Expressing deep concern over sudden spurt in hate crimes against ethnic and religious minorities, several top lawmakers have asked President-elect Donald Trump to rescind his recent appointment of Stephen K Bannon as his chief strategist. Citing the example of racial slur of his Pakistani American doctor, top Democratic Senator Harry Reid in his remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday called on Trump to rescind his appointment of Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsellor and work to heal the wounds caused by the 70-year-old billionaire tycoon’s hateful rhetoric.
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“I have been in politics for five decades, and I have not seen anything like what we are seeing today in America. The man who lost the popular vote by two million votes is now the president-elect. Let me repeat that: the man who lost the popular vote by two million votes or more is now the president-elect,” he said.
Trump’s election victory has sparked a wave of hate crimes across the nation, Reid said, adding that this is a simple statement of fact.
“My and my wife’s Nevada physician is a Pakistani-American of Muslim faith. We think so much of him. We’ve known each other for 35 years. The day after the election, my friend was at a restaurant in Las Vegas having dinner when a Trump supporter approached his table in a threatening manner and asked where he was from,” Reid said.
“My friend answered, ‘Where are you from?’ The man said, ‘I’m local. My doctor friend said, ‘So am I’. That same night, another friend of mine, also a Pakistani-American doctor was having dinner. A man walked up to him in the same manner and asked ‘Where are you from?’ My friend said he was from Pakistan. The other man said, ‘Why don’t you go back,” he said.
Reid said by placing a champion of white supremacists a step away from the Oval Office, what message does Trump send to the young girl who woke up Wednesday afraid to be a woman of colour in America?
“It is not a message of healing. If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. Rescind it. Don’t do it. Think about this. Don’t do it. As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously,” he said.
Reid has been joined by several other Democratic lawmaker. Since the election there have been a number of incidents across the country in which minorities, including Muslim Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Jewish Americans, have been the targets of violence, harassment and intimidation, said Congressman Mike Doyle in a letter to Trump.
“Mr Bannon’s appointment sends the wrong message to people who have engaged in those types of activities, indicating that they will not only be tolerated, but endorsed by your Administration. Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump Administration and your appointment of Mr Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns,” he said.
“In this decision, President-elect Trump has failed in one of his most important tasks since winning the election: appointing a competent White House staff,” said Congressman Frank Pallone.
“Bannon’s appointment sends a dangerous message to Americans who hope the President-elect will turn away from the dangerous and hate-filled rhetoric that fueled his campaign,” he said.
Senator Sherrod Brown called on Trump to immediately remove Bannon. “We cannot bring the country together by inviting into the White House the same bigotry and hate speech that divided us on the campaign trail,” he said.
“This is not about a difference in policy or politics – Bannon has promoted anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic and dangerous views that have emboldened white nationalist forces and caused some Americans to question whether they can still feel safe in the country we all love,” he stressed.
Senator Dianne Feinstein from California said virtually everyone who had contacted her office had expressed shock that Bannon, so closely linked to anti-Semitic and misogynistic opinions, will have the ear of the president.
“Diverse communities must be brought together by leaders, whether it’s a city or a nation. I’m hopeful that Trump will hear the millions of outraged voices and decide to surround himself with advisors who respect all Americans. Someone known for belittling minorities, immigrants and women has no place advising the president,” she said.
Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey said that in the 24 hours since it was announced that Trump has appointed Bannon to serve as his chief advisor, his office had received thousands of calls from New Jerseyans who are rightly upset and frightened that someone who has promoted hateful, bigoted rhetoric and radical ideas through his website has been elevated to such a powerful role inside the White House.
“As far as I’m concerned, appointing as chief strategist and adviser a man who has dedicated the last several years to running a far-right website that demonises women and spreads hate-filled lies about Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and others shows Donald Trump has already forgotten his pledge for unity,” said Senator Tom Udall.
“Across this country, people are voicing fear and anger about what this means for the direction of Mr Trump’s presidency. This is a frightening sign of where his administration may be headed; it’s not a wise choice, and Mr Trump would be better off without him,” he said.
Trump made the first top appointments of his new administration on Monday by naming Reince Priebus his White House chief and Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsellor.