Donald Trump’s top spokesman on Wednesday said Steve Bannon, the controversial former news executive tapped to be White House strategist, is “a fantastic example of really being inclusive. Someone who’s embraced diversity at every step.”
The description, from Trump communications director Jason Miller, appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the Trump transition team to rewrite Bannon’s biography in order to bring it more in line with traditional conservative positions, and less tied to the white nationalist “alt-right” movement that Bannon has nurtured.
Earlier in the day, Miller used the same exact words to describe Bannon to MSNBC, calling him a person “who’s embraced diversity” and who brings “people together for inclusion, to embrace diversity, [and] has been absolutely fantastic.”
Miller also pushed back against the idea that Bannon is anti-Semitic and racist, telling MSNBC that Bannon “is a Zionist,” and has mentored “African-American youths during his life.”
Yet this description of Bannon runs contrary to most of what Bannon has said and done during his career.
The anti-extremist nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center recently tweeted that “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind [Breitbart News] becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
The Anti-Defamation League also opposed Bannon’s appointment, calling Breitbart News “the premier website of the alt-right, a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.”
In the wake of Trump’s election, the number of racist and anti-Semitic attacks across the nation has exploded, a fact many experts attribute to the “normalizing effect” of Trump’s bigoted campaign rhetoric, a sort of, “Well, if the president of the United States can say it, why can’t I?”
Bannon appears to support an ideal of America that he calls a “civic society,” with Judeo-Christian values and implicitly white, European roots. In a recently unearthed tape of Trump appearing on Bannon’s radio show, the future White House strategist questioned why so many South Asians were working in Silicon Valley. The economic benefits of such highly skilled immigrants, Bannon told Trump, do not outweigh the negative impact on what Bannon incorrectly labeled American “civic society.”
On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, 169 House Democrats signed a letter urging Trump not to bring Bannon with him into the White House. Among their grievances was Bannon’s boast, earlier this year, that his site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”
A spokeswoman for the Trump transition team did not respond to questions from HuffPost about Bannon’s apparent makeover.