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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - President-Elect Donald Trump is disavowing fringe elements of the Alt-Right and its accompanying racism and anti-semitism. Trump condemned them at a conference with the New York Times Tuesday, where he discussed a broad range of topics.
Asked about an Alt-Right conference the previous weekend led by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, Trump remarked, "I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn."
When confronted with the claim that his election had energized them, he commented, "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. It's not a group I want to energize. And if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why."
The Alt-Right conference was held at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C. for the National Policy Institute's (NPI) annual conference. Spencer is the president of NPI, "an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world."
In a 2013 interview with Vice News, Spencer said, "Our dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence."
Spencer has also called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing," commenting, "Today, in the public imagination, ethnic cleansing has been associated with civil war and mass murder (understandably so). But this need not be the case. 1919 is a real example of successful ethnic redistribution — done by fiat, we should remember, but done peacefully," referring to the Paris Peace Conference, where national boundaries were drawn after World War I.
During the course of his transition to the White House, Trump has come under fire for hiring Steve Bannon as his chief White House strategist, with some criticizing Bannon's supposed racism and anti-semitism, attempting to link him to racist elements in the Alt-Right movement. Those links are non-existent, however, according to reports from those who know Bannon.
Joel Pollak, senior editor-at-large and in-house counsel for Breitbart News, where Bannon served as chairman, has come to his defense.
"As I can testify from years of work together with Steve in close quarters," Pollak wrote, "the opposite is the case: Steve is outraged by anti-semitism. If anything, he is overly sensitive about it, and often takes offense on Jews' behalf."
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Bannon condemned the racist and anti-semitic elements of the alt-right. "He makes clear he has zero tolerance for such views," WSJ reported.
The Anti-Defamation League, which exists solely "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people," backed down from earlier unsubstantiated allegations of anti-semitism. "We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements made by Bannon himself," the group confirmed.
"In fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterization of him and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism," the statement continued. "Some have pointed out that Breitbart Jerusalem was launched during his tenure."
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who resigned from Breitbart News and is no friend of Bannon, also defended him against these allegations.
"I have no evidence that Bannon's a racist or that he's an anti-Semite," Shapiro, himself a Jew, asserted. "The Huffington Post's blaring headline 'WHITE NATIONALIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE' is overstated, at the very least."
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