President Donald J. Trump finally called racist violence “evil” yesterday – but only after he came under significant public pressure for refusing to condemn the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and neo-Nazis after the violence that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va.
“Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.
Some organizations, like the Anne Frank Center, were rightfully displeased with Trump’s belated condemnation and his inclusion of “others” in his original statement when he said there were “many sides” of violence despite white supremacists being the perpetrators.
“Do not give @POTUS credit for spending 3 days of national hell to condemn neo-Nazi White Supremacists by name yet still adding and ‘others,’” the Anne Frank Center tweeted.
Given that Trump walked out when originally asked to denounce white supremacist terrorism in specific, how much weight can his delayed condemnation hold? Very little, if we take one look at the people he continues to allow to serve in his administration. Trump has put people who have promoted white nationalist ideology and policies in power. Three of them in particular: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka are horrible for religious minorities, especially Muslims and Jews.
Bannon, White House chief strategist, and Miller, policy adviser and speechwriter for Trump, were co-architects for the first Muslim ban. A revised version of that ban continues to single out Muslims for discrimination because of their religious beliefs, a significant threat to religious freedom.
Recently, Miller gave a ridiculous press conference where he defended xenophobic policies that limit immigration to the United States to English-speakers and insisted that the Statue of Liberty’s pro-immigration poetic symbolism was irrelevant. Critics have argued that this policy targets immigrants of color worldwide, especially those who lack the resources to master English before they arrive (something that was never considered a barrier in the past). His touting of such a policy gives insight on how Miller’s exclusionary mindset crafted the Muslim ban and shows the policy efforts Miller is taking to make the country less ethnically and religiously diverse.
Trump must stop enabling white nationalists.
And as we’ve noted before, alongside his Muslim fear-mongering, Bannon has an ugly history with anti-Semitism. From allowing anti-Semitic rhetoric to continue being published while leading Breitbart News, a propaganda website, to allegedly not wanting his daughter to attend school with Jews, Bannon has seen pushback from many religious freedom advocates for his prejudice against religious minorities.
Gorka, a deputy assistant and terrorism adviser, is also a notorious Islamophobe who wrote for Breitbart. His most recent defense of the administration’s anti-Muslim rhetoric came when he went on MSNBC to explain that Trump is not condemning a bombing at a Minnesota mosque because it might have been faked by liberals in an effort to score political points. (Trump staying mum about events that negatively impact groups he doesn’t like appears to be standard operating procedure; he has still not condemned this latest hate crime against the Muslim community.)
The criticism for Trump keeping Bannon and Gorka has been bipartisan. Rick Tyler, ex-campaign spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said that the racist Breitbart mentality has significantly impacted the White House and empowered the “alt-right” white supremacists.
“If he [Trump] doesn’t want this to consume his presidency, he needs to purge anyone involved with the alt-right,” Tyler said. “Breitbart has become a pejorative … It has been a vehicle for the alt-right. You can’t allow the Oval Office to be a vehicle for the alt-right.”
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the white nationalists in his administration led many advocacy groups to ask Trump on social media to #EvictTheBigots, #FireBannon, #FireGorka and #FireMiller after the attacks in Charlottesville.
“Donald Trump's continued refusal to fire the white nationalists in his administration is a silent endorsement of hate. #EvictTheBigots,” Muslim Advocates, an ally of Americans United, tweeted yesterday with a picture of Bannon, Miller and Gorka.
While Trump is certainly not directly to blame for the violence of certain groups, he is to blame for continuing to empower people who share racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic thought within his administration. He’s also to blame for the hateful rhetoric he campaigned with and carried into his presidency.
Bannon, Miller and Gorka are negatively influencing American policy, and if Trump wants to do more to combat racism than simply read a prepared statement, he could start by surrounding himself with advisers who aren’t a part of the problem. He should stop enabling white supremacists with hateful and discriminatory rhetoric.
Americans United will continue to fight for religious freedom and against discriminatory policies and rhetoric aimed at religious and non-religious minorities. Join us.