President-elect Donald Trump announced Sunday that Reince Priebus would serve as his chief of staff and campaign CEO Stephen Bannon would serve as his chief strategist senior counselor.
Trump’s selection of Priebus was mostly met with praise. White House insiders like Dylan Axelrod, the top White House adviser to President Obama, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham praising Trump for the appointment. However, it was the Bannon move that drew the most criticism.
Bannon’s past came under fire almost immediately after Trump’s announcement. The Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted controversial stories that had been published on Breitbart during Bannon’s tenure.
“Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,” the hate-watch group said in a statement on Twitter. “Trump should rescind this hire. In his victory speech, Trump said he intended to be president for ‘all Americans.’ Bannon should go.”
The Anti-Defamation League also expressed its outrage over Bannon’s appointment, calling it a “sad day.”
“We call on President-elect Trump to appoint and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country’s people,” the group’s chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said, according to The Washington Post.
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California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted: “Selection of Steve Bannon for senior WH role unsurprising but alarming. His alt-right, anti-Semitic, misogynistic views don’t belong in WH.”
And John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign, tweeted, “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America.”
The Council of American-Islamic Relations called Bannon an “anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and White nationalist alt-right extremist.”
Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News and under his reign the website pushed a nationalist, anti-establishment agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right — a movement often associated with white supremacy and a defense of “Western values.”
Bannon, who became campaign CEO in August, pushed Trump to adopt more populist rhetoric and paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of the political, financial and media elite, bankers bent on oppressing the country’s working people — a message that carried Trump to the White House but to some, carried anti-Semitic undertones.
An ex-wife of Bannon said he expressed fear of Jews when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago, according to court papers reviewed this summer by The Associated Press. In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Mary Louise Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
A spokeswoman for Bannon denied he made those statements.
Bannon thanked Trump for the job, saying he and Priebus will extend their partnership in Washington to “help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”
“I want to thank President-elect Trump for the opportunity to work with Reince in driving the agenda of the Trump Administration,” he said. “We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory. We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”
Neither Priebus nor Bannon bring significant policy experience to their new White House roles.
Bannon was notably given top billing in the press release announcing the appointments, a curious arrangement giving that White House chief of staff is typically considered the most powerful West Wing job.
Chiefs of staff in particular play a significant role in policy making, serving as a liaison to Cabinet agencies and deciding what information makes it to the president’s desk. They’re often one of the last people in the room with the president as major decisions are made.
Fox News’ Carl Cameron and the Associated Press contributed to this report.