I say to Donald Trump, take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office of the president of the United States instead of hiding behind your Twitter account. … Show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in your White House.”
Trump announced Bannon would join him as a senior White House adviser over the weekend, prompting a backlash from Democrats, civil rights groups and Trump critics on the right who denounced Bannon as a proponent of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynist views. The former chief of Breitbart News became Trump’s campaign chief over the summer.
Reid is one of several Democrats who have spent the past two days hammering Bannon — and by extension Trump. On Monday, incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Bannon’s hiring reveals “dangerous and bigoted ideas will have a seat at the table” in Trump’s White House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Bannon a “white nationalist” who exacerbates Trump’s “hateful and divisive vision.”
Trump’s transition officials have accused critics of seeking to “divide people” after the election when they raise questions about Bannon’s views. Other Republicans have avoided mentioning Bannon but encouraged Americans to have confidence.
“There is a lot of hysteria and hyperbole,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said during a radio interview Monday. “I would tell people to just relax — things are going to be fine.”
Reid, whose speech prompted a critical retort from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), noted the increase in hate crimes and said leaders — especially Trump — have a responsibility to address the fears of minority groups singled out during the campaign.
“Many of our fellow Americans believe Trump’s election validates the kind of bullying, aggressive behavior Trump modeled on a daily basis,” Reid said. “We failed to hold Trump accountable. We all bear major responsibility for normalizing his behavior.”
But, he added, “the main responsibility lies within the man who inspired the fear.”
Cornyn accused Reid of violating the Senate’s tradition of decorum.
“We had an earthshaking event occur Nov. 8,” he said. “The reasons, I believe, that Mr. Trump was elected was because the American people want change.”