Bannon Appointment Undermines U.S. Global Leadership on Human Rights

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today expressed grave concern about the announcement by President-elect Donald Trump that Steve Bannon will serve as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart news, a site that promotes racist, antisemitic, and white-nationalist ideologies including inciting attacks on multiracial families and companies who employ refugees.

“Although Trump asserted that he intends to be a president for ‘all Americans,’ this move indicates that his intention instead is to promote Bannon’s alt-right populism—a form of white nationalism that peddles intolerance and hatred of Jews, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people, and others,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “This appointment is a worrying signal that the bigotry and hatred employed by Donald Trump during the campaign will be the agenda for his new administration.”

The news comes as President Obama is scheduled to make his final trip to Berlin this week, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that the health of the relationship between the United States and Europe depends on Trump adhering to the “shared values of freedom, democracy, and respect.” Human Rights First notes that to appoint a person who has enflamed social divisions through hatred and bigotry is a repudiation of the values that connect the United States, Germany, and other democratic nations. German officials should continue to speak out against antisemitism and intolerance, and encourage other European leaders to do the same.

In the aftermath of World War II, Europe and the United States committed to human rights and democracy as the best path to ensure collective peace and security. The United States should look to recent examples in Europe to understand how populist, xenophobic, isolationist forces are undermining this foundation. Right-wing extremism and its undemocratic principles threaten even the strongholds of Europe, like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Immediately following Brexit, which was fueled on xenophobic narratives, there was a significant uptick in hate crimes in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. Far-right parties have made electoral gains in Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, and the Netherlands. Their rise suggests an accelerating and serious challenge to liberal, inclusive democracy in the region. At our peril, we underestimate how much this would impact American security and standing in the world.

Human Rights First will soon release a report on Germany, which finds that rising antisemitic and xenophobic attitudes and the persistence of institutional discrimination provide a catalyst for bias-motivated violence and extremism. Hate crimes, particularly those associated with xenophobic attitudes, have increased drastically in Germany, parallel to the refugee crisis.

“We call on Democrats, Republicans, and allies around the world to loudly condemn this appointment, which is unacceptable for an America that was founded on the values of ‘freedom and justice for all,’” noted Corke. “Much is at stake for the democratic principles that undergird our collective peace and prosperity.”

Human Rights First urges citizens and politicians to remain vigilant in the face of rising antisemitism and intolerance.

“America has been a beacon and a global leader in promoting respect for human dignity and the rights and freedom of people everywhere,” said Corke. “Failure to act now will put that in jeopardy for Americans and people around the world.”


Published on November 14, 2016


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