In first interviews as White House chief strategist, Bannon denies being anti-Semite or white supremacist

Marcy Oster

Stephen Bannon at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Oct. 31, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Bannon at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Oct. 31, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Steve Bannon, in his first interviews since Donald Trump named him chief strategist at the White House, denied being anti-Semitic or a white supremacist.

Bannon served as chairman of Breitbart news before joining the Trump campaign as its CEO. Bannon has called Breitbart a “platform for the alt-right,” a loose movement of the far right whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

“Breitbart is the most pro-Israel site in the United States of America,” Bannon told the Wall Street Journal in an interview posted Friday. I have Breitbart Jerusalem, which I have Aaron Klein run with about 10 reporters there. We’ve been leaders in stopping this BDS movement in the United States; we’re a leader in the reporting of young Jewish students being harassed on American campuses; we’ve been a leader on reporting on the terrible plight of the Jews in Europe.”

In the same interview, Bannon praised the ‘alt-right’ movement and said that he believes the less savory elements of the movement will one day fall away.

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“Our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment,” he said.

He asserted that Breitbart represents more than just the alt-right. “We provide an outlet for 10 or 12 or 15 lines of thought,” Bannon said. “We set it up that way.”

He denied charges of white supremacism. “I’m an economic nationalist. I am an America first guy. And I have admired nationalist movements throughout the world, have said repeatedly strong nations make great neighbors. I’ve also said repeatedly that the ethno-nationalist movement, prominent in Europe, will change over time. I’ve never been a supporter of ethno-nationalism.”

“America First” was the World War II-era isolationist movement that decried mounting calls for America’s involvement in the war as Jewish manipulation.

Bannon told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview posted Friday that he is “not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist.”

He said that the new Trump administration is going “to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy.”

He said that liberals and the media are “blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

Bannon, according to Hollywood Reporter writer Michael Wolff, is “the man with the idea. If Trumpism is to represent something intellectually and historically coherent, it’s Bannon’s job to make it so. In this, he could not be a less reassuring or more confusing figure for liberals — fiercely intelligent and yet reflexively drawn to the inverse of every liberal assumption and shibboleth.”

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