Lawmakers urge Trump to rescind Bannon appointment

November 16, 2016 GMT

WASHINGTON — Connecticut lawmakers joined in the rising chorus of Democrats condemning President-elect Trump’s selection of alt-right Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon as his White House senior strategist and counselor.

Connecticut’s congressional delegation signed a letter — along with more than 120 other lawmakers — asking Trump to rescind the appointment of Bannon, who they say has ties to the White Nationalist movement.

“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 letter reads. “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.”

Under Bannon, the critics said, the nationalist Breitbart news site turned it into a mouthpiece for misogynistic, racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic views.

A Breitbart story about a conservative author, editor and Trump critic was headlined: “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew.”

Bannon’s ex-wife in a court statement during divorce proceedings said Bannon didn’t want their daughters attending a particular school because of its Jewish enrollment.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., issued a statement also calling on Trump to rescind the appointment.

“There’s a highly significant symbol in his appointment that in effect discredits and damages the goal of bringing America together,” said Blumenthal, whose Jewish father escaped Nazi Germany before World War II. “How can Trump say he’s healing wounds when he appoints someone who has created and exacerbated divisions based on race, sex, and religion in a very vitriolic way?”

Trump supporters defended Bannon as someone who trades in shock value but ultimately is neither racist nor anti-Semitic.

“I haven’t met Bannon but I have read Breitbart, and although I don’t consider it to be racist, I do think it’s edgy,” said Joe Visconti, a Trump supporter and perennial conservative Republican candidate in Connecticut. “If I thought it was racist and bigoted, I wouldn’t read it. They put (content) out there to grab eyeballs.”

Honeymoon is over

Democrats were in shock following Trump’s surprise victory on Election Day, garnering the 270 electoral votes needed to win even though he lost the popular vote. Gradually, some Democrats, including Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, began expressing hope that they could find some areas of agreement with the incoming Trump administration.

In the wake of the Bannon appointment, however, the honeymoon is over.

“This is especially disheartening because it is one of the President-elect’s first major decisions and seems to confirm the worst fears of many Americans about the shape of his administration,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn, said.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn, agreed.

“Bannon has built his career peddling racist, sexist, and homophobic falsehoods,” she said. “He is unfit to serve in any administration that values equality, diversity, peace, or even basic facts.”

Nevertheless, Blumenthal expressed hope the incoming Trump administration could indeed find common ground with congressional Democrats.

“I hope the Bannon appointment is an aberration,” said Blumenthal. “It’s a wrong turn but it definitely can be corrected.”

— dan@hearstdc.com