Reince Priebus, tapped to be the White House chief of staff under President-elect Donald Trump, used a pair of interviews Monday to defend another high-level adviser, Steve Bannon.
Bannon, formerly president of Breitbart News and chairman of Trump’s campaign, will be chief strategist in the White House.
Bannon, once described as a “media firebrand” by The New York Times, has drawn criticism for some of the content posted by Breitbart. Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Sunday that Bannon’s post in the Trump administration means that “white supremacists” now have a toehold in the White House.
In interviews on NBC’s “Today” show and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” Priebus refuted those claims.
“In the last few months, he’s exhibited none of those qualities,” Priebus said on “Today.” He added: “[Bannon is] very, very smart, very temperate. Together we’ve been able to manage a lot of the decision making. . . . It’s worked very well.”
Priebus also said that Bannon wasn’t writing some of the more fiery articles on Breitbart and shouldn’t be blamed for their content.
“The guy I know isn’t any of those things” he’s accused of, Priebus said on Fox News. “The Steve Bannon I know is really on the same page with everything I agree with.”
Priebus also said of Trump: “He is the president for everyone.”
“I want to do him proud,” said Priebus, “but most importantly, he wants to do the American people proud. He wants to do the things he said.”
But a chorus of advocacy groups, commentators and congressional Democrats have denounced Bannon as a proponent of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic views.
‘‘President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,’’ said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a statement Sunday night.
‘‘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. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The statement echoed sentiments from leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, other Capitol Hill Democrats and some Republican Trump critics such as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who tweeted:
Is there precedent for such a disreputable & unstable extremist in WH senior ranks before Bannon? Sid Blumenthal? But Bannon more powerful.— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) November 14, 2016
Breitbart has published stories with headlines stating that women faced with harassment online should ‘‘log off’’ and that taking birth control makes women ‘‘unattractive and crazy.’’ The site called Kristol a ‘‘renegade Jew’’ in 2015.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-watch group, blasted the choice of Bannon and cited Breitbart headlines that included a call to hoist the Confederate flag weeks after shootings at a black Charleston, S.C., church and another that said that political correctness ‘‘protects Muslim rape culture.’’
Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence against his former wife more than 20 years ago; the charges included trying to prevent a victim or witness of crime from reporting, inflicting injury and battery. Bannon was never convicted and the case was dismissed. His former wife also accused him of making anti-Semitic remarks, according to a court statement obtained by the New York Daily News.Material from the Washington Post was used in this report.