U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's newly appointed senior advisor Steve Bannon has been "smeared" by the left and his past credentials prove he is not anti-Semitic, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Sunday.
Gingrich, current vice chair of Trump's transition team, appeared on CBS's 'Face the Nation' to discuss the President-elect's domestic agenda and recent staff picks. The interview coincided with the announcement that Trump's chief of staff will be Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon, who had been on the short list for the top White House job, was named chief strategist and senior counselor.
Bannon, a leading force of the far-right, a flame-throwing media mogul and professional provocateur, made a career out of roiling the establishment from the outside.
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'Face the Nation' host John Dickerson pushed Gingrich on what it means for a Trump administration that Bannon, who has been accused of racist and anti-Semitism in the past, has landed in the White House. Gingrich took issue with the question, insisting that Bannon has been "smeared" by the left and that Bannon's past credentials prove he is not anti-Semitic.
"He was a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. He was a Hollywood movie producer. The idea that somehow he represents -- I had never heard of the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it," Gingrich told Dickerson. In his commnents, Gingrich echoed Jewish stereotypes, which in the past have been used by the alt-right and anti-Semites to imply Jews "control Wall Street, Hollywood the global economy."
Bannon joined Trump's election team as chief executive late in the campaign, following the departure of Trump's second campaign team in August. He quickly became a member of Trump's inner circle, frequently traveling with the candidate and working to re-shape his message to emphasize Trump's populist and outsider appeal.
Bannon came from Breitbart News, an unabashedly pro-Trump outlet that had declared war on GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Trump will have to work to pass his agenda if Ryan retains his role.
But other elements of Bannon's tenure are getting more attention. Under his leadership, the site pushed a nationalist, anti-establishment agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right - a movement often associated with far-right efforts to preserve "white identity," oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values."
The site specializes in button-pushing, traffic-trolling headlines, including one that called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a "Republican spoiler, renegade Jew." Others asked, "Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?" and "Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy."
Bannon has been personally accused of prejudice. His ex-wife said in court papers obtained by The Associated Press that Bannon made anti-Semitic remarks when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago. In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Mary Louise Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he "didn't want the girls going to school with Jews."
Alexandra Preate, a spokeswoman for Bannon, denied he'd ever said such things.
Bannon also faced domestic violence charges following an altercation the pair had on New Year's Day 1996 following a spat over money. He was charged in 1996 with misdemeanor witness intimidation, domestic violence with traumatic injury and battery. The charges were dropped after Piccard didn't show up at trial.