The Trump campaign has been mired since its start in accusations of abetting bigotry and hatred and no one embodies that charge more than newly named chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Bannon’s appointment has brought a cacophony of outrage from Democrats, some Republicans, and media officials who have labeled him a white supremacist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and just a downright nasty guy.
“Mr. Bannon was responsible for the advancement of ideologies antithetical to our nation, including anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia,” said the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which represents the US’s largest denomination of Jews. “There should be no place for such views in the White House.”
“The white nationalist Richard Spencer said on Twitter that Mr. Bannon was in ‘the best possible position’ to influence policy, since he would ‘not get lost in the weeds’ of establishment Washington,” the New York Times wrote in an editorial condemning the selection. “The chairman of the American Nazi Party said the pick showed that Mr. Trump might be ‘for real.’ David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice ‘excellent’ and said Mr. Bannon was ‘basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.’”
“He is a white supremacist now named to a top White House position to advise the president-elect and that is something that needs to be denounced and rejected,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in condemning Gov. Charlie Baker’s “wait and see” approach to the Trump administration.
But all of those attacks on Bannon are based not on his own words but his oversight of Breitbart News into a platform for the “alt-right,” a term used to describe a loose group of mostly young, overwhelmingly white, far-right ideologues who reject traditional conservatism.
Resolved: Steve Bannon is a bomb-throwing zealot who eschews niceties in an effort to shake up the status quo, return to the time of Ike (if not Reagan), and wants to seal off the flow of immigrants into the country. No one, including Bannon, disputes that.
But there is no paper trail or direct line connecting Bannon — a Harvard graduate and former Goldman Sachs banker who made a fortune investing in “Seinfeld” — to on-the-record racist statements. There are a few interviews that show Bannon to be insensitive, even dismissive, of people who don’t look like him – white and male.
An ex-wife once testified he resisted enrolling their daughters in a school in Los Angeles because there were “too many Jews.” He once hailed conservative GOP women such as Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin by saying they weren’t “a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.”
In an interview last year with Donald Trump on his then-Sirius radio program, Bannon wrongly claimed in arguing for stricter immigration laws that “two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia.” He even said, “What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party,” an unfortunate, if not questionable, phrase for a man accused of domestic violence.
But while those comments are repulsive, are they enough to saddle Bannon with some of the most reviled and hate-filled tags an official can be labeled, like racist? The Anti-Defamation League, which denounced Bannon’s appointment, admitted they could find nothing Bannon has said that can be construed as anti-Semitic or racist.
“While there is a long fact pattern of evidence that Breitbart served as a platform for a wide range of bigotry and there is some controversy related to statements from Mr. Bannon’s divorce proceedings in 2007, we are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements made by Bannon himself,” the ADL said in a statement Thursday.
Breitbart, it seems, is where Bannon’s reputation derives from. Bannon took over after the founder, Andrew Breitbart, died suddenly in 2012. Under Bannon it has morphed from a staunchly conservative website to a cauldron of white hate and bigotry, featuring stories on blacks as rapists, cop-killers, and criminals; feminists as frustrated lesbians who hate men, especially white ones; and a daily portion of immigrant-bashing, especially Muslim fearmongering, to serve the masses. Indeed, the headlines would make normal people blanch. But even more troubling are some of the reader comments, many of which can’t be repeated here.
“Hey Labron [sic], you done takin the white man’s money?,” wrote one commenter about NBA player Lebron James who backed Hillary Clinton. “How bout your posse? Then shut your fly hole. Are you feelin me Labron?”
Bannon admits the site and the alt-right movement “may” attract some of the underbelly of conservative thought but insists it’s no different than the left.
“Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe,” he told Mother Jones in August. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”
Clearly, there has to be more solid evidence, especially from those in the media, in order to tar someone with a sobriquet that can taint a reputation forever. But sometimes, there are dots to connect along the way and if you listen closely, that dog whistle you hear could be a train coming down the tracks.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito reported earning more than $100,000 last year in outside income from her family real estate company, and she and her husband moved into a plush 6,000-square-foot lakefront house worth more than $1 million in Shrewsbury. (Boston Herald)
State officials track down inmates at county jails who have fraudulently been collecting a total of $80,000 in unemployment benefits. (Masslive)
A well-worn path: Gov. Charlie Baker’s chief secretary, Carlo Basile, a former Democratic state rep from East Boston, is leaving state government to join a Boston lobbying firm. (Boston Globe)
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg promises residents of Massachusetts that the Senate will strive to protect their civil rights and civil liberties. (CommonWealth)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will launch a series of dialogues on race on Saturday. Walsh says the inspiration for the initiative is a 2013 encounter on the campaign trail when he “stumbled” over an question about racism. CommonWealth wrote about that campaign moment.
Is this the end for Yellowman? Hanover officials may have the last word as they have taken the 72-year-old man to Housing Court to force him to clean up his home that has been a kitschy landmark to local residents because of his painting the house yellow, flying yellow banners, and storing various yellow items around his house. (Patriot Ledger)
The Brockton City Council is mulling a proposal to raise the stipend for School Committee members, which has not been increased in nearly two decades. (The Enterprise)
President-elect Donald Trump taps Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as his choice for attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas to head the CIA. (Associated Press)
Trump is planning to meet with vocal critic Mitt Romney over the weekend and is reportedly considering the former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate for secretary of state. (U.S. News & World Report)
Say it isn’t so: The Globe’s James Pindell reminds us it is now less than four years until the next presidential election with a list of 20 possible 2020 contenders.
The Massachusetts unemployment rate falls to 3.3 percent in October, the lowest level since April 2001. (State House News)
Scott Kirsner worries that the Nostalgia Economy won out of over the Knowledge Economy in last week’s election. (Boston Globe) A boost in defense spending, however, could be good for Massachusetts firms. (Boston Globe)
The Lawrence Partnership is helping entrepreneurs like would-be restaurateur Ray Gonzalez get a start. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Ohio Supreme Court rules that the state can assess its commercial activity tax on online retailers lacking a bricks-and-mortar presence in the state. (Governing)
Volkswagen announces plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs. (Associated Press)
School suspensions statewide ticked up slightly last year with a continuing racial disparity evident with a higher rate of minorities receiving out-of-school suspensions than white students. (Wicked Local) Out-of-school suspensions were also higher at charter schools. (MassLive) The City on a Hill charter school in New Bedford gave out-of-school suspensions to 37 percent of its students last year. (MassLive)
It’s not easy piecing together what a Trump administration will mean for higher education, though it will surely be important for college-rich Massachusetts and the region. (Boston Globe)
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds more than one in five emergency room patients nationwide gets an unexpected separate bill for physician services they thought were covered by their insurance. (New York Times) The practice in Massachusetts, often referred to as “surprise billing” by health officials, was the subject of a CommonWealth story earlier this year.
Health care advocates say repeal of the Affordable Care Act could be devastating for Massachusetts. (Salem News)
The MBTA, despite assurances to the contrary, is refusing to release records on how it calculates absenteeism. (Boston Magazine)
With the presidential election in the rearview mirror, Keller@Large renews his hate-hate relationship with the state’s traffic problems and puts solving it on the top of issues for the 2018 gubernatorial race.
The region’s power grid operator is sounding alarm bells about its ability to keep the lights on without a new natural gas pipeline. (CommonWealth)
Eversource Energy, viewed by many environmentalists as an opponent of solar power, is seeking state approval for a major expansion into solar. (CommonWealth)
State officials have identified the Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis as a source of contamination in local drinking wells, ordering the airport to develop a plan by December 15 to clean up the toxic chemicals. (Cape Cod Times)
Former House speaker Sal DiMasi is being released from federal prison early because of his medical condition; his wife says she wants state inmates to receive the same treatment. (MassLive)
Three 15-year-old girls are facing hate crimes charges in connection with an alleged assault on a woman they believed was an immigrant on a Red Line train in Dorchester. (Boston Globe)
Police busted a Brighton house that they say was a brothel. (Boston Herald)
The New York Times said it added 41,000 subscribers since Election Day.
The Detroit Free Press asks 17 members of its editorial department, or about 13 percent of the staff, to take voluntary buyouts. (Crain’s)