Democratic members of Congress are calling for President-elect Donald Trump to rescind his appointment of conservative news executive Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was among one of the first lawmakers to condemn the appointment in a statement Monday.
“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government,” Merkley said.
Pointing to Bannon’s leadership of Breitbart News, Merkley accused Bannon of the “open and disgusting acts of hatred” taking place across the country in the wake of Trump’s election.
Under Bannon’s direction, Breitbart News created a news section titled “Black Crime” and purportedly compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust, Merkley said.
“After running a campaign built on inciting divisions and hate, Donald Trump has claimed he wants to unite America,” he said. “Yet he has done nothing meaningful to stop the wave of hate crimes and hate speech he has unleashed, and now has brought that strategy right into the Oval Office.”
Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer also released statements expressing their concerns over the appointment.
“If the saying is true and you are the company you keep, Donald Trump has chosen to champion the positions of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and anti-Semites by appointing Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor,” Markey said.
Trump must ask his appointments to “repudiate” past ties with hate groups, he added.
“There is no place in our society, let alone the White House, for purveyors like Steve Bannon of hate and violence against any group of Americans,” Markey said. “Today, and every day moving forward, we must always be guided by the principles and values of our nation — justice, tolerance, liberty, and equality — for all races, creeds, colors, faiths and origins.”
Bringing America together must be a top priority for Trump, Pelosi said.
“Democrats are committed to finding common ground for hard-working families,” she said. “But we will stand our ground and strongly oppose attempts by this Administration to scapegoat and persecute Americans because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love.”
Hoyer called the appointment “deeply disturbing” and said Bannon’s work at Breitbart is “disqualifying for a role at the White House.”
“As we seek to move forward from this divisive election, it is incumbent upon the President-Elect to show all Americans that the vile bigotry and misogyny that in large part characterized his campaign will not be carried over into his administration,” Hoyer said.
Republicans were more welcoming. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows congratulated Bannon on his appointment, as well as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who was named Trump’s chief of staff.
Congrats to both Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon — Ready to work together to have the most productive ‘first 100 days’ in modern history.
In a terse exchange with reporters on Monday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy defended the appointment.
“The president-elect always gets to pick his team going forward,” McCarthy said. “The president has the right to select who he thinks is best to be able to move through.”
McCarthy, reiterating what House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Sunday, said he did not know Bannon.
But he said Priebus, who worked closely with Bannon on the campaign trail, said the former media executive’s public persona did not reflect who he was personally.
McCarthy also said Bannon should not be held accountable for all of Breitbart’s content.
“I always believe in giving somebody a chance,” he said. “I don’t like to prejudge people from others.”
Rema Rahram contributed to this report.