WASHINGTON — A group of 169 House Democrats sent a letter to Trump Tower today asking that the president-elect to pick a chief strategist who is “prepared to serve the interests of all Americans, not those of a select few.”
The lawmakers asked Donald Trump to rescind the senior advisor appointment of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon “immediately and build a diverse White House staff who are committed to the core American values of inclusiveness, diversity and tolerance.”
“Immediately following your victory, many Americans were optimistic and hopeful that you would take the steps necessary to unify our country following the divisive and contentious election. In your election night speech you said, ‘Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. It is time for us to come together as one united people,'” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, your appointment of Stephen Bannon, whose ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well-documented, directly undermines your ability to unite the country. As elected representatives of millions of Americans from diverse backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities, we strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to appoint Mr. Bannon to White House Chief Strategist.”
The letter, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), noted that “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.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it has collected 437 reports of harassment since the election, with the majority of the reports involved anti-immigrant incidents (136), followed by anti-black (89) and anti-LGBT (43).
“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,” the congressional letter continues. “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.”
“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 House Dems added: “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.”
Bannon’s appointment, the lawmakers wrote, “will not allow the country to heal and come together as one.”
Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said House Republicans were invited to sign the letter but no one did.
“Whether intentional or not, the appointment of Mr. Bannon sends a disturbing message about what kind of president Donald Trump wants to be,” Cicilline said. “I hope that the president-elect will consider our concerns as he prepares to enter office.”
The signatories did not include Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) did sign the letter.