Harry Reid called on President-elect Donald Trump to revoke his appointment of Stephen Bannon, “a champion of white supremacists,” as chief strategist and senior counselor for the president in a scathing Senate floor speech on Tuesday.
“If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon,” the Nevada Democrat said. “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.”
During the speech, Reid pointed to more than 300 incidents of harassment and intimidation that the Southern Poverty Law Center has been reporting on since Trump’s election, told of incidents he had read in the press, and recounted personal anecdotes from friends of experiencing or being touched by hate acts.
They included a Pakistani doctor in Nevada reportedly being told to “go back” where he came from, a middle-schooler telling a Latina student “that he was glad she was going to be deported now that Trump was president,” another one using the N-word at a student and justifying “himself by saying he used that language now that Trump was president,” and the N-word being spray-painted at the Martin Luther King Center in Spokane, Washington.
Reid said that—after the hateful rhetoric and tone of his campaign and after losing the popular vote by an estimated 2 million votes—the impetus should be on Trump to heal the divisions of the nation and not those who fear that bigotry in Trump’s America is on the rise.
The outgoing Senate Minority Leader pointed to a letter from a seventh grade girl in Rhode Island who said she no longer felt safe as a woman of color now that Trump was president.
“Healing the wounds he has inflicted will take more than words. Talk is cheap and tweets are cheaper. Healing wounds is going to take action. But so far … rather than healing these wounds, Trump’s action have deepened them,” Reid said. “He appointed a man seen as a champion of white supremacy as a number one strategist in the White House.”
On Tuesday, an assortment of white nationalist praised to CNN Trump’s appointment of Bannon as a sign that their ideas would have sway in the White House, a report that Reid cited. He also mentioned sworn testimony from Bannon’s ex-wife in which she said he had made anti-Semitic remarks about not wanting his children to go to school with Jews because “he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats.’ ” (The testimony was given as part of a custody battle and Bannon denied it was true.)
“We have a responsibility to say that it is not normal, for the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, to celebrate the election of a president they view as their champion with a victory parade,” Reid also said. “They have one scheduled.”