Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came to the defense of Steve Bannon on Sunday, relying on Jewish stereotypes to dismiss concerns over the Breitbart News executive chairman’s ties to the anti-Semitic alt-right movement.
According to Gingrich, Bannon, who was named Donald Trump’s chief strategist on Sunday, can’t possibly be anti-Semitic because he’s worked for the investment bank Goldman Sachs and in Hollywood ― two places stereotypically associated with Jewish people.
CBS “Face The Nation” host John Dickerson asked Gingrich about an article by Ian Tuttle published last week in the historically conservative National Review. Tuttle writes that Trump’s political rise has given “unprecedented visibility to the alt-right, a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists and anti-Semites and self-proclaimed fascists.”
“I just have to say that’s garbage,” Gingrich replied. He also made an apparent reference to a recent column by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank that mentioned the fate of the presidential election would be decided early on Nov. 9 ― the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a wave of anti-Jewish violence in Germany and German-occupied countries in 1938.
Milbank’s column denounced a Trump ad “illustrated with images of prominent Jews,” including George Soros and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign,” Milbank wrote. “It’s the melody.”
According to Gingrich:
“This whole notion ― it’s like The Washington Post had this columnist the other day who pointed out that we’re on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the night when the Nazis attacked Jewish businesses. And I’m thinking, ‘This is crazy!’
… But the fact is ― and you get this all these smears of Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was a naval officer. He was a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. He was a Hollywood movie producer. You know, the idea that somehow he represents ― I had never heard of the alt-right until the nutcakes started writing about it.”
While Gingrich may have only recently become aware of the alt-right’s existence, there’s a reason people are writing about it. There’s been a disturbing uptick in hate crimes and racist incidents since Trump’s surprise victory, including a swastika drawn on a building with the phrase “make America white again.”
Bannon, 62, ran Breitbart News for four years until this August, when he became CEO of the Trump campaign. The ultra-conservative website is known for despicably misogynistic and racist headlines.
Several of Trump’s closest aides are trying to normalize Bannon.
“Frankly, people should look at the full resume,” Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told reporters at Trump Tower on Monday morning.
Reince Priebus, former RNC chair and future Trump chief of staff, suggested Bannon was “temperate” because of his academic background. “Here’s a guy who is Harvard Business School, a 10-year naval officer, London School of Economics, I believe,” Priebus said Monday on NBC’s “Today.” “He’s very, very smart, he’s very temperate.”
Calling out Bannon is a divisive tactic, said Jason Miller, communications director for Trump’s transition team, to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday.
“What I think is frustrating is when we see so much news coverage ― particularly on this network, unfortunately ― on the issues that divide us following the election, I think that’s irresponsible,” Miller said.
“This is going to be a good team that, number one, helped get Mr. Trump through the finish line,” he added, referring to Bannon and Priebus. “They put together the plan, they worked seamlessly together, and as we’ve seen, they’ve been involved with the campaign and with Mr. Trump for a long time.”
This story has been updated with comments from Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus and Jason Miller.