Trump’s disavowal of the alt-right movement is meaningless

CNN reports: Donald Trump has never been one to shy away from speaking — or more accurately, tweeting — his mind.

But critics say it took him too long to publicly disavow a shockingly racist speech Saturday by a white nationalist leader whose rallying cry mirrored Adolf Hitler’s.

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” Richard Spencer shouted from the podium of the annual convention for his think-tank called The National Policy Institute. Spencer calls himself the founder of the “alt-right” movement, a label that’s been applied to far-right extremists advocating for white nationalism.

The scene, taking place less than a mile from the White House, was reminiscent of Nazi-era Germany, with several members of the audience cheering with the straight-arm Hitler salute.

At times speaking in German, Spencer’s 30-minute speech included the unmistakable marriage of Neo-Nazi hate and Trump’s campaign slogan.

“It is only normal again when we are great again,” Spencer said.

A Trump transition spokesman released a short media statement Monday evening, but it took Trump until Tuesday to publicly disavow the group in his own words. And it came only when pressed in a meeting with New York Times reporters, editors and executives,
Of course I disavow and condemn them,” Trump said when asked about the group.

But Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League, says Trump needed to do it sooner.

“There seems to be a pattern in the Trump administration of waiting until the last moment. And we just don’t have the luxury for that. When there are Nazi salutes in D.C., it’s important to condemn it at the moment,” Segal said. [Continue reading…]

Let’s wind the clock back and imagine that Trump had condemned and disavowed Spencer and the alt-right movement within the first few hours of the Washington video going viral — the swiftness of his statement would still have meant nothing more than a growing awareness that he needed to distance himself from a long-standing and increasingly toxic relationship.

If Trump really had a problem with alt right, he wouldn’t have chosen Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and closest adviser.

Neither of them can now credibly distance themselves from ties they have long nurtured.

If Bannon actually had a problem with the movement, he wouldn’t have anointed his publication, Breitbart News, as “platform for the alt-right.”

At his meeting with staff at the New York Times yesterday, Trump said of Bannon: “If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”

No one in the room had the guts to vigorously challenge him even though Bannon’s ties to alt-right have long been explicit and unambiguous — as Sarah Posner reported in August:

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon’s target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon’s leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of “political correctness.”

“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote last week on the Daily Wire, a conservative website. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [technology editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

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