In a lengthy interview for 60 Minutes recorded on Friday, President-elect Donald Trump addressed reports that his victory in last week’s elections has energized hate groups and white nationalists and left members of various minority groups in fear for their physical safety. He called for an end to harassment and pleaded with minority groups not to feel afraid.
Then, on Sunday, just hours before the interview was set to air, Trump announced that he had chosen one of the most high-profile figures in the “Alt-right” movement -- known for white nationalism, bigotry, and harassment of minorities -- to be Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President.
Stephen K. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, had taken time away from the website known for peddling bogus news and conspiracy theories to assist with Trump’s presidential campaign. The Sunday afternoon announcement declared that when Trump enters the White House, Bannon will serve there on equal footing with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, whom Trump named as his incoming chief of staff.
Groups that track hate crimes exploded with anger at the announcement.
In a statement, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote, “The ADL strongly opposes the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior advisor and chief strategist in the White House. It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ -- a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists -- is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people's house.’ We call on President-Elect Trump to a point and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country's people and who exemplify the values of pluralism and tolerance that make our country great”
The Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted, “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,” and followed up with a string of posts detailing various bigoted and inflammatory articles published by Bannon’s website.
“Trump should rescind this hire,” SPLC tweeted. “In his victory speech, Trump said he intended to be president for ‘all Americans.’ Bannon should go.”
The announcement that Bannon would serve in the White House struck a wildly different tone than viewers of 60 Minutes would hear from Trump when the pre-recorded interview aired.
When interviewer Lesley Stahl asked the president-elect about reports that immigrants and minority groups are now fearful, Trump said, “Don't be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don't be afraid.”
Then, though, he reverted to the claim that he is being treated unfairly. “You know, we just had an election and sort of like you have to be given a little time. I mean, people are protesting. If Hillary had won and if my people went out and protested, everybody would say, "Oh, that's a terrible thing." And it would have been a much different attitude. There is a different attitude. You know, there is a double standard here.”
But Stahl pointed out that there has been a wave of documented cases of attacks on minorities, hateful speech, and vandalism.
“I am very surprised to hear that-- I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that,” Trump said, though he added that he had only heard of “one or two instances.”
Asked if he had anything to say to the perpetrators, Trump said, “I would say don't do it, that's terrible because I'm going to bring this country together.”
“They're harassing Latinos, Muslims,” Stahl added.
“I am so saddened to hear that,” Trump said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it-- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”
But the appointment of Bannon to a senior leadership sent a very, very different message.