Americans were horrified by the outbreak of violence last weekend at a neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. As chaos flooded the streets, a racist terrorist rammed his car into a group of anti-racism protesters, killing one person, 32 year old Heather Heyer, and injuring several others.
While Virginians and people around the world mourned, Donald Trump condemned violence on “many sides,” without criticizing white nationalists and neo-Nazis specifically. Two days later, after pressure from the public, the press, and his own party, he finally condemned the violence. Then, earlier today, Donald Trump backtracked, disgustingly claiming that “both sides” were violent and calling the neo-Nazis “fine people.”
This has to stop. It’s time to once and for all rid the White House of those with ties to or sympathies for white supremacists.
Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has made a career out of facilitating the rise of white nationalism, particularly via Breitbart.com, a “news” outlet which he has described as a platform for the “alt-right.” He has also argued that being perceived as evil is a source of political power, been praised by the KKK and neo-Nazis, and once suggested American Jews enabled Islamists to infiltrate the U.S. government. Bannon, who holds extreme anti-Muslim views, was also a key architect of Trump’s Muslim Ban.
Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s top national security aides, is an extreme Islamophobe and “fake terrorism expert” whose PhD, many scholars claim, is as legitimate as if it had been awarded by Trump University. He is also affiliated with a far-right Hungarian group that collaborated with the Nazis during WWII and he reportedly worked “with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures” while living in Hungary. Just last week, Gorka argued that the media is too focused on white supremacist groups, and has become the President’s mouthpiece on radio and cable news spreading Islamophobia and misinformation about Muslims. Gorka’s wife, Katharine, was instrumental in cutting funding for a program that sought to counter right wing extremism in young people.
And finally there is Stephen Miller, Trump’s 31 year old Senior Policy advisor, who just recently garnered praise from online racists by promoting a well-worn white nationalist talking point about the Statue of Liberty. Miller’s white nationalist roots go back to his high school days, when for example, he disowned a friend for being Latino and railed against affirmative action. He also has deep ties to white nationalist Richard Spencer who spearheaded the effort to “rebrand” racism and hatred. Miller also had a hand in crafting the Muslim ban along with Steve Bannon. Most recently he has been promoting a radical plan to dramatically cut legal immigration that flies in the face of our deepest held American values.
Donald Trump has surrounded himself with advisers who have deep ties to racist and ultra-nationalist groups. We cannot let their vision be the beating heart of our nation’s decision making and continue promoting hateful and dangerous policies that run counter to our values, weaken our security, and risk fueling extremism and conflict both at home and abroad.
This is sadly not the first time we’ve had to work on issues like this. So far this year, we’ve helped kick Steve Bannon off the National Security Council, blocked a hate-filled nominee to lead the Army, and fought against Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. We’re fighting because we know that a truly progressive foreign policy means we cannot have vile hatred and racism at the core of American decision making. Thank you for once again working for the country, and the world, we want to see.