Religious and civil rights leaders called on President Donald Trump to fire White House advisors Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, whose association with the white-supremacist “alt-right” movement have come under heightened scrutiny following Saturday’s violent racial clash in Charlottesville, Va.
“Supporters of white supremacists, violent extremism, racial bigotry and neo-Nazis should not serve in the White House or any level of government,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, during a telephone press briefing with reporters on Sunday.
Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right-wing conservative news site that’s a favorite with white nationalists and the so-called “alt-right” movement of anti-semitic and white-power groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bannon also served as CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, has ties to anti-Semitic, right-wing groups in Hungary.
Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, said Gorka “gave cover” to individuals who bombed a mosque in Minnesota when he called it a “possible fake hate crime.”
“Until the president purges his staff of supporters of the white supremacist movement, the president’s condemnation (of violence in Charlottesville) has no credibility. The presence of Bannon and Gorka in the administration is the president’s silent message to extremists to continue their march of terror against our communities. And it must stop,” Khera said.
A Saturday rally by white supremacists to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee turned deadly when suspected white supremacist, James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, and injuring nine others.
Trump has faced widespread criticism, even within his party, for failing to denounce the incident as domestic terrorism and for refusing to directly condemn the white supremacists, racists and neo-Nazis who organized the event.
On Sunday, leaders from seven civil rights and religious groups called on Trump to issue a stronger condemnation of the incident and disavow the support he has received from white supremacists and hate groups.
The leaders, representing groups such as the National Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also called for bipartisan oversight hearings in which the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department report their efforts to root out hate crimes, violent white supremacist groups, and the threat posed by violent white nationalists.