Oregon’s two U.S. senators have condemned President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of a key member to his incoming administration: former Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as chief strategist.
“Bannon is a white nationalist who has ran a website that has engaged in all kinds of divisive, hateful rhetoric,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, said in an interview with OPB Monday. “It’s absolutely the wrong type of person to have in the White House at all, let alone be the chief strategist for the incoming president.”
Merkley called on Trump to rescind Bannon’s appointment as other groups across the country also spoke out against the appointment.
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ rights, said Bannon’s appointment indicates the Trump administration isn’t looking to be inclusive.
“At a minimum, Breitbart through Stephen Bannon’s leadership, has not promoted an inclusive vision of America,” Herzfeld-Copple said.
She said the appointment signals the Trump administration is serious in its campaign threats to target marginalized groups.
“We should absolutely trust that he plans to do harm to the communities who are already the most disenfranchised and lack protections,” Herzfeld-Copple said.
During an interview with "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, Trump said he was going to bring the country together.
“You don’t bring America together by bringing someone as your chief guide who deliberately has driven a racist wedge throughout our nation,” Merkley said.
During the campaign, Bannon served as Trump’s campaign chairman.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said being part of the executive branch is different than working on a campaign.
“The fact that Mr. Trump's allies are dismissing anti-Semitism and white nationalism in my view demonstrates an extraordinary lack of respect for history and it starts this administration off on a dramatically wrong foot,” Wyden told OPB on Monday.
As a son of German Jewish immigrants, Wyden said he was personally offended Trump was bringing Bannon into his innermost circle.
“Certainly, in our household, where my parents fled the Nazis in the '30s, not all got out,” Wyden said. “To see a website that actually traffics in anti-Semitism, boasting about being the voice of extremists, like white nationalists … I think is very troubling to people all across the political spectrum, and certainly it resonates deeply in families with our history.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick Monday to applaud Trump’s appointment of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus as the president-elect’s chief of staff, but they remained largely quiet about Bannon.
A spokesman for Congressman Greg Walden, Oregon’s only Republican member of Congress, did not return calls for comment. A spokeswoman for Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who represents Southwest Washington, said she was on a plane to Washington D.C. and unable to comment.
But Bill Currier, the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, defended Trump’s decision to bring Bannon into the administration’s innermost circle.
“Let’s give the new president a chance and let’s give his appointments a chance. And let’s understand that he is surrounding himself with a variety of perspectives as any strong leader would do," he said.
Currier said he has yet to see examples from critics who call Bannon anti-Semitic.
In May, Breitbart ran the headline: “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” Kristol is the editor of The Weekly Standard, a national conservative publication.
“The racist or xenophobic type claims again seem to be routed in national policy positions that were meant to protect the country from unrestrained or less than cautious immigration policies,” Currier said. “I see these claims and this attack on Bannon as really more of the same as they did with Trump.”