Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, Reince Priebus, has defended the choice of right-wing media man Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, calling him a “force for good”.
A number of critics have denounced Stephen Bannon as supporting white supremacism.
Reince Priebus said this was “not the Steve Bannon that I know”, adding he was a “very, very smart person”.
His appointment is seen as an attempt by Donald Trump to improve links to the Republican establishment.
Donald Trump himself said he fought the election as the “ultimate outsider”, and it would fall to Reince Priebus, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), to act as a conduit both to the party and to Congress.
One of Reince Priebus’ first tasks was to defend the appointment of Stephen Bannon, who had stepped aside from his role as chief executive of the Breitbart News Network – a combative conservative site with an anti-establishment agenda – to act as Donald Trump’s election campaign chief.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, said of Stephen Bannon: “It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide.”
Jonathan Greenblat, of the Anti-Defamation League civil rights group, said: “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the <<alt-right>> – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the <<people’s house>>.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center group said: “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill… Bannon should go.”
However, Reince Priebus told Good Morning America: “I don’t know where they’re coming from… that’s not the Steve Bannon that I know.”
On November 13, Stephen Bannon on thanked Donald Trump for his appointment, saying: “We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory. We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”
In a statement released by his campaign, Donald Trump described Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon as “highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory”.