A handful of Illinois Democrats on Monday slammed President-elect Donald Trump's choice to appoint chief campaign executive Stephen Bannon as a senior advisor and chief strategist in the White House.
Rep. Mike Quigley, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep.-elect Brad Schneider spoke out about the decision, joining several other elected officials addressing the controversial pick.
Bannon served as the executive chairman for Breitbart News before joining Trump's campaign. Breitbart has become a hub for pro-Trump, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim messaging under Bannon, according to NBC News. In August, the newly-named White House staffer even referred to the site as “the platform for the alt-right,” an online-based counterculture movement associated with white nationalism.
Quigley condemned Trump's appointment Monday, referring to Bannon as a "white nationalist."
“In the aftermath of such a long, tumultuous campaign, it is the responsibility of President-elect Trump to foster a sense of unity that brings Americans together instead of pulling us further apart," Quigley said in a statement "However, Trump’s decision to name Steve Bannon his Chief Strategist sends a very different message to the American people. This disturbing choice demonstrates that the next Commander-in-Chief remains unwilling to abandon the hateful and divisive vision that he laid out during his campaign."
In response to Bannon's appointment, Quigley vowed to "defend equality and opportunity for all – regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation."
"President-elect Trump has said that he wants to be a President for all Americans," Quigley added. "If that is true, he must surround himself with individuals that adhere to our highest principles and values as a nation. The forces of hate and influence of bigotry have no place in the hallowed halls of our government.”
Schakowsky, who is Jewish, voiced similar concerns, faulting Bannon for his alleged "history of anti-Semitism and support for white nationalism."
In a 2007 court filing, Bannon’s ex-wife accused the Trump appointee of making anti-Semitic comments while the couple fought about which private school to send their daughters to, NBC News reports. Bannon has denied the allegation.
"As Chairman of Breitbart News, he is responsible for the rise of the alt-right movement and has provided a forum for these racist, hate-filled views to develop and thrive," Schakowsky said in a statement. "I am appalled that such a figure would even be considered for a position of this stature.”
The congresswoman claimed that she would be unable to work with Trump if the "hatred and bigotry that characterized the President-elect's campaign is transferred into his administration."
The Anti-Defamation League expressed concern at speeches and ads warning of a global conspiracy among bankers, media and government officials in the closing weeks of Trump’s campaign. According to NBC News, those attacks resembled tropes used historically to target Jews.
“I will continue to defend the rights and liberties of everyone in this country," Schakowsky added. "If Donald Trump truly wants to be the President for all Americans, Steve Bannon and others like him should have no place in the White House.”
Schneider also slammed Bannon for "promoting racism and anti-Semitism," claiming his views "have no place in our government, much less feet from the Oval Office."
The congressman-elect, who recently unseated incumbent Republican Bob Dold in Illinois’ 10th congressional district, is also Jewish and has supported pro-Israel causes throughout his career.
From 2004 to 2010, Schneider served as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s key contact with former Rep. Melissa Bean, according to the Chicago Tribune. Schneider also led a group of 18 members of the Chicago Jewish community on a mission to Israel in 2013, according to the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.
"If Donald Trump is serious about his desire to ‘unify’ our country, it begins with hiring a team that reflects American values and formally rejecting the acts of hate and bigotry being committed in his name,” Schneider added.
In a Sunday interview with 60 Minutes, Trump said he was aware of reports that some of his supporters may be harassing Latinos, Muslims and other minorities. In response, he told those supporters to "stop it."
I would say don't do it, it's terrible," Trump told 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl. "I am so saddened to hear that."