When President-elect Donald Trump made his first announcements of key members to his administration, one name jumped out to many: Steve Bannon.
Trump named Bannon as his chief strategist and senior advisor, saying in a statement his role would be co-equal to Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus’ new role as Chief of Staff.
The Anti-Defamation League brought up Bannon’s time as executive chairman of Breitbart, which ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt described as “the premier website of the ‘alt-right’—a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.”
Some members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation joined in on denouncing Bannon’s inclusion in Trump’s inner circle. NM Political Report asked about Priebus and Bannon when seeking comment.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat who represents Santa Fe, slammed the choice of Bannon in a statement.
“Despite his stated desire to bring the country together, President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as Chief Strategist is completely unacceptable, divisive, and dangerous,” Luján said. “Bannon’s ties to White Nationalism and his leadership of Breitbart News – a website that has trafficked in anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, and racism – disqualifies him from any role in the White House.
“This, combined with House Republicans’ failure to stand up to this appointment, is troubling. I remain committed to standing up for every American, no matter their faith, where they live, or who they are.”
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who represents the Albuquerque area, signed on to a letter to Trump.
“Your appointment of Stephen Bannon, whose ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well-documented, directly undermines your ability to unite the country,” a portion of the letter reads. “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 goes on to cite headlines from Breitbart (one called Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” for opposing Trump) as well as the time he “bragged that Breitbart was ‘the platform for the alt-right.’”
“As far as I’m concerned, appointing as chief strategist and adviser a man who has dedicated the last several years to running a far-right website that demonizes women and spreads hate-filled lies about Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and others shows Donald Trump has already forgotten his pledge for unity,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement. “Across this country, people are voicing fear and anger about what this means for the direction of Mr. Trump’s presidency. This is a frightening sign of where his administration may be headed; it’s not a wise choice, and Mr. Trump would be better off without him.”
Udall is a Democrat.
“Steve Bannon may be loyal to Trump, but having an alt-right influence in the West Wing that White Nationalists are excited about sickens me,” Heinrich commented.
Later Tuesday, Heinrich expanded on his comments in a statement.
“This first major decision made by our president-elect as he shapes his administration sends an alarming message about his leadership and the direction he wants to take our country,” Heinrich said. “Steve Bannon has made a career out of selling hateful and divisive propaganda aimed at women, Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, and just about any American minority group you could think of. I find it sickening that my constituents will be paying the salary of a man viewed by White Supremacists as their modern champion.”
A spokesman for Pearce, a Republican, said Tuesday he would not be commenting on staff hires, noting that there will be thousands of appointments for Trump to put together his team.
Initial emails requesting comment from Pearce went to a staffer on vacation and NM Political Report did not receive the out-of-office replies in response.
At a press conference in Florida for the Republican Governors Association, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez addressed the hire of Bannon.
Governor Martinez re: Bannon at RGA presser- "He is the president elect and he gets to appoint those who he wants to surround himself with" pic.twitter.com/d27F39bH96
— Alan He (@alanhe) November 15, 2016
Martinez is the head of the RGA, though her term will end this year after Republicans expanded their lead in governorships to 32-18, tying a modern record.
Some Republicans, however, are denouncing Trump’s choice of Bannon.
John Weaver, a Republican strategist who ran Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign, called Bannon “a racist, anti-semite” on Twitter.
Breitbart said in a statement to The Hill Tuesday the organization was preparing a lawsuit against a “major media company” over defamation for calling it a “white nationalist website.” The statement did not say which media company.
Update: Added response from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.
Update 2: Added response from U.S. Rep Steve Pearce.
Update 3: Added response from Gov. Susana Martinez.
Update 4: Added additional response from U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.