November 16, 2016

Martinez on controversial Trump pick: ‘He gets to choose whoever he wants’

Gov. Susana Martinez

Gov. Susana Martinez continued warming up to President-elect Donald Trump by defending his controversial pick of Steve Bannon to national media outlets Tuesday.

Trump’s pick of Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, the far-right news website, as chief strategist at the White House drew rebuke from anti-discrimination groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. At the same time, the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan and former KKK leader David Duke praised Trump’s pick of Bannon.

Bannon is under fire for his alleged anti-semitic comments as well as running Breitbart while the website published stories with headlines like, “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage,”  “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.”

While Democrats, including those in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, are criticizing Trump for the pick, most congressional Republicans haven’t commented one way or another on Bannon.

Martinez, for her part, told reporters Tuesday that Trump gets to pick whomever he pleases for White House jobs.

Her comments came while she attended a Republican Governors Association meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Washington D.C.

“I think what’s important to note is this was the campaign, we need to look forward and see what is going to happen,” Martinez told CBS News. “And he gets to choose whoever he wants to select. He is the president-elect and he gets to appoint those who he wants to surround himself with. But now what is most important is what he is going to deliver.”

The Democratic Party of New Mexico quickly denounced Martinez’s comments, accusing her of supporting “Donald Trump’s appointment of a white supremacist.”

“Today, Governor Martinez showed us that she doesn’t care to lead and take a stand for New Mexicans against racism,” Democratic Party Vice Chair Juan Sanchez said in a statement. “A white supremacist in a White House leadership position should concern everyone.”

Not all Democrats have been willing to criticize Trump for his pick of Bannon. Earlier this week, President Obama told reporters that “it’s important for us to let him make his decisions” and that “the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see.”

Martinez’s comments come after several months of a contentious relationship with the president-elect.

Early in the presidential campaign, Martinez criticized Trump for his comments on Mexican immigrants. She also refused to endorse Trump after he won the Republican Party nomination for president.

Trump criticized Martinez’s leadership at a May rally in Albuquerque, accusing her of “not doing the job.” Shortly afterward, Trump unsuccessfully lobbied for Martinez’s support.

But after his upset victory last week, Martinez praised Trump as “a better choice than Hillary Clinton.”