Rep. Lee Zeldin defends Bannon headlining his fundraiser


Lee Zeldin

Congressman Lee Zeldin attending the Land, Air and Sea Reception during the Hamptons International Film Festival 2016 in East Hampton, New York, Oct. 8, 2016. (Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, defended his decision to have Steve Bannon headline a fundraiser.

“There’s a lot about his background that doesn’t get talked about and he’s gotten a bad rap in many respects,” Zeldin said Monday on CNN, after being asked about a report that Bannon, a onetime senior adviser to President Donald Trump and the CEO at the Breitbart news website, will headline a fundraiser next month for Zeldin, who represents a Long Island district.

Bannon’s Breitbart website is stridently pro-Israel and has reported sympathetically on Jews who face anti-Semitism on campuses and in Europe. He has also called the site a platform for the alt-right, the loose assemblage of anti-establishment conservatives that includes white supremacists and anti-Semites. Bannon was the architect of Trump’s appeal to the far right, urging him on in his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims and other minorities. He also speaks of “globalists” who control world finance and the media, a messaging that for some has echoes of classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

“For someone who gets accused, of being, I’ve heard him — just today people [were] sending me messages calling him Nazi or Nazi sympathizer, this is someone who passionately speaks to me about the need to combat the rising BDS movement that’s taking place on college campuses and also abroad,” Zeldin said. BDS stands for the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

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“Strengthening the relationship with our friends like Israel which has included the need to pass the Taylor Force Act,” a bill that would cut funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it paid subsidies to the families of Palestinians who have killed Israel, or moving the embassy to Jerusalem or treating our adversaries like adversaries.”

The Zionist Organization of America drew fire earlier this month for having Bannon speak at its annual New York gala dinner.

“I agree with him in some respects I disagree with him in other respects,” Zeldin said. “There’s a lot about his background people just don’t know.”

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