Experts: “The Line Between Trump And The Extreme Right Has Just Gone From Fuzzy To Virtually Non-Existent”
Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP
Organizations and activists that monitor extremism on the right are warning about the implications of the Trump campaign’s hiring of Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon, saying the move signals that “the line between Trump and the extreme right has just gone from fuzzy to virtually non-existent.”
Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Bannon would be joining his campaign as its new chief executive; Bannon is reportedly taking a leave of absence from the aggressively pro-Trump Breitbart News site while he works for the campaign. As CNN’s Brian Stelter explained, Bannon’s hiring indicates that “we're going to see the most fringy ideas, the most right-wing ideas bubble up to the surface in a way we haven't even seen before in this election.”
Several experts on hate and extremism in conservative circles tell Media Matters that the Bannon move is troubling and exemplifies the Trump campaign’s full embrace of ugly nativism.
“Breitbart News consistently provides a platform for extremist voices, most notably anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim figures. But since 2015, Breitbart has gone one step further -- championing the racist rhetoric of the alternative-right while at the same time singing the praises of Donald Trump,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. She added, “Trump’s move to hire Breitbart’s Steve Bannon is not surprising considering the media outlet’s steadfast support of the GOP nominee. With this move, the line between Trump and the extreme right has just gone from fuzzy to virtually non-existent.”
Lindsay Schubiner, senior program manager at the national research and advocacy organization Center for New Community, also highlighted how Breitbart News “has provided a high-profile outlet for virulently nativist individuals for years.” According to Schubiner, “With Bannon now at the helm, Trump is likely to double down on his provocative and openly bigoted appeals for support. Bringing Bannon on board can be seen as a clear rebuke of RNC officials' efforts to encourage Trump to moderate his tone in the pivot to the general election.”
She concluded, “In other words, Bannon’s hire represents a full-stop embrace of the dangerous and virulent nativism on which Trump has predicated his campaign since day one.”
Center for American Progress Action Fund senior fellow Henry Fernandez raised questions about Breitbart’s embrace of the “alt-right” movement, “an extremist branch of conservatism that includes white nationalists and anti-Semites,” and said the Bannon hire “may indicate a willingness to further engage with these groups.”
Fernandez also pointed out that Breitbart News has been "going after conservatives for calling out anti-Semitism and racism," which suggests the Bannon hiring is both a potential embrace of alt-right extremists and also about "sending a signal within the conservative movement about conservatives who are willing to stand up and say this is a real problem."
Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, called the hiring a “perfect match”: “It is the clearest indication possible that Trump has no intention of taking a higher road between now and Election Day. In some ways this is a perfect match because Breitbart traffics in the same kind of half-truths and falsehoods and attacks on people who disagree with them.”