The first chief technology officer of the Republican Party harshly criticized President-elect Donald Trump on Monday over his decision to defend Steve Bannon, the on-leave chief executive of Breitbart News, who has been named chief advisor to the soon-to-be president of the United States.
Andrew Barkett, CTO of the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2015, and the first to hold the position, wrote in an open letter that he formally denounced Richard Spencer, a leader among white supremacists affiliated with the so-called “alt-right” movement, and formally denounced Bannon, whom he said had provided a “safe space for these racists and intolerant points of view.”
“These are racist, intolerant ideologies,” wrote Barkett. “They go against the spirit and interests of the United States of America. These beliefs have no place in the party of Lincoln.”
Barkett continued: “I call on all Republicans to denounce these people with me and to demand that President-elect Trump denounce, by name, Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, the ‘white nationalist’ movement, the Neo-Nazi movement, and the ‘identitarian’ movement. I demand that President-elect Trump acknowledge, publicly, that Spencer and Bannon have tolerated and promoted racist beliefs.”
“These beliefs have no place in the party of Lincoln.”
Trump, in an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday, disavowed the alt-right, whose members were seen making Nazi salutes at a gathering in Washington, D.C., not far from the White House itself. “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump told a group of Times reporters and columnists during an hourlong interview at the newspaper’s headquarters in New York.
On the issue of Bannon, Trump said: “If I thought he was racist, or ‘alt-right’ … I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”
Bannon had previously announced that Breitbart was a “platform for the alt-right,” which he said he believed was a nationalist movement, not a white nationalist movement, despite evidence to the contrary.
Barkett’s letter, originally posted on Facebook (and later Medium), was updated after the Times interview: “I worded my original statement carefully to require that [Trump] condemn people and movements by name (which he has not done) as well as to require that he acknowledge Bannon had enabled the alt-right, by firing him.”
Without specifically naming the groups involved, Barkett said, “the people in the groups won’t be forced to acknowledge that Trump is condemning them.”
Spencer, who heads a think tank called the National Policy Institute, told the Associated Press Tuesday that he was “disappointed” by Trump’s decision to disavow his group, but said he understood “where he’s coming from politically and practically,” adding that he would “wait and see” how Trump’s presidency unfolds.